Alamo Bowl Preview: Baylor Bears vs. Washington Huskies

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIDecember 29, 2011

Alamo Bowl Preview: Baylor Bears vs. Washington Huskies

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    The 2011 edition of the Alamo Bowl features Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and the Baylor Bears going up against the Washington Huskies.

    The game will be played on Dec. 29 at 9 p.m. ET in San Antonio, Tex. at the Alamodome. The game will be televised on ESPN.

    Note: Rankings used are from my National Top 25 rankings.

Baylor Bears

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    Ranking in my National Top 25: No. 19

    Record: 9-3 (6-3 Big 12)

    Biggest win: vs. No. 20 Oklahoma, 45-38, Nov. 19

    Worst loss: at Texas A&M, 28-55, Oct. 15

    It was not more than a few years ago that the Baylor Bears were consistently one of the worst teams in the Big 12 Conference and one of the most laughable programs from the six BCS conferences.

    In the three seasons that he has played for the Baylor Bears, quarterback Robert Griffin III has changed the dynamic of Baylor football. This season, RG3 has truly brought Baylor into the limelight. RG3 led the Bears to numerous big victories, including over currently-ranked TCU and Oklahoma, and at the end of the regular season, Griffin was awarded as this year’s Heisman Trophy recipient.

    With Griffin at quarterback, the Bears rank second nationally with 571.3 yards of total offense per game. However, they have one of the worst defenses in the FBS, ranking 114th nationally in yards allowed per game, the worst of any team playing in a bowl game.

Washington Huskies

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    Record: 7-5 (5-4 Pac-12)

    Biggest win: at Utah, 31-14, Oct. 1

    Worst loss: at Oregon State, 21-38, Nov. 19

    The Washington Huskies lost five games this season, but four of those losses came against teams ranked within the top 25. The Huskies did a decent job holding their own in the Pac-12 this year, especially considering that they had to replace their star from the past few years, quarterback Jake Locker.

    In his first year as quarterback, sophomore Keith Price has been successful and ranks as the 12th-most efficient quarterback in the FBS. The Huskies rank 57th nationally in offensive yards per game.

    The Huskies have also struggled defensively, ranking 94th nationally in total yards allowed per game.

Players to Watch

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    Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, Junior

    NFL Draft Grade: Top five

    Robert Griffin III is not simply a player to watch in the Alamo Bowl. For many viewers, he is the reason why people will choose to watch the game.

    Griffin is the most electrifying quarterback in all of college football. He is a true dual-threat with tremendous athletic ability. That said, he has developed completely as a passer in his junior season. He has transformed from a quarterback more known for what he could do with his legs to the most efficient pocket passer in all of college football.

    Griffin leads the nation in passing efficiency and passing yards per attempt. He ranks second nationally in total offense (only behind Houston’s record-setting passer, Case Keenum) and fifth nationally in completion percentage. Statistically, Griffin was the best quarterback in the FBS this year and was worthy of the Heisman Trophy.

    But Griffin’s impact cannot be measured simply in statistics. There may not be one player in all of college football with more ability to change the game in an instant than Griffin can. He has a strong arm and tremendous accuracy, allowing him to throw downfield strikes with perfect placement, while his ability to take off from the pocket and run with the football adds an extra dimensions to throw off opposing defenses.

    Griffin deserved the honor bestowed upon the best player in college football this year, and if he chooses to declare for the 2012 NFL Draft, he is worthy of being a top-five selection.

    Baylor WR Kendall Wright, Senior

    NFL Draft Grade: Round 2

    Robert Griffin III is certainly the engine that makes the Baylor offense go, but wide receiver Kendall Wright is not simply a statistical beneficiary. Wright is legitimately one of the nation’s best wideouts and a key factor in Baylor’s success this season.

    Wright ranks second nationally with 1,572 receiving yards and sixth nationally with 101 receptions. Wright does not have ideal height for an X receiver at 5’10’’, but he has all the other essentials of a great wide receiver: He has terrific hands, is a very good route runner and has great speed and quickness.

