Sunday marked an important milestone for the Baylor Bears in preparation for Saturday’s scheduled game against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, as head coach Dave Aranda’s team practiced for the first time since shutting down all football activities on Oct. 8.
A week ago, the Oct. 24 game appeared to be in jeopardy after Baylor postponed the Oklahoma State game scheduled for Oct. 17 and revealed that 28 players and 14 staff members tested positive following the game against West Virginia in Morgantown. Additionally, the program was monitoring 17 other potential cases as a result of contact tracing.
But returning to practice is only one hurdle that the Bears must clear in order to make the trip to Austin — Baylor still needs to meet the Big 12’s minimum thresholds for playing, including 53 total scholarship players, seven offensive lineman, four interior defensive linemen, and one quarterback.
“I’m assuming with fingers crossed that Baylor is able to field a team this Saturday — all indications that have been given to me by Baylor and our administration is that barring anything unforeseen between now and Saturday, that game will be played,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said on Monday.
If the game does happen as scheduled, it will present some unique challenges for the Longhorns because the Bears have only played two games this season under Aranda and his new staff.
The biggest challenge is scouting Larry Fedora’s offense — before spending last season as an offensive analyst at Texas, Fedora had spent the previous 11 years as a head coach, first at Southern Miss and then at North Carolina. So Fedora hasn’t actually called plays as an offensive coordinator since he was at Oklahoma State in 2007, forcing the Texas coaches to watch film from Fedora’s time in Chapel Hill just to get some sense of what he likes to run beyond his first two games at Baylor.
Fedora does have the benefit of starting experienced senior Charlie Brewer at quarterback.
“Obviously, any time you’ve got a quarterback as seasoned and as high-performing as Charlie Brewer, you’re gonna have a chance to score points,” Herman said.
Defensively, Texas does have more relevant recent film to watch on coordinator Ron Roberts, a longtime mentor to Aranda who joined the Baylor staff after spending two years at Louisiana-Lafayette, where Roberts executed a quick turnaround with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
The leader on his side of the ball is redshirt junior linebacker Terrel Bernard, a La Porte product who was a longtime Houston commit before flipping to Baylor after Herman took the job in Austin. Bernard broke into the starting lineup full time in 2019 and turned in a second-team All-Big 12 performance as he emerged as one of the conference’s top linebackers.
“He is a guy that is all over the field and they do a really good job lining him up in different places in order to exploit and utilize his talents,” Herman said.
Baylor is currently 1-1 on the season with a blowout win over Kansas and a double-overtime loss to West Virginia. Texas opened as a 10.-5-point favorite on Sunday.