Texas Tech (7-3) vs. (4) Baylor (8-0)
Saturday, November 16, 7 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The fourth-ranked Baylor Bears will attempt to stay the course in their quest for the Big 12 Conference championship, as they take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday night in what is sure to be a high-scoring affair at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Texas Tech began the season as one of the nation's most pleasant surprises, as it won each of its first seven games to climb all the way to No. 10 in the AP poll. Since that fantastic start, however, the Red Raiders have faltered, losing three in a row to fall from the rankings, most recently losing at home to Kansas State last Saturday, 49-26.
"We have to evaluate personnel, evaluate scheme, and try to finish off the season on the right foot," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We got outcoached. We got outplayed. It's up to us what we're going to do for the last two weeks. We're playing another great rushing team next week, so we've got to come up with some answers."
Meanwhile, Baylor has had its pedal to the floor all season long, as it sits at 8-0 (5-0 in conference) and has a won a school-record 12 consecutive games overall. The Bears remained undefeated on Nov. 7 at home versus Oklahoma, winning 41-12, and they have four more contests to navigate through, including a Dec. 7 matchup with Texas, the only other Big 12 team currently without a league loss.
"The other night I thought it was a great show of unity at Baylor University," coach Art Briles said during his Monday press conference. "I thought our players stepped up to the plate and did what they were supposed to do. It was a good evening and now we've got to move on and get ready for Texas Tech."
The all-time series has been tight over the years, with Texas Tech holding a 36-34-1 advantage. Baylor has closed the gap with two straight victories.
Texas Tech has historically been a top-flight offensive team, and nothing has changed here in 2013 as the unit averages 37.8 points and 530.5 yards per game.
A pair of freshmen quarterbacks -- Davis Webb (2,315 yards, 16 TDs, nine INTs) and Baker Mayfield (1,764 yards, eight TDs, seven INTs) -- have split time under center this season. Mayfield earned the most snaps in the recent loss to Kansas State, going 34-of-44 for 276 yards with a pair of interceptions.
No matter who lines up under center, the Red Raiders can count on an outstanding trio of pass-catchers to make plays. Jace Amaro is perhaps the best tight end in the nation, ranking third in the FBS in catches (88) and fifth in yardage (1,102) while scoring four touchdowns. Eric Ward (734 yards, seven TDs) and Jakeem Grant (635 yards, four TDs) are second and third in the Big 12 with 65 and 53 receptions, respectively.
The running game plays second-fiddle to the potent aerial attack, but Kenny Williams has still been effective with 391 yards and eight touchdowns.
While the Red Raiders' defensive numbers (27.0 ppg, 389.1 ypg) appear respectable, the unit has played poorly during the three-game losing streak in allowing a whopping 46.3 ppg.
Will Smith has a team-high 72 tackles, while Kerry Hyder (10.5 TFL) and Peter Robertson (6.0 TFL, two INTs, two FF) have also played well.
For as good a season as Texas Tech's offense has had, it pales in comparison to what Baylor has been able to accomplish. The Bears have far and away the most explosive offense in the nation, ranking first in the FBS in total offense (686.0 ypg), scoring offense (61.0 ppg), pass efficiency (201.5) and yards per play (8.64).
Largely forgotten among the nation's top quarterbacks, Bryce Petty has been going about his business to the tune of 2,657 passing yards (on 66.8 percent completions), with 29 touchdowns (eight rushing) paired with only one interception. He had a five-touchdown, turnover-free performance in the blowout victory over Oklahoma.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they will be without Tevin Reese (33 receptions, 824 yards, eight TDs) for the rest of the regular season after he fractured his wrist against the Sooners, and it's a loss not easily overcome according to the head coach.
"What we've got to do is figure out who we're going to lean on, how we're going to lean on them and when we're going to lean on them," Briles said. "That's the situation. We do have players who are very capable and it's a good chance for them to show their competence -- how they can help us contribute with their accomplishments."
Antwan Goodley (44 receptions, 974 yards, 10 TDs) will continue to be a big- play threat out wide, while Levin Norwood, Clay Fuller or Jay Lee will need to step up in Reese's absence.
The Bears' rushing attack is also potent, although things are a bit murky with home-run threat Lache Seastrunk (888 yards, 11 TDs) listed as questionable with a groin injury. Shock Linwood (625 yards, seven TDs) could be in for a full workload.
Amazingly enough, Baylor's record-setting offense has not hindered it on the defensive side of the ball one bit. Even in blowouts, the unit holds strong, ranking sixth in the nation in scoring defense (15.4 ppg).
Bryce Hager has a team-best 65 tackles. Up front, Eddie Lackey, Chris McAllister, Shawn Oakman and Jamal Palmer all have at least 8.0 TFL, and in the secondary Demetri Goodson and Joe Williams have two interceptions apiece.
Even though Baylor has been bitten by the injury bug late in the season, its dynamic offense is strong enough to endure a few blows. With Texas Tech reeling of late, don't expect much to change as it goes into hostile territory, as the Bears keep their national championship dreams alive.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Baylor 50, Texas Tech 28
11/14 16:04:35 ET