Bowl Preview: Texas Bowl

Steve O Speak

By Guest Blogger Tyler Fenwick:

The Texas Bowl will be featuring Illinois and Baylor this year. Both teams got off to good starts before finishing the season on a not-so-good note. Illinois only won one of its final four games. Baylor also only won one of its final four.

But don’t let that mistake you into thinking this game will be a boring one.

Both teams have some impressive wins that played part on their bowl resume. The Fighting Illini handed blow-out losses to Penn State and Northwestern. But Baylor may have the edge in this category, as they’ve beaten a ranked Kanasas State and had a defining conference moment when they beat Texas just a couple of weeks ago.

Looking at these two teams, the main thing that jumps out at me is the comparrison in their seasons. This one could come down to emotion; a who-wants-it-more game.

At ther peak, Baylor was playing explosively on offense and dominantly on defense. In their final three games, the only thing they lacked was defense. Giving up 55,42, and 53 points, the offense put up at least three touchdowns in each game. It’s worthy to note that the final three opponents were all ranked.

Illinois features almost the exact same problems. Late in the season, the defense was just not able to come through. But Illinois’s final three losses were not quite as acceptable as Baylor’s. Loosing to Michigan, Minnesota, and Fresno State down the stretch, it seems Baylor certainly has the advantage as far as exposure goes.

Who needs to have a big game?

I’ll start with the Baylor Bears. The Bears don’t have one particular player who needs to really be on their A-game for this one. Baylor’s defensive line needs to be the X-factor.

Mikel Leshoure, star running back for the Illini, will be the go-to guy. Therefor, it’s very important that Baylor’s defense sets its priorities straight; stop the run, the worry about the pass. This is especially true being that Nathan Scheelhaase is a dual-threat quarterback.

Now let’s look at Illinois’s side of the ball. If anyone really needs to show up, it’s Nathan Scheelhaase.

He hasn’t established himself as a passer yet this year. We know he can run the ball, but it’s that passing game that will make or break the deal for the Illini. If he can move the ball down field, that opens up so many opportunities for Leshoure. But, if he is unseccesful, the defense can zero in on Leshoure, destroying the offense.

What to expect: This could be one of those games where both teams really stuggle. They are almost identical.

I like Baylor if they can hold Scheelhaase to under 70 yards or so by the half. With that said, though, I’m assuming the Bear offense will have a pretty good game.

It’s so tough to say. But I like Baylor by a touchdown or two.

Let me know what you think!

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