81F Kyle Field, College Station, TX
Baylor-Texas A&M Preview
Texas A&M's inability to slow down opposing quarterbacks has been well documented. Things aren't about to get easier with Robert Griffin III and the potent Baylor offense coming to town.
The 21st-ranked Aggies look to slow down the 20th-ranked Bears as the teams meet for the 108th edition of the "Battle of the Brazos" at Kyle Field on Saturday.
Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1 Big 12), which has won 18 of 20 from Baylor since the teams tied 20-all on Oct. 20, 1990, could have trouble continuing its success in this series without a vast improvement from its secondary. The Aggies are surrendering an FBS-worst 347.6 passing yards per game and face an extremely tough task in containing Griffin, who has completed a nation-leading 80.3 percent of his passes and ranks second in country with a 212.9 passer efficiency rating.
"I think he's a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate," Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said. "He affects the game and is as important to his team as anyone in the country. The way he can stress the defense by moving in the pocket or running the football, he's an extremely difficult person to try to defend. Our guys understand that and we'll be up for the challenge."
The Bears (4-1, 1-1), who are the only school in the FBS averaging at least 300.0 passing yards and 200.0 rushing yards, defeated Iowa State 49-26 last Saturday thanks largely to a tremendous effort from their ground game.
Griffin threw for a season-low 212 yards and one touchdown but ran for a season-best 107 yards and another score. Fifth-year senior Terrance Ganaway picked up the slack, compiling a career-high 200 yards on the ground and three TDs.
"We all know what Robert can do throwing the football, but we also all know what he can do running the football," coach Art Briles said. "So we have another threat back there that can really stretch the defense and open up holes for the running backs and allow (them) to make some runs."
Since defeating the Aggies 20-16 on Oct. 20, 1984, Baylor has gone 0-11-1 at College Station.
"It's the biggest game on the schedule because it's the next game on the schedule. So that's how we're going to approach it," Ganaway said. "We're going to approach it like it's a must-win situation and we're going to go get after it. We're going to put our best product on the field this weekend and we're going to show the Big 12 what we're able to do."
Texas A&M is also coming off its first conference victory of the season, defeating Texas Tech 45-40 on the road last Saturday as Ryan Tannehill threw for 188 yards and accounted for three TDs - two on the ground.
Senior Cyrus Gray posted the 13th 100-yard game of his career, compiling 116 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Christine Michael added 52 and another score.
Gray, who rushed for 137 yards and a career-high four TDs during last season's 42-30 come-from-behind win at Baylor, and Michael have combined to form one of the most productive backfield duos in the conference. Texas A&M ranks third in the Big 12 with 220.0 rushing yards per game.
"We feel like we have two starters, they both contribute and they are both supportive of each other," coach Mike Sherman said. "I don't sense any selfishness at all in that group. They are pulling for each other. Ultimately they want to win the football game. It's funny how they do play off each other and have both contributed."
With the Aggies headed to the SEC next season, they might not face the Bears again for quite some time. While Sherman surely appreciates the series, he continues to keep an even keel.
"Anytime you play a football game and represent A&M it should always be extra emotionally," he said. "Every game we play is the biggest game of the year. Certainly this is a big game.
"It's a great rivalry, there's no question."