2010 Texas Bowl Preview
Baylor and Illinois will meet on December 29th in Houston for the 2010 Texas Bowl. The game is being played at a “neutral site”, but it will feel like a home game for the Baylor Bears who will only have to make a three hour drive to Houston. Baylor is currently a 1 1/2 point favorite over the Fighting Illini.
Illinois had an up and down season and finished 4-4 in the Big Ten and 6-6 overall. The Fighting Illini went 1-3 in their last 4 games with their only win coming against Northwestern. Baylor went 4-4 in Big 12 play and finished the season 7-5. Baylor lost their last three games of the season against Olahoma State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma.
When Illinois has the Ball
The Fighting Illini are a team dedicated to running the football. Illinois was 13th in the nation with 242.3 rushing yards per game. Running back Mikel Leshoure is a beast at 6’1″ and 230 pounds. Leshoure racked up 1513 yards this year and averaged 6 yards per carry. As if Leshoure wasn’t big enough, backup running back Jason Ford is listed at 6’1″, 235 pounds, and had 426 yards and 7 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is dangerous on the ground as well with 815 yards rushing on the year. Scheelhaase has run the ball well all season but his passing numbers drastically improved throughout the year. In the first 6 games Scheelhaase threw only 4 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. In his last 6 games Scheelhaase had 13 touchdowns and only 1 interception.
Baylor’s defense did not put up great numbers this year. The Bears ranked 83rd in the nation in scoring defense at 29.8 points per game. In all fairness, Baylor did play against some talented offenses this year. The Bears schedule included games against the 3rd highest scoring offense (Oklahoma State) and 4th highest scoring team (TCU).
When Baylor has the Ball
The Bears are led on offense by quarterback Robert Griffin. The sophomore has been sensational this year throwing for 3195 yards and running for 591. Griffin’s favorite target is wide receiver Kendall Wright who finished the regular season with 66 catches for 825 yards. Baylor is balanced on offense and can hurt their opponents by running in addition to throwing the football. Running back Jay Finley averaged 6.3 yards per carry on his way to 1155 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Illinois played pretty well on defense throughout the season. The Fighting Illini allowed an average of 24.3 points per game, 53rd in the country in scoring defense. The scoring numbers are slightly skewed, however, by the 67 points they gave up to Michigan in a game that went into a third overtime.
2010 Texas Bowl Prediction
Baylor and Illinois will play for the Texas Bowl trophy and for bragging rights for their conferences. Illinois comes into the Texas Bowl with only one win in their last four games and I think they will leave Houston with another loss. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin has the ability to take over a game and the Illinois defense will have a hard time stopping a balanced Baylor attack. Throw in the home crowd advantage and I think Baylor will win and cover the 1 1/2 point spread.
Prediction: Baylor 31 – Illinois 21