Washington-Baylor Preview

Robert Griffin III has one year of eligibility remaining, but
it’s quite possible the Alamo Bowl will be the final celebration of
a brilliant collegiate career.

Baylor also hopes it will be the school’s first bowl victory in
nearly 20 years.

The star quarterback – fresh off winning the program’s first
Heisman Trophy – seems likely to summon one final prolific
performance as the 15th-ranked Bears play a virtual home game
Thursday night in San Antonio against Washington.

The man known as “RG3” has carried Baylor back to college
football relevance, setting 46 school records in the process, and
he was rewarded with one of the most recognizable trophies in
sports earlier this month.

“This is unbelievably believable,” Griffin said in his Heisman
acceptance speech. “It’s unbelievable because in the moment we’re
all amazed when great things happen. But it’s believable because
great things don’t happen without hard work.

“Everybody associated with Baylor has a reason to celebrate,” he
added.

Griffin put up a dizzying 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.

He said he’ll wait until after the Alamo Bowl to announce his
plans.

“I know a lot of people have (Luck) locked in as the No. 1 guy,”
Griffin said. “I’m not really worried about that and it won’t
really affect my decision to come our or not.”

First, he’ll spend at least one more game directing an offense
that has been all but unstoppable during Baylor’s five-game winning
streak. The team has averaged 46.4 points and 587.0 total yards
during the run, which included the program’s first victory over
Oklahoma.

The Bears have nearly twice as many touchdowns (31) as punts
(16) in that stretch.

“If anybody is going to play us right now, it’s going to be a
tough matchup,” Griffin said. “If we go out and be us, then no one
can beat us.”

If Washington can’t, Baylor (9-3) would have its first 10-win
season since 1980, when it was unbeaten in the Southwest Conference
and 10-2 overall.

The Bears are also 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, but coach Art Briles said there’s a far different
feeling this time.

“We were coming off three tough losses and we were excited about
being in a bowl game because it was the first time in 16 years,”
Briles said about last season. “We’re coming off of five victories
where it’s not ‘Who’s next? What’s going to happen?’ We have a real
good idea how we’re going to perform. So that is very comforting
going into this bowl as opposed to a year ago.”

Washington’s defense doesn’t appear equipped to slow down
Griffin. The Huskies (7-5) rank 116th out of 120 FBS schools
against the pass, allowing 283.8 yards per game.

When facing two other elite quarterbacks this season, Washington
has actually been gouged by the opponent’s running game. 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.

Griffin can hurt opponents both ways, but he’ll surely be
looking for senior Kendall Wright, who has rewritten the receiving
section of Baylor’s record books. Washington’s trend may also mean
a big day for senior Terrance Ganaway, who leads the Bears with
1,347 rushing yards and 17 total TDs.

Keith Price and Chris Polk will try to help the Huskies keep up,
and they could turn this game into a shootout against Baylor’s
114th-ranked overall defense.

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.

“He’s an absolute stud,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said.
“He’s a warrior, an amazing competitor. He wasn’t healthy, and you
could probably see that watching the game. … It was an amazing
season for a young man for whom there were so many expectations of
‘Who’s going to replace Jake (Locker)’ and all of that
pressure.”

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 a 19-7 win over then-No.
17 Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.

This is the first meeting between these programs since 1965,
when Baylor improved to 3-1 against Washington with a 17-14 win in
Waco.