Coming off of a huge win over then #1 Kansas State our Bears head to Cowboy's Stadium to take on Texas Tech in a game that is very important to Baylor's bowl hopes. We defeated them 66-42 last year, lost 45-38 the year before, and it looks like the scoreboard will be busy again this year.
Their quarterback is #7 Seth Doege who isn't huge at 6'1 197 but much like our own Nick Florence has enough arm to be dangerous, enough mobility to run, and is very accurate and makes mostly good decisions. Tech throws it almost 50 times per game and therefore as Doege goes, so goes Tech's offense. He's a great story after coming back from tearing each ACL in High School (one before his junior year, the other before his senior year) to do what he's done. It is a huge credit to Mike Leach and the rest of his staff who recruited and evaluated him for sticking by the kid and it is paying off for Tech.
Tailback has three very talented guys that can break big plays. #24 Eric Stephens has come back from a very bad knee injury to have a productive senior year. He isn't big at 5'8 201 but he is a strong runner for his size with a lot of agility and doesn't go down easy. Their most powerful option at tailback is #34 Kenny Williams who is listed at 5'9 219 and is their leading rusher. He's got a good combination of speed and power and is their best inside runner. A guy who gets put at tailback frequently is the freshman SaDale Foster. He is listed at 5'7 187 and that may be generous. He is very fast, very elusive, and can rip off long runs with ease.
Tech is stockpiled with talent at receiver much like Baylor is. Their best target and leading receiver is #18 Eric Ward (6'0 204) who is one of the very best wideouts in the conference. He has great hands, enough speed to go deep, and great skills. He starts at the X position and usually lined up along the left sideline. Their other starter at outside wide receiver is #14 Darrin Moore who was a Blinn transfer. He isn't the all around player that Ward is but he has a good amount of speed to go with his 6'4 216 frame and will be a tough matchup for our corners. He has actually caught more passes than Ward but has almost 100 fewer yards. #88 Marcus Kennard is their primary backup outside and is 6'3 203.
At the slot receiver positions they use four key guys. #86 Alex Torres is yet another senior Red Raider who has come back from a significant knee injury. He is 6'1 202 and slides inside to the Y position (replacing Adam James) after being an outside guy last year. He is a classic Leach guy where he isn't blazing fast but has great hands, runs great routes, and is fast out of his breaks. He has started in some capacity ever since 2009. Another senior at the Y position is #3 Tyson Williams who is 5'11 210 and transferred from West Texas A&M where they ran the Leach Air Raid offense. He has caught 28 passes this year.
At the H position they feature senior #6 Austin Zouzalik (6'0 187) who has contributed ever since his freshman year and is more of the Leach mold like Torres is and they also feature tiny but fast redshirt freshman #11 Jakeem Grant (5'6 163).
The most unique target on the Tech offense is #22 Jace Amaro at tight end. He is 6'5 257 and runs very well. He runs like a wide receiver and has good hands. He is a serviceable blocker and gives a lot of the matchups in the passing game that Jason Witten gives the Dallas Cowboys. When Tech uses a fullback they use 252 pound #46 Chris Knighton.
Tech's offensive line is the weak link of the offense. They are in very good hands with 3 very experienced seniors in LT La'Adrian Waddle, RT Terry McDaniel, and C Deveric Gallington but have struggled with younger starters at the guard spots. OU routinely beat their guards to pressure Doege and the line really struggled with picking up Oklahoma State's use of twisting stunts. They aren't a bad line but they are far from the standard that Tech set for the past few years. One wrinkle that may be trouble for Tech is that 3rd year starter at left tackle (Doege's blind side) LaAdrian Waddle may be out with an injury which may cause them to have to reshuffle the starting line. This may benefit Baylor as new starters are more likely to mess up in pass protection.
Tech is a team that will pass to set up the run. They don't run the Air Raid that Leach ran but they will pass a similar amount of the time. They use a lot of out routes, screens, and short patterns. Their run schemes are the typical zone, power, and draw most of the Big 12 runs. They will also throw the wildcat package in with the RB's taking the snap.
Also Tech is no stranger to the aggressive playcall as we should remember after last year when Tech not only surprised us with an onside kick but also
pulled off a very questionable trick play by changing the jersey of their backup quarterback. If their past tendency is any indication we should expect to see a trick play in this one.
