NCF Nation: 2011-Alamo-bowl-keys

Alamo Bowl: Three keys for Washington

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
10:30
AM ET
Three keys for Washington in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Baylor.

1. Chris Polk, Chris Polk, Chris Polk: Baylor ranks 102nd in the nation in run defense, giving up nearly 200 yards per game. Huskies running back Polk is 16th in the nation in rushing with 112 yards per game. Polk is a tough, physical runner who could wear down a defense. His goal should be to hit the Bears' season average all by himself. And while Polk is carrying the ball, Baylor QB Robert Griffin III is not.

2. Bend, don't break: Baylor averages 571 yards per game. That number isn't a concern. The Bears average 43.5 points per game. That one is. The Huskies can give up yards, but they need to try to squeeze the Bears when it comes to points. Here's a surprising factoid: Baylor isn't great in the red zone, ranking 91st in the nation. The Bears have 36 TDs on 58 red zone trips. By way of comparison, the Huskies have 36 TDs on 45 trips. If those TDs-to-red zone trips ratios hold true, Washington wins.

3. Hit Griffin: Washington wasn't particularly good rushing the passer this season, ranking eighth in the Pac-12 with 24 sacks. But it had some extra time to get creative with blitzes in advance of facing Griffin, and it needs to come after him. Though Griffin is a dangerous runner, he was sacked 25 times. The Huskies' defense will need to take some chances because Griffin sitting back, comfortable in the pocket, is just not what you want. The nation's most efficient passer, he threw 36 TD passes with just six interceptions and completed 72.4 percent of his throws. Yeah, that's scary good. The Huskies have to pressure him and then deliver hard blows if he opts to run. Anything to get Griffin out of sorts.

Alamo Bowl: Three keys for Baylor

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
10:30
AM ET
We previewed the Valero Alamo Bowl early Thursday, and here are three keys for Baylor to win Thursday's game, which kicks off at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

1. Win first down on defense. Baylor has to get off the field, and this is the best way to do it. If Washington can, it'd love to pound the ball with Chris Polk. Getting the Huskies into a lot of second-and-8 and second-and-12 situations can make sure that doesn't happen. But second-and-5? Not good. Worst-case scenario for the Bears. Bottom line: Washington's defense isn't equipped to slow Baylor's offense. It has to keep the offense off the field. Running the ball and milking the clock is the best way to do that. This is up to the Bears' front seven.

2. Keep the playbook wide open. This is what Baylor does. It can't stop. Let RG3 do what he does. It opened the game with a double pass for a touchdown against TCU to open the season and beat Oklahoma with a barrage of deep balls. The Bears have had a month off. A lot has happened since then. None of it can change Baylor's approach. Break out the trick plays. Chuck it deep. This is what Baylor's offense is built to do.

3. Start strong. That'll be important in this one. Baylor's playing in San Antonio, and expect a heavily pro-Bears crowd in this one, as well as a crowd rooting on RG3. Look for some big play calls early and big plays to get the crowd involved. Baylor hasn't won a bowl game since 1992 and didn't come close last year, being shut out in the first half of a lopsided loss to Illinois in the Texas Bowl. Baylor's offense is a lot better this time around, and Baylor has to use it to build some early momentum.

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