The Alamo Bowl Preview pits the Huskies of Washington against the Baylor Bears, and SportsOptions.com offers up a brief look at the players, team stats and some unique trends.
Washington (7-5 SU/7-5 ATS) is in a bowl for the second straight year under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian. The Huskies pulled off the upset last year, taking down Nebraska 19-7 in the Holiday Bowl as +11½ point underdogs. Four of their losses this season came against ranked teams (Nebraska, Stanford, USC and Oregon), but the season was successful considering this was expected to be a rebuilding year. The offense put up 392 ypg this year (#57), led by QB Keith Price and RB Chris Polk. Price has already set a single-season school record with 29 touchdown passes, including three in a 38-21 Apple Cup win over Washington State on Nov. 26 in the regular season finale. Polk, a junior running back, caught four of Price’s TD tosses and also scored 11 times on the ground, ranking third in the Pac-12 with 1,341 rushing yards. He needs 75 to surpass his career high from last season. Polk was a major factor in Washington’s bowl victory last year, running for 177 yards and a touchdown in that win over Nebraska. The defense struggled, giving up 426 ypg (#94) and they will have their hands full against Baylor’s Heisman-winning quarterback. When facing two other elite quarterbacks this season, Washington has actually been gouged by the opponent’s running game. Andrew Luck had just 169 passing yards in Stanford’s 65-21 win over the Huskies on Oct. 22, but the Cardinal put up 446 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. USC’s Matt Barkley had 174 passing yards versus Washington while the Trojans’ 252 yards on the ground powered their 40-17 win Nov. 12.
Baylor (9-3 SU/7-4 ATS) had a banner year by their standards, which culminated with QB Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy. They posted wins over TCU, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas and finished the season with five straight wins for their longest streak since 1991 and their nine wins are their most since 1986. Griffin can hurt opponents through the air and on the ground, but he gets a lot of help from WR Kendall Wright, who has rewritten the receiving section of Baylor’s record books. Wright caught 101 passes for 1572 yards and 13 TDs and ranks second in the nation in receiving yards per game. Griffin put up an impressive array of statistics with his arm and his legs. He led the nation with a 192.3 passer rating, throwing 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions – and added 644 rushing yards and nine more TDs on the ground. His first three passing yards against the Huskies will put him over 4,000, and he already surpassed 10,000 for his career during a 48-24 rout of Texas on Dec. 3. Griffin is only a junior in terms of eligibility, but he’s already earned his degree in political science. Although Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck is projected by most as the top overall pick, Griffin’s NFL stock has been rising and he may not be far behind should he choose to enter the draft.
The Bears are seeking their first bowl win since defeating Arizona in the 1992 Sun Bowl. They’re playing in a bowl for the second straight season after losing 38-14 to Illinois in the Texas Bowl last year. Washington is on an 11-5 ATS run and 8-2 ATS in December games, while Baylor is 10-5 ATS as a favorite. The Bears rank 2nd in the nation in total offense with a gaudy 571 ypg and 43.5 ppg (#6). However, one of the golden rules of college football bowls is to go against the Heisman winner. This system is 25-10-1 ATS since 1974, although it hasn’t panned out in the last two years (0-2 ATS), which is the first time ever the system lost two consecutive seasons.
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