Texas Tech features a much improved defense this year after hiring new coordinator Art Kaufman. The biggest improvement has been the development of #91 Kerry Hyder (6'2 281) and #8 Delvon Simmons (6'5 290) into legitimate talents at defensive tackle after being undersized and young last year. At DE Tech starts junior #54 Dartwan Bush (6'1 256) and sophomore #43 Jackson Richards (6'4 248). Each is athletic and does a decent job against both the run and the pass.
Texas Tech's linebackers are very similar to what we see most weeks in the Big 12. #7 Will Smith (6'3 224) and #13 Sam Eguavoen (6'1 220) are their starters at the inside linebacker spots and are smaller and faster guys. The starter at strongside linebacker they trot #18 Micah Awe out who is a 6'0 205 true freshman.
When Tech goes with nickel personnel they replace a linebacker with #5 Tre Porter. He is 6'0 202 and a very experienced junior who has experience at corner.
The starting corners for Tech are good but not great. Right side corner is #31 Eugene Neboh (5'10 201) and left side is Bruce Jones (5'7 171). They have decent speed and solid experience.
At safety Tech has two starters who have been playing significant roles for a long time. #16 Cody Davis starts at right safety and is a four year starter who is a good player both in coverage and run support. Former corner #12 D.J. Johnson is a three year starter (6'0 190) who provides some flexibility in coverage.
Kaufman is the third coordinator in 3 years for this defense and he strikes a balance between Willis' 2010 scheme that left too much single coverage and Glasgow's 2011 scheme. He will usually bring a safety down into the box to outnumber the run which leaves Tech vulnerable to deep passes due to the required single coverage. When you get even numbers to run on they struggle almost as much as last year in run defense but they scheme to prevent it unless you force them out of it. They aren't inflexible but if given their preference they will deny the run to make you throw.
Their kicker is Ryan Bustin who isn't very consistent but can hit long field goals. Punter Ryan Erxleben is the son of UT standout Russell and is averaging 42 yards per punt.
In coverage Tech is pretty good at covering kickoffs but is #121 in covering punt returns.
What does Baylor's offense need to do in order to win?
Our offense has to be clicking when we throw deep and Nick has to be able to run the read option effectively. Tech wants to take away the run and that leaves the deep pass in single coverage frequently. If we can beat them outside consistently they may be forced into reconsidering that strategy and then would leave favorable numbers to run against inside.
When Tech drops the extra defender down against the run we will likely need Nick involved in the running game to keep the numbers in our favor much like how Rich Rodriguez breaks down how his offense can run on a 1 deep safety look in the first part of this video.
Expect a setup more like what SHSU, ULM, and the first half of the UT game where the opponent tried to take the run away and make Nick beat them. BU proved it could make you pay if you ignore the run against two of the best defenses in the league and Tech isn't likely to make the same mistake unless Nick punishes them for giving us single coverage.
Honestly this isn't that different than what Glasgow tried against Nick last year as they frequently brought a high number of blitzes and single coverage which he was able to beat. I expect our offense to have a big day as long as they don't make self inflicted mistakes. Our offense has had great success against better units than they will see Saturday and simply has to go and execute.
What must our defense do?
Our defense has to be able to put pressure on Doege and hold up in coverage. This has been our biggest issue throughout the season and will be highlighted by the Red Raiders if we have not improved. We may catch a break with Waddle possibly being injured which could give us more opportunities for key plays. Even if our linemen don't sack Doege we need them to make him feel the pressure and we need them to bat the ball down and limit his accuracy. I have no doubt Tech will pile up yards but we must make them earn it and have the kind of downfield coverage we had against KSU.
Why would we struggle with this offense when our defense shut down a good KSU offense? Doesn't that mean we fixed the problems we had?
KSU was a run first team we were able to take out of their comfort zone by getting a lead and denying the run. Tech will be an entirely different animal and is a poorer matchup for our defense. We had success blitzing in the second half when we knew they would have to pass and a running team who never had to play from behind was not able to pick it up. Don't expect that tactic to work against Doege's quick release, Tech's screen plays, and their solid pass protection.
Tech is very capable in the short passing game and repeatedly beat us with simple combinations like Y Stick but eventually we were able to get key turnovers by forcing an Adam James fumble and getting two interceptions. Success in this one is going to come from making them execute the small game over and over against different looks.
Much like the last two years it will be a shootout. You can make a case for either team winning it as Tech has the better defense but Baylor is the team with the offensive balance and a more dominant offensive line to control things.
Baylor breaks 40, Tech breaks 30. Our offensive line and Florence beat the Tech defense at a higher rate than their offense torches ours... and nobody switches jerseys this year.