Coming off the biggest win in the history of the program, the Baylor Bears try to avoid a letdown against the Texas Tech Red Raiders when both will travel to Dallas this weekend. Baylor (5-5) is looking to gain access to a bowl game, while Tech (7-4) has fallen from the graces of the BCS rankings.
The matchup is the fourth annual meeting as a part of the Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Shootout, held now in Arlington since the new Cowboys Stadium was built.
Last year was the first time since these two teams have been in the Big 12 that Baylor was able to get a win, but Texas Tech will look to continue its dominance now that Robert Griffin III is now gone.
It won't be easy against this Bears offense. Nick Florence and Terrence Williams are a commanding duo, and have accounted for a large chunk of the Baylor offense. Conversely, the Red Raiders always have a strong offense and look to put up the kind of numbers teams like Texas and West Virginia have against the Bears.
Here's an early look at this matchup, including television information, players to watch and a prediction for this Big 12 showdown.
When: Saturday, November 24 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Where: Cowboys Stadium; Arlington, Tex.
Listen: Bears affiliates; Red Raiders affiliates
Betting Line: Baylor -2.5 (according to Vegas Insider)
Key Storyline: Bowl Positioning
Both these teams are out of the Big 12 race, and bowl positioning and bragging rights for the next year are now the only thing standing between the two and the end of the season.
Baylor is desperate to get a win over one of the two very good teams still left on the schedule—Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
Tech is looking to stop a slide that started against Kansas State and almost ended up in a loss to Kansas. The Red Raiders are struggling to play defense right now, something that was a positive during the first part of the season.
Getting to eight wins would be great for Tommy Tuberville in his second year in Lubbock, while Art Briles would consider this up-and-down season a success if his team could gain bowl eligibility.
Injury Report via USA TODAY (as of 11/20/12)
S K.J. Morton — Groin, Questionable for Saturday
LB Rodney Chadwich — Knee, Out indefinitely
S Terrance Bullitt — Shoulder, Out for Season
BCS/Top 25 Implications
Tech fell out of the rankings after losing to Oklahoma State 59-21 on Saturday, and a win wouldn't put them back anywhere near the Top 25.
Baylor is fresh off of a win over the No. 1 team in the nation, but the reality remains that they still have five losses and are a .500 team. Neither squad has a real shot to play anything other than spoiler to each other over these final two weeks of the season.
What They're Saying
According to the team's official press release before the game, Baylor is looking to establish the run just as much as the pass on Saturday. Despite being known as an air-raid offense, the Bears get it done on the ground, too.
Since Briles' arrival at Baylor, the Bears' passing attack gets most of the attention for its high-powered offense. However, Baylor owns one of the nation's most balanced offensive attacks. Baylor is one of only five FBS teams (Clemson, Louisiana Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M) to average 300+ yards passing and 200+ yards rushing per game.
Florence, who came into the game for RG3 last season in the team's 66-42 win, got some high praise from Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville:
In addition, it seems like media is starting to give the Bears a little more respect, while taking a little bit away from the Red Raiders. Here's what ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon ranked the Texas schools on Saturday, following Week 12.
Lone Star top 10: 1. A&M, 2. Texas 3. TCU, 4. Baylor, 5. Tech, 6. Rice, 7. SMU, 8. UTEP, 9. UTSA, 10. North Texas— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) November 18, 2012
Baylor Player to Watch: QB Nick Florence
The last time Florence played against Tech, he burned his red shirt before throwing for two touchdowns in the team's win over the Red Raiders. In one of the most selfless acts in college football history, he gave up a full year of eligibility for one half of football for a team that played in the Alamo Bowl.
That's the kind of guy Florence is.
He continues to lead the Bears with the same kind of selfless attitude on the field, despite some of the key mistakes that have left the team at 5-5. Still, with any semblance of the defense this team had against Kansas State, Baylor would be an eight-win football team right now. They would have beaten Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas, and this would be a different discussion.
However, it's now up to Florence to not have any letdown following the emotional win over the Wildcats. He's the unquestioned leader—Baylor needs him to step up big in a turnover-free way.
Texas Tech Player to Watch: WR Eric Ward
Ward leads Texas Tech in receptions, and is clearly the favorite target for QB Seth Doege. He's made catches this year that lead me to believe he'll be a quality NFL prospect when he graduates, and also that Tech is a team to watch out for in 2013.
Against a banged-up Baylor secondary that is still without K.J. Morton, Ward will likely draw Joe Williams. Williams played great against Kansas State's Chris Harper. That matchup could help decide the game, much like it did for Baylor last weekend.
Ward is a true threat all over the field, as evidenced by his 861 yards and 10 touchdowns. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will have his hands full scheming for Ward and the rest of this Tech offense.
Key Matchup: Defenses vs. These Passing Attacks
It's pretty simple—the better defense will win on Saturday. Turnovers will be the key stat, as either one of these offenses can score in bunches.
Baylor was able to force turnovers against Kansas State, one of the reasons why they were able to hand the Wildcats such a lopsided loss. Tech has struggled to generate turnovers of late, and the loss of Bullitt in the secondary is a big one.
Key stops and forcing QB mistakes are two big themes for both of these defenses. The team that can get more of both will likely wind up taking this one.
This is going to be a tight one. The offenses are similar, it's a neutral-site game and both teams have something to prove after Week 11. I like Baylor to finally find some defense in this one, and to give Tech a really hard time on the ground. Baylor takes it in overtime.
Baylor 48, Texas Tech 42 (OT)
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.