The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 23rd-ranked Texas A&M Aggies invade Waco this weekend for a Big 12 Conference clash with the Baylor Bears.
Texas A&M is on a bit of a roll, as the team has won its last three outings to improve to 6-3 overall and 3-2 versus Big 12 competition. All three victories during the current run have come by double figures, and last weekend's 33-19 romp over Oklahoma was particularly impressive. Mike Sherman hasn't achieved great success since taking over the program, but his squad is bowl eligible this year and hopes to finish strong.
"This was a big game for us and was the next step for us," said Sherman after the win over Oklahoma. "It wasn't the final step, but the next step. We played real well."
Baylor carried a three-game win streak into Stillwater last weekend for a showdown with Oklahoma State, but things quickly got away from the Bears. They were beaten soundly by a 55-28 final, but the team's 7-3 overall record remains impressive. Also, their 4-2 conference mark keeps the Bears alive in the wide open Big 12 South.
"We are refocusing, recharging, getting ready to go," said Baylor head coach Art Briles, looking forward to this weekend's game. "They are coming off a huge win last night over OU, which is a big program win for them, so it will be a great atmosphere at Floyd Casey Stadium next Saturday night. We are proud to be a part of it."
Texas A&M owns a 66-31-9 series advantage over Baylor, which includes a 38-3 triumph over the Bears last season.
There is no doubt that Texas A&M is a potent offensive team, as the club is generating 34.1 ppg and 474.2 total ypg. The Aggies rely heavily on the pass to move the ball, as they are racking up 311.2 ypg through the air. Jerrod Johnson is an experienced signal caller who has completed 56.6 percent of his throws for 1,974 yards and 14 touchdowns against nine interceptions, but Ryan Tannehill has gotten the nod recently as the team's starter under center.
Against Oklahoma last week, Tannehill completed 19-of-32 passes for 225 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Cyrus Gray, who has replaced the injured Christine Michael as the team's starting tailback, ran for 122 yards and a score against the Sooners, while Ryan Swope finished with eight receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown.
"I don't have favorites on this team but if I did he'd be near the top of the list," said Sherman of Gray. "He's just an unselfish player. He's an unselfish teammate. He'll do whatever you ask him to do."
Defensively, Texas A&M played quite well against Oklahoma, especially in regard to the performance against the run. While the Sooners usually have great success moving the ball on the ground, they were limited to 72 yards on 44 attempts by A&M, a minuscule average of 1.6 yards per carry. The pass defense was strong as well, as Oklahoma was only able to gain 8.1 yards per pass completion.
Through nine games, Texas A&M is yielding only 21.2 ppg and 346.9 total ypg. The Aggies are giving up only 92.3 rushing yards per game at a clip of 2.8 yards per carry, so the stellar effort against Oklahoma was no aberration. Considering the fact that opposing quarterbacks are averaging fewer than 10 yards per completion, it is fair to say that A&M has done an outstanding job of avoiding big plays.
Baylor has the offensive talent to challenge the staunch Texas A&M defense. After all, the Bears are racking up 33.7 ppg and 487.8 total ypg, and the team has had great success both running and throwing. Standout quarterback Robert Griffin will get some consideration for Big 12 Player of the Year if his team can finish strong. Griffin has completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 2,859 yards and 20 touchdowns with only six interceptions. As a runner, the versatile signal caller has posted 416 yards and seven scores. Jay Finley leads Baylor with 904 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, while Kendall Wright paces the receivers with 59 grabs for 780 yards and six scores.
Opponents are generating 26.3 ppg and 423.8 total ypg against a Baylor defense that certainly has some room for improvement. The Bears have yielded 29 touchdowns to opposing offenses, including 17 rushing scores.
Last week, Oklahoma State ravaged Baylor for 725 yards, picking up 36 first downs along the way. The Bears looked completely helpless from start to finish, surrendering 7.4 yards per rushing attempt and permitting 34-of-43 passes to be completed. Sure, the Bears did post 464 offensive yards and score four rushing touchdowns, but the defense gave the offense no chance of winning the game.
There is no doubt that this game will be entertaining. Baylor must play far better defense than it did last week, and that is likely to happen. Griffin will make just enough plays for his Bears to sneak past the Aggies.