Baylor Preview

Just how far as the Baylor program come in a short amount of time? Not only do they currently have their highest BCS ranking ever, but the Bears are eligible to go to back-to-back bowls for the first time since 1991-1992.

Last year, the Bears came from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the Longhorns in Austin for the first time since 1991. This year, Baylor (8-3 overall, 5-3 Big 12) is trying to beat Texas (7-4, 4-4) in Waco for the first time since 1997, the year before Mack Brown arrived.

Art Briles emerged at Houston as a throw-it-all-over-the-yard type coach, and it shouldn't be any surprise that Baylor does just that. But Baylor is difficult to defend because they spread you out, then take advantage of that spacing in the running game as well. The Bears strive for some form of balance, as they're the only FBS school averaging more than 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing.

On offense it all starts with arguably the most dangerous quarterback in all of college football, Heisman candidate Robert Griffin III (6-2 220). Griffin is having a season for the ages, completing 72.6 percent of his throws for 3,678 yards and 34 touchdowns to six interceptions. That's good for an absurd 191.11 passer rating, more than 46 points higher than his rating last year, which was a Baylor record. But Griffin, who entered college as the Big 12's best hurdler, is also dangerous with his feet, rushing for 612 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. In Baylor's current four-game winning streak, he has thrown for 11 touchdowns to one interception.

With a typical performance, Terrance Ganaway (6-0 240) will break Jay Finley's one-year-old rushing record on Saturday. Ganaway, who has ground out 1,195 yards at 5.8 yards a pop, sits just 23 yards away from Finley's mark, and Ganaway already holds the top mark for rushing touchdowns in a season with 14. While Finley had more shift and explosion, Ganaway causes problems because of the way the Bears spread you out, then hit with Ganaway through an unloaded box. But he's more than a 240-pound stiff, boasting quick feet and surprising acceleration. Glasgo Martin (6-1 205) and Jarred Salubi (5-9 210) get the carries that don't go to Ganaway or Griffin. Erik Wolfe (6-1 255) acts as fullback, when the Bears use one.

If Griffin and Ganaway are setting records all over the place, it should come as no surprise that inside receiver Kendall Wright (5-10 190) is also joining in the record-breaking party. His 95 catches for 1,406 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns are all Baylor records. Wright is one of the Big 12's top receivers, and he averages 14.8 yards per catch, making him a dangerous big-play threat. He's hardly alone. Terrance Williams (6-3 190) has 49 catches for 807 yards and 10 touchdowns. On most other teams, he'd be an All-Big 12 candidate. Tevin Reese (6-0 160) might be the biggest-play guy of them all, catching 45 passes for 799 yards (17.8 per catch) and seven touchdowns. Lanear Sampson (5-11 200) has 36 snags for 498 yards and three touchdowns, making up the final component of what Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz called Baylor's 4x100 team at wide receiver. Jordan Najvar (6-6 260) and Jerod Monk (6-5 260) have nice size and catch about two passes per game between them.

Baylor has one of the Big 12's biggest offensive lines, with all five players weighing in at more than 300 pounds, and four of the five coming in at 315 or more. But they're more than just big. Center Philip Blake (6-3 320) and right tackle Ivory Wade (6-4 300) have started 67 consecutive games between them. Blake is considered one of the Big 12's top few centers. Left tackle Cyril Richardson (6-5 330) and left guard Cameron Kaufhold (6-4 315) make up a massive left side, with Robert T. Griffin (6-6 330) manning the right guard spot. They give up about two sacks per game, and allow Baylor to rush for 4.9 yards per carry.

While the offense seems stacked at every spot, the defense has struggled. The Bears have been gashed by the run (5.3 yards per carry) and by the pass (271.8 yards per game, 29 touchdowns allowed to 12 interceptions). Baylor plays a hybrid 4-2-5, with a nickel back who plays as a linebacker/safety cross.

But the Bears haven't been able to get to the quarterback very well, sacking opposing passers just 17 times in 11 games. And the team's two highest sack totals (four, and 3.5) have come from the defensive tackles. Tracy Robertson (6-4 280) has four sacks on the year, while massive nose guard Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (6-2 335) has a team-high eight tackles for loss and a second-best 3.5 sacks.

That the Bears haven't been able to the the quarterback bore-sighted is somewhat of an upset, as Baylor has athletes on the edge in Terrance Lloyd (6-3 230) and Tevin Elliott (6-3 250). The latter player figured to extend what was a hot start to his freshman year a year ago. But while Elliott is tied for the team lead with eight tackles for loss, just three of those stops have come at the quarterback. Lloyd (seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks) has a similar ratio.

The one standout player on the defense is probably middle linebacker Elliot Coffey (6-0 235). He has 90 tackles, five for loss, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. WILL linebacker Rodney Chadwick (6-0 235) is sixth on the team in tackles with 54. Nickel back Ahmad Dixon (6-0 200) is as much a linebacker as he is a safety, and he has 76 stops, 3.5 for loss two fumble recoveries and an interception. He's a dynamic athletic talent.

Baylor lacks great size or effectiveness at cornerback. K.J. Morton (5-10 185) gets tested more often, and is tied for second on the team with two interceptions. Joe Williams (5-9 190) leads the team in passes broken up. He returned his lone interception 90 yards for a touchdown, and is tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles. Safeties Sam Holl (6-1 200) and Mike Hicks (5-11 195) have made 177 tackles between them and rank second and third on the team charts in those categories. Hicks leads the team with three interceptions.

Kicker Aaron Jones (6-3 185) has struggled this year, making just 50 percent of his field goals. He is just 1-2 from 20-29 and is 1-6 from 40 yards or longer, with a long of 48. Punter Spencer Roth (6-4 230) hasn't been much better, averaging 38.7 yards per punt and only putting six of his 26 punts inside the 20. The Bears have had a few big plays in the return game, though they haven't taken back either a kick or a punt for a touchdown. At the same time, they haven't allowed one, either.

This is a big game, with potential bowl ramifications. With Baylor already sitting at eight wins, a ninth could virtually lock in the Alamo Bowl. But if Texas can get to its eighth win, and with a head-to-head victory, the Longhorns would likely jump the Bears in terms of bowl priority.

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