By Tyler Alley
After conference exits, unsigned waivers, a maroon billboard on I-35 and a whole lot of trash talk between the students, the game is almost here.
At 11 a.m. Saturday at Kyle Field, Baylor football will finally face off against the Texas A&M Aggies in the 108th “Battle of the Brazos,” marking the final chapter in the longtime rivalry.
“You’re going to have big games that mean a lot on the field but mean a whole lot off the field as well,” senior linebacker Elliot Coffey said. “So I think that the fact that that’s here and we have the chance to play. Man, A&M week you’re ready to go from day one. You’re ready to just get it.”
The Bears come into this game ranked 20th in the AP poll, the highest ranking for any Texas collegiate football team.
Texas A&M sits one spot lower at No. 21 in the AP poll, a ranking that may portray how equally-matched the two teams are.
The offenses are also closely ranked; Baylor ranks third nationally in yards per game and fourth in points scored, while Texas A&M ranks 12th in yards and 18th in points.
A big part of the Aggies’ offense is the rushing game, with running backs Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray.
“They’ve been threats every time they’ve stepped on the football field,” head coach Art Briles said. “[They’re] extremely fast, good moves, good vision and good balance. That’s why they’re a potent running attack. Those guys are almost mirror images of each other. When you add [Ryan] Tannehill to the mix, then it really makes you play assignment football on defense.”
Opposite the two explosive offenses are two defenses looking to improve on their performances so far this season.
Baylor is ranked 60th in yards allowed, and Texas A&M is ranked 99th.
Junior cornerback Chance Casey said he hopes to see more consistency from Baylor’s defense.
“We’ve been progressing as a defense, just trying to get better every day and every game,” Casey said. “And one of the things we’ve got to start working on is playing consistently. We’ll get a bunch of three-and-outs but every once and a while we’ll give up a drive or a big play. And we’ve just got to become a consistent defense and then I think we’ll start to become a really, really great defense.”
In last year’s game, Baylor jumped out to an early 30-14 lead in the second quarter, including a 71-yard touchdown run from junior quarterback Robert Griffin III and a 69-yard TD run from former Baylor running back Jay Finley.
Texas A&M scored 28 unanswered points to win the game. Senior running back Gray had 137 rushing yards for four touchdowns.
“I don’t think we ever had them beat,” Briles said. “You don’t ever have anybody beat until the game is over. We had a 16-play drive, no points. We had an 11-play drive, no points. You can’t do that and expect to win a football game.”
Both teams have had issues this year with finishing the game.
Two weeks in a row, the Aggies have held double-digit leads going into halftime before allowing Oklahoma State and Arkansas to come back.
Baylor allowed the 24-point comeback to TCU before winning, as well as allowing Kansas State to come back, but the Bears’ problem is ultimately illustrated by the fact that against Iowa State, their fifth game, Baylor scored their first fourth-quarter touchdown.
“We just didn’t finish the game,” Griffin said. “A&M’s had a couple games like that this year. We know they’re looking to finish. We finished against Iowa State, which is a big confidence boost for the whole team. We know if we go out and play Baylor football the way we define it, take care of the ball, score points, our defense will make sure they don’t score more than we do.”
Baylor will head on the road for the second time this year. Their first road game was the loss to Kansas State.