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[2023] Big XII Network Week 2 Preview: Marathon Week, Part III

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Saturday Night

 

:baylor: Baylor (1-0) at :boise: Boise State (1-0) (+6)

 

Both Baylor and Boise State opened their season with impressive wins on the road. Now, it's time to prove that if they can do it once, they can do it again. The Bears left no doubt against Houston, taking a 17-0 lead after the first quarter and rolling to a 41-20 victory. Boise State's win over Kansas was tighter, but they held off a late rally and held the Jayhawks to just 16 points for the day. Javorius McNeil made his presence felt from the right outside linebacker spot, sacking Christian Graham once and intercepting him another time. He's a problem, and left tackle Joshua Hyde will have his hands full dealing with him. Outside linebacker Aboubacar Chester and defensive ends Elijah Aponte (who also had a sack against Kansas) and Jon Snell add to Boise State's ability to rush from the edge where Baylor's offensive line is at its weakest and where Miles Street most likes to run. Boise's defensive front is not as strong in the interior where freshman Andrew Wheatley anchors the Baylor line flanked by a couple of guards who are going to get pro looks in a year or two. It'll be interesting to see how Baylor handles that on the ground: will they go up the middle where Street's speed is less useful or continue to try to get Street out wide into space and bet on him still being an advantage? He looked reinvented in the first game of his junior year, popping off for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries. If that's a permanent improvement, watch out. And even if it's not, Caleb Olmsted looked much-improved and demonstrated great chemistry with Maleek Abioye-Afua. He threw for 241 yards on 19-of-26 passing with two touchdowns through the air and a third on the ground, and his #1 receiver had 7 of those catches for 105 yards and a score. As long as the line can keep the heat off of him (or as long as he can use his feet to evade pressure), he can pick on a Boise State secondary that is Malachi Coles and not much else. On defense, I really like what Baylor brings to the table in this matchup. Boise State may look to run it more than the 19 times they carried against Kansas (for 104 yards and a touchdown, all by CeeCee Henderson), but their blocking could use some major work as true freshman Naiquon Crosby found his way into the backfield far too often for the Broncos' liking. Baylor is not a good team to practice blocking against. Zachary McHale is a monster, as he demonstrated with 6 tackles (1 for loss), a sack, a pass breakup, and an interception against Houston. Defensive ends Samuel McGee and Alexander Talbert combined for Baylor's other sack. They held Cooper Christianson to 26 yards on 14 carries, and harried Omar Workman into 19-of-38 passing for 207 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. In the defensive backfield, redshirt freshman Raekwon Sewell had his first career pick from the dimeback spot--the secondary is even deeper than it looked at first blush. And, of course, Garrett Powers is due to make an impact any day now. As long as they limit Henderson, I don't think Ian Hansen beats them--not even with a couple of very good receivers led by Major Linton. Baylor's defense should have an answer for everything Boise State can do, and Boise does not have an answer for the pass rush or for Caleb Olmsted. I'll lay the points and take Baylor.

 

:baylor: Baylor 31, :boise: Boise State 20


:marshall: Marshall (1-0) at :ttu: Texas Tech (1-0) (-28.5)

 

The eighth and final game of the week brings an end to our marathon. This game will feature a matchup between a team that's already matched last season's win total and a team that's already matched last season's passing yardage total. ...Okay, only one of those is actually true. The Thundering Herd went on the road on opening day, taking Bowling Green right down to the wire and coming out with an upset win. It wasn't the prettiest of affairs, but Marshall created opportunities with their defense and took advantage of them. They held A.J. Coyne to 23-of-45 for 240 yards through the air. Although Coyne threw for 2 touchdowns, he threw a pick to Maxwell Cahill and got stripped on an Enrique Mendez sack. Runningback Calvin Alexander had just 43 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons, and he coughed one up on a Shawn Hayes strip that Jermon Watts recovered for Marshall. They made no less than eight havoc plays: 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, an interception, a pass breakup, and 2 fumbles forced. Surprisingly, none were created by star linebacker Milo Mize. Those are the type of plays they would need to make against a heavily favored Texas Tech to make this a close game by the time the second half rolls around--let alone to pull an unthinkable upset. But Texas Tech had about as clean of a game as you could ask for in their first effort in a new offense (against a P5 opponent, no less). They kept the ball secure, committed just 30 yards of penalties, and most importantly were efficient through the air and on the ground. Hayden Dyer was dynamic: 142 yards and 3 scores on 21 carries. Grayson Gillette was more productive than any Texas Tech quarterback has been in a long time: 231 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19-of-33 passing. Gillette's who I'm more focused on in this one. Marshall's defensive front has a few solid pieces--Mize, Mendez, and Hayes chief among them--but their secondary is not going to keep up with these Red Raider receivers. Gillette will have plenty of time in the pocket to pick it apart. Big XII all-time sack leader Curtis Jones and company will not afford the same courtesy to Marshall. The Herd made plenty of mistakes on offense: Francesco Griffiths wasn't any better than Coyne (23-of-40 for 235 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT), and they got lucky to avoid a third turnover when Danny Suggs's fumble rolled out of bounds. Griffin Ames was effective on limited duty with 86 yards and 2 scores on 17 carries. That's not likely going to repeat itself against this front. Curtis Jones and Zac Huntley were both very effective against Nebraska from their respective defensive end spots. Maybe fullback Cole Chappell provides some pressure relief. It won't be enough. I also wouldn't expect any effort to throw to bear much fruit given that Texas Tech can make an offense pay at any level of the defense. Marshall doesn't have the receivers to go one-on-one with the Texas Tech corners. Austin Callahan is lurking at the linebacker level; he was a pick machine as a freshman and had a pick-six (and a pass breakup, and a tackle for loss, and 6 total tackles) against Nebraska. Curtis Hunter and Robert Brantley (2 PD against Nebraska) are there to clean things up deep. Texas Tech is the more talented team, and they have the personnel to beat back anything Marshall tries to toss at them. I think they'll take their second straight blowout win.

 

:ttu: Texas Tech 49, :marshall: Marshall 14

 

Byes: :kansas: Kansas (0-1), :tcu: #1/#1 TCU (1-0)

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This is going to be interesting to see if the squad will keep things going.  Nebraska was a tough opponent and it'll be interesting to see if we keep things up down the stretch.

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