Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming Big 12 battle in Waco in our Texas Tech vs. Baylor preview and prediction.
11:00 AM CST, Saturday, November 27, 2021, McLane Stadium, Waco, TX
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: TTU broadcast: Texas Tech Sports Network; Baylor broadcast: Baylor Sports Network
Records: Texas Tech: 6-5 (3-5 Big 12); Baylor 9-2 (6-2 Big 12)
Rankings: Texas Tech – none; Baylor – CFB Playoff: #11 (Week 12); AP: #9; Coaches: #10
Last week: Texas Tech lost to Oklahoma State, 23-0; Baylor defeated K-State, 20-10
Spread: Baylor -14
Fun Fact: The home team has won the last two meetings since the game moved back to a home-and-home format after being played at a neutral site from 2009 through 2018. Tech leads the all-time series 38-36-1 but is just 11-17 in Waco.
QB DONOVAN SMITH
A week after lighting up the scoreboard and filling up the stat sheet against Iowa State in his first career start, Smith was made to look like the inexperienced freshman he is by arguable the best defense in college football: Oklahoma State. Against Iowa State, Smith went 25 of 32 passes for 322 yards, three TDs, and an interception while adding 50 rushing yards on a team-high 14 attempts. Oklahoma State held Smith to 9 of 29 for 83 yards, no touchdowns, and -15 yards rushing on 10 attempts (including 4 of Oklahoma State’s 5 sacks).
While Smith’s numbers against Oklahoma State’s historic defense were dismal, he still gives Texas Tech the best chance to win, especially since Oregon-transfer, Tyler Shough, was still not medically cleared to play as of November 14. Smith’s ability to run changes Tech’s offense for the better, but he has good vision as a passer as well. In the win over ISU, he found nine different receivers and did a good job of going through his progression to find the soft spot in coverage.
Baylor’s defense is arguably the second-best in the league, clearly among the top three, and is coming off two of its best performances of the season in wins over Oklahoma and K-State wherein the Bears allowed an average of 12 points and 261.5 yards of total offense per game. Not bad against teams that boast two of the league’s most dynamic playmakers in Caleb Williams and Deuce Vaughn.
For Tech to have any success, let alone notch the upset, Smith is going to have to shrug off the loss to Oklahoma State and play with the confidence he had in the Iowa State game. Baylor’s running game is efficient, and the Bears will score, but the Baylor offense moves slowly and can be thrown out of rhythm when pressured. Smith and Tech’s offense must press the issue by getting on the scoreboard early and often.
LB COLIN SCHOOLER
Schooler leads the Red Raiders with 88 tackles, and he has generated a good deal of havoc this season with one sack, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, an interception, four quarterback hits, 13 quarterback hurries, and a whopping 36 drive-ending stops. Schooler is a reliable tackler who has only missed two tackles in his last three games. While he is not spectacular in coverage, his strong tackling mitigates the damage as he has allowed an average of only 7.2 yards per reception on the season and just 5.75 per reception over the last two games.
Baylor’s offense utilizes a variety of weapons in the run and passing game, but the Bears’ bread and butter is the one-two punch of Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner rushing out of the backfield. While slowing these two does not guarantee success against the Baylor offense, it would make life very uncomfortable for the Bears, especially if Tech’s offense can score.
Last week, K-State held the Bears to 3.6 yards per carry and just 20 points. Smith, who leads the Big 12 in yards per carry, was held to just 2.2 yards per rushing attempt.
Even though K-State lost, that is the defensive formula to beat Baylor, and that is where Schooler can change the game. Like K-State LB Daniel Green, who led the game with three tackles for loss, Schooler has the ability from his linebacker position to provide the speed and pop necessary to put a lid on the Baylor ground game. If Schooler and the Tech defense can do that without letting Baylor’s passing game go wild, the Red Raider offense will have an opportunity to score enough to win the game.
RBs ABRAM SMITH and TRESTAN EBNER
How’s Gerry Bohanon’s leg? As of this writing, it is unclear if Bohanon will be able to play against Texas Tech. While Blake Shapen played well in relief of Bohanon against Kansas State, there’s always the worry that once opponents have some film on a backup QB, things will quickly get a lot tougher on him. But absolutely nothing can make life easier on a quarterback than an efficient running game.
Whether Bohanon is back or Shapen gets the start, Baylor’s running game needs to work better than it did against K-State. Smith, who had been Mr. Chunk Yardage all season was basically shut down by the Wildcats with 46 yards on 21 carries, good for just 2.2 yards per carry – a far cry from the 7.3 yards per carry and 120+ yards per game he averaged entering the game in Manhattan.
