ARLINGTON (AP) — When Baylor first played Texas Tech in the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium four years ago, the game provided an experience the Bears weren’t going to get anywhere else that season.
It was a regular-season finale with no chance of playing in a bowl game.
“It was really the first time our team experienced what a bowl game would be like,” said coach Art Briles, who this week got a new 10-year deal through the 2023 season. “The crowd’s kind of split, and it’s a good festive atmosphere, so that was an experience for us that we hadn’t earned at that point.”
Things have certainly changed for fourth-ranked Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12), which has played in bowl games each season since and now is a national title contender.
The Bears, fifth in the BCS standings, take a school-record 12-game winning streak into Saturday night’s game against Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3) in the NFL stadium.
If Baylor wins its final four games, it will clinch the school’s first Big 12 title and get into a BCS game, maybe even the championship game depending on what happens to the other teams ahead of them.
“We’re really excited for everything that has been going on. … It’s another one-week season,” Bears linebacker Eddie Lackey said. “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves or get caught up in the media and hype, along with the respect that we are finally getting as well.”
Texas Tech was 7-0 and 10th in the BCS standings before losing its last three games — the margin growing in each loss, from eight to 18 to 23 last week against Kansas State, the Red Raiders’ only unranked opponent in a span that included games against No. 12 Oklahoma State and No. 22 Oklahoma.
“We’ve lost to three really good football teams and turned it over a bunch, and had more penalties, and just things you can’t do when you’re playing teams of that quality,” first-year Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “If we play a better, more consistent game, we feel like we have a chance to get back on the winning side of things.”
Here are five things to know when Baylor and Texas Tech play at a neutral site for the fifth year in a row:
THRIVING AND TUMBLING: Baylor has been a strong finisher over the past three seasons, going an FBS-best 12-1 in November and December since 2011, including two bowl victories. While Baylor has thrived late, Texas Tech has tumbled in that same span. The Red Raiders are 1-9 in regular-season games played in November and December, but did win its bowl game last December.
FRESH STARTERS: Baker Mayfield was Texas Tech’s starting quarterback the first five games before Davis Webb started the last five. Mayfield didn’t play again until last week, when he came in and threw for 276 yards with two interceptions. So which true freshman starts Saturday? “That’s an interesting position to be in week 11 and still have that going on,” Kingsbury said. “We’ll get them both reps and see how it goes this week and then trot one of them out there.”
NO SHOCK TO BEARS: After Baylor running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin got banged up early against Oklahoma, redshirt freshman Shock Linwood ran 182 yards. “He’s tough, physical, can run in between the tackles, outside the tackles,” Bears quarterback Bryce Petty said. “His success and production on the field was no surprise to any of us.” Baylor leads the Big 12 with 295 yards rushing per game. Texas Tech has allowed at least 277 yards rushing in each of its three losses.
EXTRA POINTS ADDING UP: Baylor kicker Aaron Jones has made all 59 of his extra point tries this season, extending the longest active NCAA streak to a school-record 166 in a row. Already Baylor’s career scoring leader with 410 points, his 251 career PATs are two shy of matching the NCAA record.
STILL NEUTRAL? This is the fifth year of the six-year agreement between Baylor and Texas Tech to play their game in the Dallas market. The schools have not said if that will be extended or if the game will return to the campus after that. Briles likes the NFL venue but said this week, “one of these days it’d be nice to have a game here on the river.” The Bears, the home team Saturday, move next season into a new $260 million on-campus stadium on the banks of the Brazos River.
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