NCF Nation: 2010 Texas Bowl 3 keys

Texas Bowl: Three keys for Baylor

December, 28, 2010
1. Robert Griffin III has to look to run, but not force it. Baylor's offense really gets going when Griffin breaks a defense's contain, and the quickest way to beat the Bears is to limit Griffin's legs. TCU did it early in the season and beat the Bears 45-10. Oklahoma State did it as well. Griffin can't look explicitly to run the ball, but if the opportunity is there, he'd be well served to take it. When defenses constantly have to account for Griffin as a runner, it makes his already excellent accuracy as a passer even more dangerous and even more difficult to defend.

2. Wrap up when they get the chance. Illinois' zone-read scheme with running back Mikel LeShoure and Nathan Scheelhaase and is hard enough to defend, but anytime Baylor defenders aren't fooled by the fake, someone has to make a play and wrap up while the defense swarms. The Fighting Illini demand teams play assignment football, and part of that assignment is making a tackle and limiting yards after contact. Racking up broken and missed tackles is the surest way for the Bears' defense to put tons of pressure on its offense. Do that, and Baylor will be waiting until next year for another chance to celebrate a bowl win.

3. Cash in when the opportunity arises. Some games, like Texas A&M's win over Nebraska this year, can be won with field goals. This certainly won't be one of them. The over/under for the Texas Bowl is 63 points, and for the Bears, capitalizing in the red zone is a must in a game like this. That's especially true considering Baylor's field goal kicking struggles late in the season. Freshman Aaron Jones looked like one of the Big 12's best kickers early in the season, but suffered through a disastrous 1-for-4 night with a missed extra point in a loss to Texas A&M. Baylor would be well served to get it across the goal line rather than leave it up to special teams.

Texas Bowl keys

December, 28, 2010
Here are three keys for Illinois for Wednesday afternoon's Texas Bowl matchup against Baylor.

1. Keep Robert Griffin off the field: A no-brainer here. Illinois has the type of rushing attack that, when clicking, can control an entire game. Illinois' offensive line needs to impose its will and create room for All-Big Ten selection Mikel Leshoure, bruising backup Jason Ford and quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Leshoure certainly brings big-play ability to the table, but Illinois would really benefit from long, sustained scoring drives against Griffin and the Bears.

2. Get Corey Liuget into the backfield: Illinois looked like one of the Big Ten's top defenses for stretches this season, and the Illini were at their best when defensive tackle Corey Liuget bullied his way into the backfield. Liuget is a legit NFL prospect who can change games by blowing up the interior line. The junior has 10 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries and 3.5 sacks. His ability to get after Griffin will be huge in this game.

3. Start the game with passion: The Illini came out flat against both Fresno State and Minnesota, and they paid the price with damaging November losses. We've seen this month that bowl games bring out different emotions in teams, and Illinois needs to be locked in from the get-go in what likely will resemble a road-game environment at Reliant Stadium. The Illini were a good first-half team for much of the season, and a quick start against Baylor will provide some confidence.