Texas Tech’s rushing defense is greatly improved from earlier in the season when it got torched by Texas and TCU. Last week, Tech held Oklahoma State to 3.9 yards per carry. The week before, Iowa State was held to 3.6 yards per carry, and Breece Hall was held to 51 yards on 18 carries (2.8 per).
For Baylor to put this game away in a clear, non-dramatic fashion, Smith and Ebner need to turn the tide from last week and not allow Tech’s defense to hold them in check the way K-State’s defense did. In many ways, Baylor dodged a bullet last week, and there is no need to press their luck if they can help it. Smith needs to turn it on and return to the form that had him leading the league in rushing before running into the K-State defense.
On Senior Day, and seniors Smith and Ebner need to celebrate by putting the Baylor offense on their backs and filling the stat sheet up with big numbers.
S JALEN PITRE
Pitre is the guy who can both put a lid on the top of the defense and operate like a quarterback-seeking missile in the pass rush. His speed in explosiveness can be seen all over the field even when he doesn’t stuff the stat sheet – although he does that too.
Pitre enters Week 13 with 58 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, and 15 quarterback hurries. He’s only allowed 25 receptions on 40 targets (62.5%) with an average of 9.4 yards per reception. That is solid coverage from the safety position.
Pitre is coming off arguably his worst game of the season. Against K-State, he missed as many tackles as he made (two), and allowed two receptions on two targets. Nonetheless, he pressured the quarterback twice and provided two drive-ending stops. Not bad for a guy having his worst day of the season, or at least his worst since the loss at Oklahoma State.
The Bears will be successful if Pitre can have a bounce-back game and contribute against the run, in pass coverage, and in the pass rush. Tech has weapons on the ground and through the air, but the Red Raiders are vulnerable to pressure in the passing game and rely on missed tackles in the running game: The offensive line is not parting rivers for the running backs or building damns for the quarterback. Pitre has the speed and pop to disrupt Tech’s plans at every turn. On Senior Day, Pitre is another senior who needs to show up and show out.
It’s the early edition of the Joey McGuire Bowl, but does anybody care?
After Tech’s loss to K-State, head coach Matt Wells was fired, clearing the way for Tech to eventually lure away Baylor’s associate head coach, Joey McGuire, a Texas high school football coaching legend with serious recruiting chops. McGuire left Baylor immediately upon his hire, and though he will not officially coach Texas Tech in a game until the 2022 season kicks off, he is part of the program now and is working on his first recruiting class.
Does this recent history give either side added motivation? Do Texas Tech’s players feel any pressure to knock off their new coach’s old team?
It might matter a little to the players and coaches on each side, but for Texas Tech, this game is all about rebounding from being shut out by Oklahoma State last week and finding momentum to carry into the off-season and bowl preparation.
Having reached bowl eligibility takes a lot of pressure off Tech in this game. The Red Raiders have nothing to lose. Their aim should be to play loose and leave everything they have on the field. Upsetting Baylor in Waco may not be likely, but Tech doesn’t have to deal with the pressure that Baylor will have, so if the Red Raiders can get things moving in the right direction, anything is possible.
The Bears need just two little things to happen to find themselves in a rematch against Oklahoma State for the Big 12 Championship: 1. They must beat Texas Tech and 2. Oklahoma State must beat Oklahoma in Bedlam.
While Oklahoma State’s history in Bedlam may make the one thing out of Baylor’s control seem hopeless, there is a very good reason for the Bears to believe things will go their way: Oklahoma State is quite simply a better team than Oklahoma is this season. It’s not even close.
In fact, not only is Oklahoma State better than Oklahoma but so is Baylor. Oklahoma State and Baylor have been the two best teams in the Big 12 all season, and while that does not guarantee that Baylor will get the spot in the championship game that it deserves, it certainly must give the Bears both confidence and motivation heading into the game with Texas Tech.
Joe McGuire’s move to Tech and the rumors swirling around about Dave Aranda potentially being lured away to another Power 5 job in Baton Rouge or elsewhere do not matter now. All that matters is beating Tech and getting to the Big 12 Championship at 10-2.
PREDICTION: BAYLOR 31, TEXAS TECH 16
Nothing is going to stop Baylor now. It has already been a remarkable season in Waco, and Dave Aranda deserves to be Big 12 Coach of the Year. Considering how good Baylor has been at home all season and with this game being the potential doorway to a Big 12 Championship appearance, the Bears aren’t going to be satisfied with less than 10-2 to end the regular season. Texas Tech will move the ball and keep the game close in the first half, but the second half will belong to Baylor and offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes’ Reliably Violent Offense. The Bears will get a comfortable victory to close the 2021 regular season.