When it comes to superstar quarterbacks, Texas fans aren't easily impressed. After Vince Young's otherworldly 2005 season, even the most impressive quarterbacking performances can seem blasé.
That shouldn't be the case this Saturday, though. Baylor Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III is the best player in college football and is having a season utterly VY-esque in its ridiculousness. The raw numbers are just obscene: 252 for 347 passing (73%) for 3,678 yards, with 34 touchdowns against just 5 interceptions -- good for a cool 191.1 QB Rating, which for the record is a full 27 points higher than VY's national-best 163.5 QB Rating in 2005. RGIII isn't quite the outrageously brilliant rusher that Vince was, but even after a knee surgery that cost him most of 2009 he's an elusive, damn good rusher, and has racked up 794 rushing yards on 149 carries this year, including 7 TDs. He could be a 1,000 yard rusher if he wanted to.
Not in the official stat line, but also relevant: Robert Griffin III plays for Baylor. Which is both awesome and tragic. (And no, there is no rational explanation for why we didn't recruit RGIII for our 2008 class. None. He graduated early from Copperas Cove ranked No. 7 in his class, came from a great family, and was a four-star recruit ranked one of the top dual-threat QBs in the nation. Also, he is the only player to be compared to Vince Young to actually looks like him in a uniform. They're practically clones. We did not recruit him. In 2007-08. Quadruple facepalm. Obviously, I'm not over this is just yet. I may never be.)
Also not in the official stat line, but perhaps implied, is the ability to do this:
Cue Dick Vitale screaming, "Ohhh! Ohhhh!!!! Are you serious?! Are you serious, ba-by??!" Words cannot possibly describe the amazingness of that throw, which, hooray for living in a world where I don't have to try. 4th and 5 from the 36, on the road, pocket collapsing around him, about to get crushed, no room to step in to his throw... and Griffin manages to sling off his back foot one of the most beautiful deep balls I've ever seen. If there is a Platonic Ideal for football passes, that's it. If you've seen better, I'd love to see it.
Fine, fine -- that's all grand, but is he clutch?
He is clutch.
In short, for my money Robert Griffin III is the best player in college football, but as Texas fans also know well, that hardly means he's going to win the Heisman Trophy. Remarkably, though, he might -- a Baylor quarterback! -- but Heisman voters being who they are, it almost certainly depends on what happens on Saturday. Dominate a red-hot Texas defense and Griffin might just win the thing... but if he has a subpar afternoon or looks like he's struggling at all, voters will promptly forget the rest of his brilliant season. Too bad Griffin couldn't have finished his season against Fresno State.
No, in the Longhorns Robert Griffin has drawn his toughest task last -- the nation's 8th best defense in both QB Rating allowed and total defense. Manny Diaz's secondary is allowing just 5.5 yards per attempt on the year and has conceded just 11 touchdowns while making 10 interceptions, while after a slow start the Horns defense has racked up 15 sacks over its past 5 games.
In Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. Griffin has faced two Top 30 defenses in terms of QB Rating allowed, but the rest of the defenses on Baylor's schedule range from mediocre to awful. The Longhorns present Griffin with by far the toughest and most complete challenge to date.
As well as the Longhorns defense has played the last month, there's no question that Griffin and his Baylor offense are capable of winning the battle. To begin with, it should be noted that the Bears have a relatively potent running game. To be sure, a lot of that has to do with Griffin himself -- both what he adds as a rusher and the pressure he puts on the defense with his passing ability -- but the Bears aren't one-dimensional. Moreover, defending Griffin is not like defending a system QB. The Bears run a spread offense, but there's nothing gimmicky about it; Griffin is one of the most complete passing quarterbacks of the past decade -- the athleticism and ability to run it are just unfair icing on the cake. Griffin can beat you a lot of different ways, he can make every single throw on the field, he's absurdly accurate, and he throws one of the best deep balls in the country. Also, too: his top three receivers -- Kendall Wright, Terrance Williams, and Tevin Reese -- are all legitimate playmakers.
After all that, here's maybe the scariest thing of all: our defense could play well and still allow 30 points. Baylor's defense is as bad as their offense is good, so maybe -- maybe -- we could win a shootout, but if we're once more entering a game in which victory depends on our defense turning in a dominant, game-defining performance...
Yeah. I don't like our chances, either.