Wait, don’t hit the snooze button. There are reasons to get excited about this game.
Yes, it is at 11 a.m., but they are playing at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Yes, Texas Tech is 4-5 and on a four game losing streak while Baylor just got its first win of the season over woebegone Kansas. But these teams hate each other. Yes, it is the most boringly-named rivalry of all time, The Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Shootout, but it is still a rivalry game! Last year was a back and forth affair all game with both teams showing their hatred for each other by trying to slobber-knock each other around.
This will be the 75th time these two schools meet on the gridiron with the rivalry perfectly tied at 37-37-1. 75 is the diamond anniversary. Something tells me that these teams will not be exchanging gifts anytime soon. So, get up, grab a bowl a Wheaties, and get ready for some football!
DATE & TIME: SAT, NOV 11, 11:00 AM CT
LOCATION: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
FORECAST: It’s in a dome
STREAM: FOX SPORTS GO
SPREAD: TTU -7.5
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS, 4-5 (1-5)
The early out-of-conference slate gave the Red Raider faithful so much hope this year. 3-0 with wins over Arizona State and Houston made Texas Tech, and Kliff Kingsbury, look really good. Unfortunately, conference play has knocked the shine off. The Red Raiders come into this game on a current four game losing streak. The games against West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State were particularly brutal ways to lose. Their lone conference victory is over Kansas.
While the record is almost the same as last year, the story has been a bit different on the plains. The offense has been on fire, as seen by ranking in the top 25 in a bunch of statistical categories. But, the offense has never been the problem for Kingsbury.
Instead, it has been the defense once again. What makes it exceptionally heartbreaking is how the defense has played. A Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde drama for the ages. In one half or one quarter the defense will be the very imitation of Alabama. The next, the defense does a very good impression of a wet paper towel. It is still an improvement over past iterations where all they did was the wet paper towel impression, but it just shows how much farther this team needs to go to be a complete team and have a real shot at challenging for the conference crown.
The above paragraphs can be simply shown by looking at points for and points against. Texas Tech is the 17th best team in the country when it comes to scoring points, 38.2 a game. That is no slouch. As last year’s bowl season and the non-conference slate showed this year, the Big 12 is actually pretty decent on defense. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, the rest of the conference’s defenses have not rubbed off on them. Tech has allowed 34.1 points a game. Not bad when you look at how many it scores, but it puts them at 106th in the country. Looking at a better metric, the offense scores 2.73 points per possession (21st) but the defense gives up 2.40 points per possession (102nd).
Nic Shimonek has been quietly phenomenal this year, throwing for 3,068 yards and 26 touchdowns so far. Most of those yards and touchdowns have gone to Keke Coutee (a fun name to say) who has 1026 receiving yards on 69 catches to go along with 9 touchdowns. The running game is not going to blow anybody away, but it has been more than serviceable. Justin Stockton and Tre King both have over 500 yards on the ground. And Desmond Nisby makes for a hard stop with his 6′ 2″ and 240 pound frame in short yardage situations. On defense the Red Raiders have…let’s not talk about the defense…
…Well, okay, just real quick. Looking at the stats and it is a mixed bag for this match-up. In some categories Tech has the statistical edge. In others the edge goes to Baylor’s offense, which is saying something because Baylor has not been great this year. Texas Tech has been okay against the run, meaning they are right around the middle of all the FBS teams. Where they hurt is stopping the pass. Defensive coordinator David Gibson likes to play an aggressive defense. If the pass-rush cannot get to a quarterback it usually means that an aggressive defense will get taken advantage of because there will be holes in the secondary.
BAYLOR BEARS, 1-9 (1-7)
Baylor might have won last week, but that was against a Kansas squad that has lost its way. Outside of a few flashes this has been a very woeful season for the Bears. A new coach, a new philosophical approach, and a new scheme lends itself to some growing pains. Nobody expected these lumps though. After all, Baylor went 7-6 last year. And while depth was a large part of those six loses, the team showed fight throughout.
Last week it looked like things finally turned around for Baylor. But, before the fans start partying on the Brazos, the reality check is that they played Kansas. Literally ever FBS team Kansas has played the past three seasons (except Texas) has beaten Kansas. In fact, with Twitter opening up to 280 characters, you can list every team Kansas has beat in football in the last decade in one tweet. What we are saying here is that Baylor still has a long way to go.
Baylor has been pretty inconsistent on offense. In a small part this was just learning the new scheme. While Rhule kept some of the Briles’ sideline-to-sideline spread concepts, he has been trying to install his own more smash mouth, pro-style offense. The bigger issue is that Baylor is on its third quarterback of the season. Anu Solomon, the Arizona grad-transfer, who started the season has now withdrawn from Baylor all together to keep from failing as he has struggled with a concussion and the resulting symptoms all season. Zach Smith has struggled against everybody except Oklahoma. Charlie Brewer struggled against Texas but lit up Kansas. Rhule has announced that Baylor will be starting Brewer against Texas Tech, but if he cannot get it going expect a short leash.