    While Griffin does a great job of placing his passes for his receivers to make plays, Wright has made many big plays happen this year by using his speed and agility to make defenders miss. Wright is a real game-changing wide receiver who should be expected to make a big impact in this game.

    Washington RB Chris Polk, Junior

    NFL Draft Grade: Round 3

    The star of Washington’s offense is running back Chris Polk. Polk is a powerful, between-the-tackles running back that also has very good acceleration out of the backfield, allowing him to consistently gain yardage.

    Polk ranks 15th nationally with 1,341 rushing yards this season. The Huskies have not gotten significant productivity from any other rushers this season, so Polk receives a heavy workload rushing the football, and his performance is always crucial to the Huskies’ offensive success.

    Polk is a likely Day Two selection if he declares for the 2012 NFL Draft, so this could be his final game suiting up for the Huskies. Whether it is or not, expect Polk to play hard and have a big performance against a Baylor defense that is known to give up yards.

    Baylor NT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, Senior

    NFL Draft Grade: Round 4

    While Baylor’s defense has struggled mightily this season, they do have some real talent on their defense, and one of their top talents is nose tackle Nicolas Jean-Baptiste.

    Jean-Baptiste is not quite the difference-maker than 2011 first-round NFL draft pick Phil Taylor was the Bears, but his impact has been similar. Jean-Baptiste leads the Bears with eight-and-a-half tackles for loss and also has four sacks, numbers actually better than Taylor had for the Bears last season.

    Jean-Baptiste is a mammoth nose tackle at 335 pounds, and he has good explosiveness in the trenches. His ability to hold the gap inside allows the other players on the Baylor defense to make plays, and he has high upside as an NFL nose tackle. Watch for him to make an impact when Baylor’s defense is on the field.

    Washington NT Alameda Ta’amu, Senior

    NFL Draft Grade: Round 4

    While both teams in this game have defenses that have struggled mightily this season, both feature one of the best nose tackles in the nation. For the Huskies, that player is Alameda Ta’amu.

    Like Jean-Baptiste, Ta’amu weighs upward of 335 pounds, yet has good explosiveness off of the line. He is the Huskies’ big difference-maker on the defensive line and enables his teammates to make plays.

    Not only will Ta’amu be battling in the trenches for a Huskies victory, he will also be battling Jean-Baptiste for draft position as two of the top senior nose tackles in the nation. Ta’amu has not had any standout performances for this season, but will be looking to have that impact in this game to make a big impression for NFL scouts.

Comparing the Two Teams

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    Wins vs. currently ranked teams: Baylor 2, Washington 0

    Losses vs. currently unranked teams: Baylor 1, Washington 1

    Baylor’s total offense: Second in nation, 571.3 yards per game

    Washington’s total defense: 94th in nation, 426.3 yards allowed per game

    Washington’s scoring offense: 36th in nation, 31.5 points per game

    Baylor’s scoring defense: 109th in nation, 35.7 points per game

Prediction Analysis

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    The Alamo is known for one famous shootout, and tonight, the Alamo Bowl could feature one of the best shootouts of the bowl season. Both offenses feature playmakers, while both defenses rank among the worst in the FBS, so do not expect many defensive stops in this game.

    Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III will be the best player on the field in this game, and wide receiver Kendall Wright could be the second-best player on the field. Leading the second-ranked offense in the nation, the Washington Huskies do not have a defense that is capable of slowing them down.

    The Huskies’ only chance of winning this game is to fight fire with fire. This could be Griffin’s final game in a Baylor uniform, and it will be the final game for the two other Bears offensive standouts, Wright and running back Terrence Ganaway, so they will all be poised to have a big game. The Huskies offensive stars, Keith Price and Chris Polk, are going to need to show up in a big way and score against Baylor’s shaky defense.

    With the amount of scoring and yardage that each offense will put up, I expect this game to remain exciting into the fourth quarter. That said, if the game ends up close, Griffin is as clutch of a quarterback as there is in college football, and he will find a way to lead his team to victory. In the end, the firepower of Baylor’s offense should be too much for Washington to handle.

    Final Score Prediction: Baylor 45, Washington 31


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