Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III seeks to cap off a Heisman Trophy-winning campaign by giving the #16 ranked Baylor Bears (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) their first bowl victory in 20 years, provided they can get past a Washington Huskies (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) team that is already familiar with being an underdog in bowl games. For tonight’s Valero Alamo Bowl from San Antonio, Texas however, Baylor may simply have too many advantages for Washington to deal with, and it all starts with the record-setting offense led by one of the top quarterbacks in College Football.
If there is one thing Baylor knows how to do this year, it’s score touchdowns. RG3, as Robert Griffin III has come to be known as, has rewritten just about every record book at Baylor on his way to leading the Bears to their first bowl game since 1992. Setting a whopping 46 school records during his 3-year stint at Baylor, RG3 leads a Bears offense that is scoring 43.5 points per game, and during a 5-game winning stretch to end the season accumulated 46.4 points and an insane 587 yards of total offense per game against their unfortunate opponents. Though RG3 is by all accounts the heart and soul of the Baylor team, generating 36 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions, throwing from 3998 yards with a 72.4 percent completion rate AND rushing for 644 yards and 9 TDs, he has the help of a couple of outstanding offensive producers in running back Terrance Ganaway (229 carries, 1347 yards, 16 TDs), and wide out Kendall Wright (101 catches, 1572 yards, 13 TDs), which makes focusing on just RG3 impossible. What’s frightening is that with a Baylor offense averaging 356.2 yards per game through the air, they are also putting down 215 yards/game on the ground, and feature the run much more than they do the pass (391 pass attempts to 524 rushes). That certainly points to the versatility of Griffin, who accounts for an extra 161 rushes to the running game’s bottom line, and something that Baylor has used to its advantage to simply outscore opponents. While Baylor’s defense leaves much to be desired giving up 35.7 points per contest, their overwhelming offense packed with many viable threats on both the ground and through the air makes them one tough assignment for any defense to stack up against.
Baylor’s chances only look better in tonight’s game after considering the poorly-performing young Huskies defense, which has been obliterated by good quarterbacks that are backed up by good running games. Ranking 116th in the FBS allowing 283.8 yards/game against the pass, the outlook for the Huskies seems futile when given the skill set that Robert Griffin III possesses. What’s even more alarming is Washington’s inability to stop the run against high-powered offenses featuring good QBs; even while facing Stanford’s Andrew Luck and USC’s Matt Barkley this season and keeping them relatively in check through the air, the Huskies completely collapsed against the run in those games, allowing 446 yards and 5 TDs to Stanford on the ground (yeah, no typo), and 252 yards and 3 TDs to USC. Even in the scenario that UW is able to frustrate RG3 enough to keep his production down in the 250-300 yard range passing and limit his scoring chances through the air, they’ll still have to deal with Terrance Ganaway, and RG3′s ability to run with the ball, which alone will be tough to contend with. It’s almost an impossible task, but the Huskies simply must find a way to be effective against both the run and the pass if they are to stand any chance at keeping up with the high-powered Baylor offense, which will be playing a virtual home game in San Antonio tonight.
Washington does however have plenty of bright spots in their offensive game, led by quarterback Keith Price (2625 yards, 29 TDs, %67.4 completion rate), which should find success against a shaky Baylor D that has allowed more points per game than all but 11 teams in the FBS. Though the Huskies aren’t blowing anyone away on offense, running back Chris Polk has been a machine (1341 yards, 11 TDs), and could have success against a Baylor defense that is 102nd in the nation allowing almost 200 rushing yards per contest. Watching this guy run is a treat, and on the national stage, expect great things from Polk, who is putting up 112 yards/game this season to rank 16th in the entire nation. In the passing game, Keith Price is going to get plenty of open looks downfield to an array of able receivers, as six pass catchers have more than 25 grabs on the year, and all six of those players have at least 3 touchdowns. However, key for Washington tonight is to sustain drives and keep the ball out of RG3′s hands as much as possible. The Huskies certainly aren’t going to win this game with their defense, but they can keep it close if they can maintain long drives that burn lots of time off the clock. That starts with Chris Polk getting tons of carries, and the Husky offensive line being at their best this year against a Bears defensive front seven which leaves much to be desired for Baylor fans.
Though Baylor undoubtedly has a huge advantage with their offense averaging almost 600 yards per game down the stretch, Washington could do well to focus on limiting Baylor’s production in the red zone, where the Bears do the most damage. There’s no questioning that RG3′s offense is going to find a way to put up massive amounts of yards, but finding a way to shut down big drives near Washington’s end zone is paramount to the Huskies making this game interesting. If Washington can get a few clutch stops against the Bears, and shore up their defense against the run, a big passing performance from Robert Griffin might not end up breaking them. Forcing a few mistakes on defense wouldn’t hurt their cause either, and the Huskies would do well to put as much pressure on Griffin throughout the game as possible, in the hopes of forcing him into making bad decisions. That’s a long shot no doubt with a very accurate quarterback that has only given up 6 interceptions on the year, but it may be their only hope. Put quite simply, if Huskies can’t counteract the run, regardless of what happens against the pass we’ll likely see the game get out of hand quickly, in much the same way it did for them against USC and Stanford, games they lost by 23 and 44 points respectively.
Betting Lines for #16 Baylor vs. Washington at TopBet Sportsbook
It’s no surprise to see Baylor as a heavy favorite coming into tonight’s Alamo Bowl, considering their impressive offense, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, and their home field advantage playing in Texas tonight. On the money line at TopBet Sportsbook, Baylor gets -365 odds to win while Washington comes in as a +305 underdog, with neither option looking of much use to online sportsbook bettors (unless you’re crazy enough to bankroll the chances of a UW victory tonight). Rather, turn to the points spread, which appears very favorable to Baylor pickers. It’s not really a matter of whether Baylor wins tonight, as their offense is simply too strong for Washington’s to keep up with, and the Huskies D is too vulnerable, but rather by how much. Though the 10 points offered to Washington backers looks appealing, especially with Baylor’s terrible defense on the field, the 10 points set for Baylor to cover looks even more appetizing, considering the way Washington has played against high-powered offenses that can both run and throw their way to victory. Given that both defenses in tonight’s match-up are down in the bottom of the FBS in points allowed and in total yardage, the massive 80.5 points on the over/under isn’t even surprising. However, I personally think that the bookmakers have hedged too much on expecting both teams to put up huge numbers tonight. With the Huskies failing to generate more than 21 points on offense in their last 4 losses, even a big game from Baylor might not be enough to push the game total over the lofty 80.5 mark (which is the highest we’ve seen yet in bowl games). While it’ll be close, I don’t see Washington’s offense on the field enough tonight to help push past such a high points total in this game.
Our Pick to Win:
As a life-long Husky fan, I won’t lie in telling you I think this game is going to be close…because it’s not going to be. While Baylor’s defense is not good, their offense is simply too overwhelming to contend with in this match-up, and Washington, while finding plenty of success on offense themselves, won’t be able to hold back the tides in Texas tonight. Also, with the Bears riding into this match-up on the best defensive effort of the season against the Texas Longhorns on December 3rd (giving up 24 points while scoring 48 on a very good Texas D), look for them to parlay that confidence tonight, as they get geared up for their first bowl game in 20 years. While Washington will make a valiant effort with plenty of exciting offense of their own, their inability to stop the run, pass or both will be their undoing in San Antonio. Baylor rolls to victory to cap off arguably their most exciting season in school history, with a 49-27 rout of Washington.