No. 8 Baylor looks to punch its ticket to the Big 12 Conference championship game when it hosts bowl-eligible Texas Tech on Saturday in the teams’ regular-season finale in Waco, Texas.
If the Bears win and Oklahoma State defeats Oklahoma later on Saturday, Baylor will garner a spot in the Big 12 title game against the Cowboys on Dec. 4 in Arlington, Texas. If the Sooners win, they will earn a rematch with the Cowboys despite their 27-14 loss to Baylor on Nov. 13.
Baylor coach Dave Aranda said Monday that while playing for the Big 12 crown is a tempting distraction, he expected his team to stay the course it has traveled this season and focus on defeating Texas Tech.
“With Thanksgiving coming up, it’s going to be family and friends, and I’m sure they’re going to bring up (the championship game),” Aranda said. “But from our end, there are parts of that that we don’t control. I know what we do control is our effort, our focus and mindset on Saturday morning.”
The Bears (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) head home after a gritty 20-10 win at Kansas State last week in which starting quarterback Gerry Bohanon was injured late in the first half.
A clutch performance by backup Blake Shapen (137 passing yards, 44 rushing) was augmented by a stout defense that limited Kansas State to just 263 yards for the game and three points after halftime.
“It was probably our best game to date in terms of alignment and technique and effort to the ball and tackling,” Aranda said about the win over Kansas State. “I was so impressed with our coaches and our players playing this well this late in the year.”
Bohanon is listed as day-to-day with a right hamstring strain. Given that Baylor leads the Big 12 in rushing yards per game (231.7) as well as total offense (447.5), expect the Bears to rely on their ground attack against Tech.
Texas Tech (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) has endured an up-and-down season that has included both the firing of coach Matt Wells and the team’s first postseason berth since 2017. The Red Raiders head to Waco after a 23-0 loss at home to Oklahoma State last Saturday, a game that marked the first time Texas Tech had been held scoreless since 1997.
The Red Raiders managed just 108 total yards, 25 of which came on its closing drive. Donovan Smith passed for just 83 yards in the loss, and Tech ran for only 25 yards in 26 carries.
“Our defense played well enough for us to win,” Texas Tech interim coach Sonny Cumbie said. “They battled. They held Oklahoma State to field goals. If you do that in this league, then you should have a chance to be in the ball game in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win it. We just didn’t give them enough help.”
Texas Tech never got closer that the Oklahoma State 33-yard line in the defeat. The Red Raiders have shown offensive explosiveness this season, averaging 410.4 yards and 30.5 points per game even with the loss to Oklahoma State added to the mix.
–Field Level Media