By Shehan Jeyarajah
Following a 41-12 win over No. 10 Oklahoma, Baylor moved into the top five in the BCS for the first time. With higher rankings come higher stakes, and there are few stages more fitting for high-stakes football than AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
No. 5 Baylor football (8-0, 5-0) travels up I-35 to Arlington to take on Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3) in a matchup at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Baylor is coming off an authoritative win versus No. 10 Oklahoma on Nov. 7 . The Bears defeated the Sooners behind five all-purpose touchdowns from junior quarterback Bryce Petty and a dominant defensive performance. The Baylor defense held OU to 237 total yards and 87 rushing yards.
After starting the season with seven straight wins, Tech has struggled of late. The Red Raiders have lost three straight games: at No. 15 Oklahoma and against No. 18 Oklahoma State and Kansas State in Lubbock. In the three losses, Tech was outscored 139-90.
Tech is coming off a tough loss at the hands of Kansas State Saturday. Mayfield threw two interceptions in the loss, including a pick-six to Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman. The Tech defense allowed Kansas State to rush for 291 yards on 45 attempts, including five rushing touchdowns.
Baylor’s offense is the highest-rated offense in the FBS. The Bears average 686.0 yards per game after eight games, almost 90 yards more than second place Oregon.
The Bears lead the nation with an average of 61.0 points per game, which is 9.0 points per game better than the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles.
Petty leads Baylor’s offense with 332.1 passing yards per game. Petty has escalated himself into midseason Heisman Trophy talk with his performance. Petty has thrown for 21 touchdowns and only one interception in eight games. He has also rushed for at least one touchdown in seven straight games.
“Texas Tech is a really good team, one we’re going to have to prepare for just like anybody else,” Petty said. “We’re going to have to be prepared on offense, defense and special team just like we’re facing the best team in the conference because right now that’s who they are.”
Junior running back Lache Seastrunk was pulled in the second quarter against Oklahoma after experiencing tightness in his groin. Seastrunk is listed as questionable heading into Saturday’s matchup. Senior running back Glasco Martin is doubtful with a sprained knee.
When Martin and Seastrunk went down against Oklahoma, redshirt freshman utility back Shock Linwood was given an opportunity. Linwood finished with 182 yards on 23 carries in the win.
“They’re planning on giving me more playing time against Tech,” Linwood said. “I’m going to have to step it up more and do more things that I wasn’t able to do the last few weeks.”
With Seastrunk and Martin perhaps missing time, Linwood will receive more carries. Redshirt freshman running back Devin Chafin will also likely receive more carries. Junior wide receiver Antwan Goodley may also receive carries out of the backfield.
For the first time this season, Baylor will face an equally potent passing offense. Texas Tech’s duo of freshman quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and David Webb have led the Red Raiders to the most prolific passing offense in football. The Red Raiders pass for 408.2 yards per game, the most in the nation.
“It makes it fun because the opposing quarterbacks are young,” senior defensive end Terrance Lloyd said. “I don’t know if they’ve been in a situation playing a team as good as we are and a good defense. We just have to get after them and make them rattle back there a little bit.”
With Mayfield and Webb’s inexperience, the duo is turnover prone. Tech is bottom 10 in the nation in turnover margin, while Baylor ranks in the top 20.
An opportunistic Baylor secondary should be able to cause problems for the Tech offense.
Texas Tech has a much less diverse offense than Baylor. The Bears have a balanced rushing and passing attack, while the Red Raiders lean solely on the pass. Texas Tech’s rushing offense averages 122.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks 105th.
Baylor ranks top 10 in the nation in passing defense, so something will have to give on Saturday. Baylor ranks ninth in the country in total defense, and first in the Big 12. The scoring defense ranks Baylor sixth in the nation. Many questions were answered after Baylor’s defense exploded against Oklahoma last weekend. There is a chance that this turns into a shootout, but Baylor is the heavy favorite to win.
No. 5 Baylor will take on Texas Tech at 6 p.m. Saturday at the AT&T Center in Arlington. The game will be nationally broadcast on Fox.