Denzel Mims has been a revelation since the Oklahoma game. He has struggled with some injuries that have limited some playing time since, but when healthy and on the field it is pretty legitimate to say that he is the only consistent threat on offense. That is pretty surprising considering that this team should have had a number of threats in the skill positions based on past recruiting. Chris Platt is still Baylor’s second leading receiver and he has not played since a knee injury against Oklahoma. That is right, Platt has not played in the last five games, half the season to this point, and he is still the second leading receiver for the Bears.
The run game has been just as bad as the passing game. John Lovett only has 405 yards on the year. The freshman has been hampered by a thin offensive line that is not getting great push. Terence Williams, a junior who feels like he has been at Baylor for forever because his name is a phonetic match for Terrance Williams, has not provided much of a spark, either. After rushing for over 1,000 yards last year he was expected to be a large part of the offense this year. A shoulder injury during the summer has limited him, however. He did not record his first carry until the Oklahoma game.
For as bad as Texas Tech has been on defense, Baylor has been worse. Baylor comes out as the statistical loser in just about every metric when compared to Tech’s offense. That does not bode well. The worse is that Baylor’s defense ranks 111 in points per game giving up a very bad 2.56 points per possession, good for 108th in the country. The Kansas game is the first time all year Baylor has really been able to stop anybody, and Kansas is not an offensive juggernaut. We have seen this defense be really, really bad since the Liberty game. The Texas Tech offense is the worse thing it could face right now.
KEYS TO THE GAME: TEXAS TECH
Be Aggressive: This goes for both sides of the ball. Rhule and company probably do not want to put the game in Brewer’s hands if they can avoid it. For the Red Raiders, being who they are on offense can put their defense in a position to pin its ears back and attack Baylor’s quarterback. The offense needs to score and the defense needs to take away the run. Those are two things that Tech does great and okay, respectively. While it might seem like it is asking Baylor to attack its weakness, it is actually Tech playing to its strengths and trusting that a true freshman quarterback will make a couple of mistakes. Last week was a disgrace with playing for overtime at the end of the game and it blew up in Tech’s face. They need to go for the jugular early, often, and late. Pedal to the metal until the final whistle blows.
Four Quarter Defense: I feel like I could copy and past this key every week. This is a rivalry game which means that you can throw out the stats in some regards. Rivals do not care who is supposed to win. Texas Tech should expect Baylor to leave it all on the field. To counter that, it needs to play competent defense for not just a half or a quarter, but, to paraphrase Jake Taylor, they need to play defense for the whole ******* game. This defense needs to play like it met a stranger in the Alps. Mims is going to do his damage, but if it can shut down the rest of the Baylor offense it has to like its chances.
Run the Ball: Just because the Red Raiders need to be aggressive does not mean they need to be stupid. Yes, Baylor is practically dead last in defending the pass, but they are not much better at defending the run, either. The Bear defense is giving up a whopping 5.15 rushing yards per attempt. Texas Tech came out running against Oklahoma and promptly scored three touchdowns on its three opening drives. Oklahoma adjusted and Tech seemed to give up on the run from that point on. A way to keep Brewer out of rhythm is to keep him off the field. Texas Tech is not going to suddenly morph into a TOP offense, but holding onto the ball a little bit more and keeping Baylor’s defense honest will go a long way to scoring more points than the Bears.
KEYS TO THE GAME: BAYLOR
Keep Pressure off Brewer: No coach ever wants to pin the hopes and dreams of a season on a true freshman quarterback. But, that is where Baylor is at. Baylor’s offensive line gets a break in going up against Texas Tech, but they need to still be able to give Brewer an extra second or two each drop back. Gibson will probably try and confuse the young quarterback with a variety of looks, so Brewer will need all the time he can get as he looks to find a target. This means keeping Texas Tech defenders away from the young quarterback.
Pass the Ball: In one of the few advantages Baylor has in this game, its passing game ranks better than the Red Raiders’ passing defense. This is skewed somewhat because Brewer has not really played a whole lot, so those numbers are because of the two guys that were ahead of him on the depth chart. No matter what though, the Bears need to get the ball to Mims, their best player, and whoever else might step up this Saturday. Going conservative early could backfire in a big way. Passing the ball will open up the run and relieve more pressure off of Brewer.
Capitalize on Big Plays on Offense: One of the most shocking stats is that Baylor has the eighth ranked offense for explosive plays. You read that correctly, eighth! This does not mean that they have the eighth most explosive plays, but that when they have the ball they are very, very likely to get one. When you look at the rest of their offensive stats it is rather surprising. So why is that stat so high and the rest so anemic? Because Baylor has struggled to capitalize on those plays by getting points. If Baylor wants to put together a winning streak it needs to turn those big plays into points on the scoreboard.
Last season was Kingsbury’s first win over Baylor as the Red Raider Head Coach. This year, even with the Tech defense, it should be win number two. These teams do not match up evenly. Texas Tech should be able to consistently take advantage through the air on offense. News flash, Texas Tech is really, really good at passing the ball. Baylor has only been bear-ably good on offense due to the inconsistency of the quarterback position. Mims is going to get his amazing catches in, but this game should be a lot like last year, with Tech slowly pulling ahead and Baylor not being able to play catch-up. This rivalry is perfectly tied at 37-37-1. On Saturday Texas Tech moves to 38 wins and covers the spread setting up a nail-biting two weeks as the Red Raiders look to make bowl eligibility.