Texas Tech enters their regular-season finale reeling. But they are squaring off against an opponent where the last two meetings have been decided by a combined four points. What can the Red Raiders do to end Baylor’s big at a Big 12 championship appearance?
When Texas Tech Is On Offense
Texas Tech’s performance against Oklahoma State was the worst offensive performance in the last few decades. Pick any statistic and it will tell an ugly tale. It can all be wrapped up with 108 yards of total offense. It was such a jarring performance for a program that has built real momentum. That isn’t to downplay how good the Oklahoma State defense is. But it has been a long time since Red Raider fans have seen an offense look so helpless to move the ball.
How can they bounce back this week? The offense needs to build some good momentum early against Baylor. The rushing attack, which has been solid all year, has to reemerge against another formidable rushing defense. Baylor ranks 22nd nationally in rushing yards surrendered per game (120.5). The combined effort of SaRodorick Thompson, Tahj Brooks, and Xavier White needs to at least keep the defense honest. Three-to-four-yard runs keep the offense in a good position to keep the Bears guessing on defense and will re-open the passing attack.
That passing attack will ultimately be the key to a Baylor upset. Texas Tech needs to get quarterback Donovan Smith into a rhythm early in this one against a tough defense. Of course, he was under a barrage of pressure that only made matters worse as he was sacked five times. Smith had a completion percentage of 31% last week. Interim head coach and offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie needs to call plays to get the ball out of his quarterback’s hand quickly.
Having Smith get some early completions can build much-needed early confidence. That will be a requirement to take on a Bears defense that ranks 16th nationally in scoring defense. Cumbie demonstrated last week he is not hesitant to take deep shots down the field. Those will be necessary as well against the Bears, but can only be successful with some consistent gains in the rushing and short passing attack.
When Texas Tech Is On Defense
While the Red Raider offense had one of its worst offensive performances in years, the defense played a great game against Oklahoma State. They had a season-high eight pass breakups and generated pressure for much of the game. While they did not register a sack, they had four hits on the quarterback (most in Big 12 play this season). But they are facing a strong offensive attack this week.
The Baylor Bears rank first in the Big 12 in total offense (447.1 yards per game), rushing yards per game (231.7), and third in scoring (34.0 points per game). The Bears backfield has been strong all season which starts with Abram Smith. Smith, who is leading the Big 12 with 1249 rushing yards this season, is not having to do all the heavy lifting by himself. The eighth leading rusher in the Big 12 is Baylor’s Trestan Ebner, who has rushed for 708 yards as the RB2 for this Baylor rushing attack.
Jekyll And Hyde Rushing Defense
Texas Tech has had a mixed bag when it has come to stopping the run this year. Early in Big 12 play, Texas and TCU gashed the Red Raiders for over 300 yards on the ground. However, against Iowa State and Oklahoma State, Texas Tech has held each of their respective starting running backs under 60 yards rushing. The front seven of this Red Raider defense has to deliver another physical performance to limit this two-headed rushing monster. If they can, it positions the Red Raiders for an excellent opportunity to spring an upset.
Texas Tech Vs. Baylor Prediction
Baylor still can reach the Big 12 championship game with a win and a loss by Oklahoma. With a Texas Tech vs. Baylor early kickoff, the Bears will not know their fate until late Saturday night. The Bears have been one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12 this season. This team should still be locked in with so much to play for. Texas Tech surely has to play better on offense this week. It would be hard to play much worse. However, better on offense still will not result in an offensive explosion against the second-best defense in the Big 12.
Baylor 28, Texas Tech 10