The ink had barely dried on the invitations when Alamo Bowl organizers voiced the obvious story line for their game.
“It’s going to be an offensive shootout, we assume,” said Rick Hill, the Alamo Bowl’s vice president of marketing and communications, shortly after it was announced that Washington will face Baylor in the 19th edition of the game in San Antonio on Dec. 29.
What’s appealing about the matchup to bowl organizers, however, may be merely exasperating to the coaches involved.
“It’s a huge challenge,” UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt said of the prospect of facing Baylor on Sunday morning, before the matchup was officially announced.
Indeed, on paper it will be the biggest one yet for UW this season as Baylor ranks second in the nation in total offense, averaging 571 yards, and sixth in scoring at 43.5.
The triggerman of the Baylor offense is quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is a Heisman Trophy favorite and led the nation this year in passing efficiency and also is a solid runner.
“Tremendous player,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “What I’ve appreciated about him, it seems like he’s in very good command of what they do.
“He’s in charge of the whole thing. He can utilize his legs and he can throw the ball down the field, as well.’’
Sarkisian, though, said such a challenge comes with the territory of a bowl game.
When the Huskies practiced Sunday morning, they were pretty sure they were headed to San Antonio.
The Alamo Bowl had the first pick of Pac-12 teams after Oregon and Stanford headed to BCS bowls. The Alamo then picked UW over California and Utah, all teams that finished 7-5 in the Pac-12 this year, issuing the official invitation later in the afternoon.
Hill said the fact UW beat both Cal and Utah “was important” as well as the fact that “outside of the Oregon State game, when their quarterback was out, they competed with everybody.”
The Alamo had the second choice of Big 12 teams following the BCS and Cotton, and had its choice of Baylor or Oklahoma, ultimately choosing the Bears, located in Waco, about 170 miles from San Antonio.
Hill said bowl organizers liked that Baylor won its last five games, including a 48-24 win over Texas on Saturday, punctuated by a strong finish by Griffin, who ended the season with 36 touchdown passes.
Also, Baylor beat Oklahoma, 45-38, on its way to a 9-3 overall record.
And a pairing of two offensive-minded teams never hurts when it comes to drawing a TV audience – the game will be televised nationally on ESPN, kicking off at 6 p.m. Pacific time.
Baylor’s offense scored as much as it did out of necessity, with a defense that allowed 35.7 points, ranking 109th out of 120 FBS teams, with Bears coaches surely finding their own challenge in attempting to slow down Keith Price, Chris Polk and the rest of UW’s offense.
And many will figure a UW defense that ranked 99th in the nation, allowing 33.3 points per game, will have little chance at slowing down Griffin.
Baylor and UW haven’t played since 1965. UW is 1-3 all-time against the Bears.