6 p.m., Alamodome TV: ESPN > Radio: 950 AM, 770 AM Online: espn3.com
Baylor (9-3) vs. Washington (7-5)
6 p.m., Alamodome
TV: ESPN > Radio: 950 AM, 770 AM
Online: espn3.com The line: Bears by 9 ½
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The Huskies are looking to win their second straight bowl game in upset fashion, having defeated Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl last year as a 14-point underdog. UW is also looking for its first win this year against a ranked team, losing all four games previously — Baylor is 15th in the AP poll. Baylor is looking for just the second 10-win season in school history.
What to expect
Lots of yards and points. Both teams have explosive offenses and porous defenses. The Las Vegas books, in fact, have given the game an over-under (meaning the combined points scored) of 78.5 — the most of any bowl game. Baylor was the only team in the country this year to average 300 or more yards passing and 200 or more rushing but also allows 477.5 yards per game. UW is averaging 392.3 yards per game and giving up 426.3. So a shootout seems in order.
Washington’s running game vs. Baylor’s defense. Given UW’s defensive struggles, it’s hard to imagine that Baylor won’t gain a lot of yards and likely score a lot of points. So that will put the onus on UW’s offense to try to keep pace, specifically with its running game.
Washington: RB Deontae Cooper (knee), CB Adam Long (knee), DE Hau’oli Jamora (knee), RB Johri Fogerson (knee), DB James Sample (shoulder), OG Colin Tanigawa (knee); S Will Shamburger (nerve), WR-returner Kevin Smith (knee) doubtful.
Baylor: DE Tevin Elliot (knee), CB Tuswani Copeland (knee), CB Demetri Goodson (ankle) out; CB Tyler Stephenson (ankle), DB Chance Casey (knee) questionable.
While Baylor has off-the-charts offensive numbers, the Bears also sport what is statistically one of the worst defenses in the country and just so-so special teams. So the recipe is there for UW to pull it off — force a few turnovers, score touchdowns instead of field goals, and win the special teams battle. Baylor also could feel the pressure of trying to perform on a big stage in front of what will essentially be a home crowd.
Prediction: Baylor 45, Washington 34.
|Who has the advantage?|
QB This is one of the better QB matchups in any bowl game as Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and UW’s Keith Price spent much of the early part of the year battling for the nation’s lead in TD passes. Price faded a bit at the end due to injuries, but seems healthier now and should be due for a big game. Still, for all Price means to UW, it’s hard not to give the nod to the Heisman Trophy winner.
RB The game will feature two of the better running backs in the country in UW’s Chris Polk (1,341 yards) and Baylor’s Terrance Ganaway (1,347). Both are big, punishing runners with deceptive speed, though Ganaway, listed at 240 pounds, has about 20 pounds on Polk.
WR While Griffin gets most of the deserved attention for Baylor’s prolific passing attack, he’s helped greatly by a dynamic receiving corps led by senior Kendall Wright, who had 101 receptions for 1,572 yards this season. Junior Terrance Williams is a more-than-able sidekick with 53 receptions. UW has had a more balanced receiving corps this year than in past seasons with the additions of freshmen like Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams. But UW has also been hampered by some ill-timed drops, which helps give the edge here to Baylor.
OL Baylor sports one of the biggest lines in the country, averaging just under 320 pounds, and has helped pave the way for an offense ranked No. 2 in the country. The standouts are center Philip Blake and tackle Robert T. Griffin. UW’s line has been solid, though it struggled at times against some of the better defenses. Nick Wood will get his second straight start at left guard in place of Colin Tanigawa, but the other four positions have featured the same starters all season. Give the edge to Baylor.
DL Each defense has given up a ton of points and yards this season. But each features some solid talent on the line, notably UW defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu and Baylor nose guard Nicolas Jean-Baptiste — each tops the 330-pound mark. Baylor, though, will be hurt by the absence due to injury of defensive end Tevin Elliott, who led the team in tackles for loss this season with 17. That helps give the edge to UW.
LB UW’s linebacking corps has struggled at times with its young players on the outside, but middle linebacker Cort Dennison has been the heart and soul of the defense all season. Baylor also has a solid middle ‘backer in senior Elliot Coffey but usually features just two true linebackers, listing five defensive backs as starters, instead. Slight edge to UW.
DB Each team ranks among the worst in the nation in pass defense — Baylor is 112th (allowing 278 yards per game) and UW is 116th (283). Baylor has been a little more opportunistic with 16 interceptions — 10 in the last four games — to UW’s 10. Expect the Huskies to match Baylor in playing a lot of nickel with Greg Ducre filling that spot. UW will likely be without safety Will Shamburger, still suffering with a stinger. Slight edge to Baylor.
ST Statistically, UW has the edge at both kicking spots, and also ranks a little better in the return games. UW, though, will likely be without leading kickoff returner Kevin Smith, who recently suffered a sprained knee. Given Baylor’s expected offensive prowess, UW will need to win the special teams battle and could use another big play like the blocked punt for a touchdown against WSU. Edge to UW.