November 26, 2011

The Nickel: Baylor

Texas Tech takes on No. 21 Baylor today at 6 p.m.

Here are five storylines to keep in mind as you watching from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, or at home on Fox Sports Net:

Huge streak on the line

Tech must win to maintain a streak of what currently stands as 18-consecutive bowl eligible seasons and 11 straight years of accepting bowl invitations.

Even if Tech wins, however, it's up to bowl selection committees to determine if they want the Red Raiders. Tech missed a guaranteed bowl invitation when it lost at Missouri last week.

Making a bowl is huge for the development of Tech's young team. Head coach Tommy Tuberville considers bowl the winter bowl game practices as essential to developing a team as spring football. If Tech doesn't defeat Baylor today, they will miss about 10 practices they could have had to develop young players into starters on next year's squad.

Not to mention, Tech has not lost to Baylor since the formation of the Big 12 Conference.

Containing Robert Griffin

Tech has failed to fully stop a dual-threat quarterback all season and Tech has not defeated a Big 12 team that featured a dual threat quarterback this season. But to get that possible bowl invitation the Red Raiders will have to stop the current Heisman Trophy frontrunner in Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin.

Griffin has the ability to move around the pocket and wait for a receiver to break free from the defense or the capability to tuck and run if a receiver doesn't become available.

In the running game, Griffin is just about 200 yards shy of Baylor's featured back in Terrance Ganaway.

A winning defensive game plan must center on shutting down Griffin as much as possible.

Running back drought

Tech is down to its final two capable running backs in Aaron Crawford, who will play on an ankle injury, and true freshman Kenny Williams.

Both players are capable runners, but expect the duo to help set up the pass more than exploit a Baylor defense that averages more than 200 yards against it on the ground.

Tech must live and die by its strength and the Red Raiders' strength is the passing game.

Hitting Baylor through the air

Despite Alex Torres' season-ending ACL injury last week, the Red Raiders have enough in the cupboard to beat Baylor with the passing game.

Baylor's defense averages about 260 yards against it in the passing game and the Red Raiders have smashed defenses' averages all season. Wideout Darrin Moore looked as healthy as he will be this season against Missouri while Eric Ward, Bradley Marquez and Adam James have been solid players lately.

If Tech quarterback Seth Doege can get the ball to those four guys, the Red Raiders have a fighting chance.

Desperation

Tech is an underdog against Baylor and that's been a common trend since the Iowa State loss. However, the tone in Lubbock this week was optimistic and the Red Raiders know what's riding in tonight's game.

Expect a complete effort from Tech even if they end up on the short side of the game. Hopefully, it's an effort Red Raider fans will be proud of regardless of the final score.


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