Texas Tech Red Raiders vs #5 Baylor Bears Preview

Baylor Bears WR Corey Coleman had a nice day against Rice, hauling in 6 passes for 100 yards and 3 touchdowns. Photo Courtesy: Matthew Lynch
Baylor Bears WR Corey Coleman had a nice day against Rice, hauling in 6 passes for 100 yards and 3 touchdowns. Photo Courtesy: Matthew Lynch

By Jeff Cantrell

Game Info
Texas Tech Red Raiders vs #5 Baylor Bears
Saturday – October 3 – 2:30 pm CT
AT&T Stadium – Arlington, Texas

This week, Baylor is heading to Arlington to face off against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Bear’s conference opener. Baylor is coming off an impressive 70-17 victory over Rice.

Looking at the Offense, Baylor started the game off with a mix of run plays to RB Shock Linwood and safe high percentage screen passes. This would appear to be a reaction to the three interceptions and fumble QB Seth Russell had against Lamar. With Russell looking confident, the coaches let him loose, and he went off for 12 of 16 passing and 277 yards and a school record tying six touchdowns. Meanwhile, on the ground, Linwood led the running backs with 158 yards on 16 carries. In all, the Bears would run for 427 yards and rack up 793 total yards on 78 plays for an average of 10.2 yards per play. The only real negative for the offense was the fumble by wide receiver K.D. Cannon on the opening possession of the second half. Cannon, taking the hand off from Russell, ran with the ball in one hand before fumbling the ball at the Baylor 24 yard line setting up Rice’s second TD of the day. Odds are good that he’ll be hearing a bit about that this week.

Special teams play was a blessing and a curse for the Bears. On the positive side, CB Ryan Reid came up big for the Bears when he made a leaping dive to block a field goal attempt by Rice on the last play of the 1st half. On the other hand, after going up 14-3 in the first quarter, Baylor sent a low kick-off bouncing down the field until it was picked up by RB Austin Walter who returned it 74 yards to the Baylor 24 yard line. Rice would score on the next play, a 24-yard pass to WR Dennis Parks.

On the defensive side, the Bears started strong and played with an intensity lacking in the previous games. Baylor defenders accounted for five sacks, 11 tackles for loss, forced three fumbles, and recovered two of the loose balls. Baylor held Rice to only 4 of 13 on third down conversions and gave up a season low 17 points. The longest scoring drive for the Owls was their first drive, a nine play, 60 yard effort that got them only 3 points. The rest of Rice’s points came on possessions where the Owls were gifted short fields.

Overall it was a solid performance by the Bears, with the exception of penalties which continue to pile up for Baylor as they amassed another 14 flags and 145 yards. This brings the season tally to 39 penalties and 343 yards, on pace to beat last season’s record of 127 penalties and 1149 yards.

Meanwhile, Tech Tech is coming into this game after a 55-52 loss to TCU, where a miraculous Horned Frogs touchdown with 23 seconds left put the nail in the Red Raiders hopes of knocking off the #3 team in the nation. To make it worse, it was announced by Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury that QB Patrick Mahomes is listed as day-to-day for the upcoming game after suffering an apparent knee injury early in the TCU game. If he is not able to go then it will fall to backup David Webb to lead the Red Raiders against the Bears.

What to look for when Baylor has the ball

  • How well does Baylor take care of the football? Against Lamar, Baylor turned the ball over four times and still won the game handily. Against Rice, Baylor only turned the ball over once and completely ran away with the game. Obviously, neither Lamar nor Rice has the ability to put up points like Tech does and if the Bears turn the ball over, Tech will take advantage of it. For Baylor, losing the turnover battle could mean losing the game.
  • Can Baylor establish its running game? In their opener against the Sam Houston State Bearkats, the Red Raiders gave up 317 yards on the ground, and against TCU they gave up 247 yards. So, Texas Tech is vulnerable to the run and it will be important for the Bears to establish its rushing attack, as it did against Rice. Everyone knows Baylor can pass for large chunks of yards, but being able to run the ball effectively will put an incredibly amount of pressure on the Red Raiders defense. Barring mistakes by either team, this game looks to be a high scoring, last man with the ball wins, kind of affair. With this in mind, should Baylor find itself up in the fourth quarter; they’ll want to be able to rely on their running backs to burn clock and protect the ball by keeping on the ground.
  • Look for another high scoring day from the Baylor receivers. Corey Coleman leads the Bears receiver corps with 460 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Currently he is on pace to crush last season’s 1119 yards receiving and 11 TD catches. So a good day for Coleman against a suspect Texas Tech secondary would be a huge boost to the Bears hopes of victory. Also, the question of when starting TE Laquan McGowan will haul in his first catch of the season remains. McGowan couldn’t haul in the one pass thrown his way in the Lamar game, but I get the feeling that if the Bears are in the red zone, they may look to throw his way in this game.

What to look for when Texas Tech has the ball

  • Provided he is healthy, Mahomes represents the most serious threat to the Baylor secondary so far this season. The BU cornerbacks were heavily criticized last season but appear to be improved so far this season. However, they’ve not been tested like they will be Saturday. We will learn a lot about how upgraded the Baylor cornerbacks and safeties really are when they square off against a Red Raider offense that has already accounted for 1197 yards passing and 10 touchdowns. The battle between Tech receivers Jakeem Grant and Reginald Davis going toe to toe with Baylor CBs Xavien Howard and Ryan Reid will have a significant impact on the final score.
  • Watch to see how Baylor answers the challenge from the uptick in competition provided by this high-flying Tech offense. The Red Raiders, last Saturday, faced a TCU defense that was decimated by losses due to injuries and random acts of football, and it was is reflected on the field. Conversely, Baylor’s starters are relatively healthy and playing at a high level. So, it will be interesting to see how well the Baylor defense does in containing and pressuring Mahomes. For extra incentive, Shawn Oakman is looking to take sole control of the Baylor career sack record so Oakman is going to want to meet up with Mahomes in the Raiders’ backfield.

Prediction: Baylor 63 – Texas Tech 45