If the Texas Longhorns want to keep any hope alive at an outside shot at the Big 12 championship game, they need to win out. That journey starts this weekend with a home matchup against the Baylor Bears.
Texas goes into the game favored, but that has been the case in three of the games they have played this season before struggling in all but the season opener against UTEP. The Longhorns have yet to play consistently this year, so they need to figure it out against the Bears.
Due to COVID-19, the Bears have only played in two contests this year, so it’s hard to get a read on who and what they are in 2020. To help us gain a bit of insight into what they bring to the table, we reached out to Kendall Kaut (@KendallKaut) of Our Daily Bears (@OurDailyBears) to give us an insider’s view.
Burnt Orange Nation: We have to start with the elephant in the room — the current COVID situation at Baylor. They have struggled with managing COVID outbreaks this year, having to cancel or postpone multiple games. Have they been able to pinpoint the problem?
Kendall Kaut, Our Daily Bears: They’ve suggested that a false negative might have infected folks on the plane ride to Morgantown, but that’s speculation. I think Baylor did an excellent job limiting numbers during the summer, so they were vulnerable. I don’t think the plane theory is correct. Planes, based on several studies, are not likely to infect folks, and everyone wore goggles and an N95. My guess is that someone was a super spreader, and then it spread during team activities.
BON: With just two games under their belt, it’s hard to draw a lot of conclusions around what the Bears are offensively. The Bears return seven starters on offense, but lose the big target at receiver in Denzel Mims. Who is Baylor looking to as playmakers on the outside?
ODB: Baylor’s issue with a playmaker has been the inability to throw deep passes. Jared Atkinson and Tyquan Thornton are incredibly skilled, but if Baylor can get them the ball remains a huge issue.
BON: Quarterback Charlie Brewer has been up-and-down in the two games this season, playing really well against Kansas, but struggling against West Virginia and their pass rush. Which do you think is more indicative of his play of his season or is it somewhere in the middle?
ODB: I think Charlie Brewer has to show that his arm strength is okay. The WVU game was a continuation of the problems he had against Kansas. But against Kansas, your worst is good enough.
Brewer’s arm has not been the same since November of last season. The arm was always the question with him. If it were better — given his toughness and legacy — he wouldn’t have been an SMU commitment until Matt Rhule scooped him up.
I remain very concerned about Brewer’s arm strength.
BON: At running back, John Lovett seems to be taking charge with a few others contributing over the two games. None of the three backs seems to have created in-game separation, so do you expect them to split carries or will Lovett continue to carry the load?
ODB: Lovett and Trestan Ebener will get quite a few carries. The offensive line did a poor job run blocking in Morgantown, but that duo will get about 90% of Baylor’s touches.
BON: Defensively, linebacker Terrel Bernard has picked up where he left off a year ago, with 21 tackles and 2.5 sacks in two games this year. What is it about Bernard that makes him such a capable playmaker?
ODB: Bernard is both quick and intelligent. It’s hard to argue the Big 12 has a better defender. He can play the run and pass, and he’s an exceptional leader.
BON: What’s one matchup you’ve got your eyes on this week?
ODB: Can Brewer make Texas’ corners pay if they crowd the line of scrimmage or if they don’t have help over the top? Texas should crowd the box and play Cover 1 and Cover Zero. Baylor has the burden of proof on showing they can connect on big plays. If they can, then the trajectory changes.
BON: A battle of Waco-born country artists: Wade Bowen or Pat Green?
ODB: Pat Green. He’s underrated as heck.
BON: What’s your prediction for the game this week?
ODB: I think Texas wins 24-10. If Brewer’s arm looks like it did in September of 2019, I’d take Baylor by seven. It’s hard to explain just how mediocre it’s looked the last six games, going back to last season. The case for Baylor is that Tom Herman is close to losing the team, and if Baylor punches Texas in the mouth, the Longhorns might not respond. But the easier case is that Brewer — the toughest man in the Big 12 — no longer has the arm to do what he did last season. I hope it comes back, but until I see it again, I have to take Texas.