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Texas set to welcome its toughest test of the season in No. 8 Baylor

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After stealing a victory in Waco last season, can Texas knock off Baylor once again?

NCAA Football: Texas at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

At a point in Charlie Strong’s tenure in which every game is of significantly increased importance, the Texas Longhorns are set to host their highest ranked opponent of the season—No. 8 Baylor. Fortunately for Strong, his ‘Horns return to the comfort of Darrell K Royal—Texas Memorial Stadium, where Texas is 3-0 this season. But Texas’ home success has come against competition now with a combined record of 5-16—Baylor has six wins in six tries this season.

Simply put, Texas and Baylor are on complete opposite ends of the college football spectrum. While Texas is suffering through four losses in five games and the third 3-4 start in three seasons under Strong, the Bears are percolating on both sides of the ball en route to becoming the only program in the FBS to start each of the last four seasons at 6-0.

Much of Baylor’s success has been and continues to be attributed to its ridiculously potent offense, one that ranks third in the Big 12 and fourth nationally after averaging 549.2 yards per game this season. Complimenting a senior quarterback in Seth Russell—who’s undefeated in 14 starts—is a rushing attack that, along with Russell’s contributions, leads the Big 12 and ranks seventh nationally with 282.8 yards per game. As a result, Baylor’s explosive offense is putting up 43.7 points per game—good for third in the Big 12 and 10th in the nation.

For as much praise as Baylor’s offense demands, defensive coordinator Phill Bennett has the Bears playing at an elite level, as well.

Through six games, Baylor is allowing just 320.3 yards per game—a Big 12 headlining effort. The Bears defense is also giving way to just 17.2 points per game, which also leads the conference and ranks 11th nationally. The impressive performance through six games can largely be credited to a defense that’s forcing turnovers at an exceptional rate (14) and ranks sixth in the nation in tackles for loss with 53. The Bears defense is also averaging 6.33 3-and-outs per game, which is the second-most in the FBS.

Is this a product of Baylor’s schedule or is the Bears’ defense really this stout?

Through six games, Baylor has faced only one respectable offense in Oklahoma State, which ranks 31st with 480 yards per game. Aside the the Cowboys, Baylor has been matched up with a FCS bottom feeder is Northwestern State, along with sub-par offenses in SMU (65th - 414), Rice (91st - 379), Iowa State (94th - 378), and Kansas (104th - 365).

A Texas offense that ranks 34th with 478 yards per game may not be as much of a test as Oklahoma and Texas Tech may be for the Bears in the coming weeks, but the ‘Horns should be able to move the ball more effectively than opponents have been able to thus far behind the legs of D’Onta Foreman and arm of Shane Buechele.

But even if Texas is able to move the ball at a considerable rate, will that be enough to finally come out on top of of a game that may require the ‘Horns to put up points in bunches?

Shootouts haven’t played out in Texas’ favor thus far this season.

Series History

  • 106th meeting—Texas holds a 75-26-4 all-time edge.
  • Texas is 45-10-2 all-time in Austin.
  • Texas won 23-17 in Waco last season.
  • Baylor has won 4 of last 6 vs. Texas.
  • Saturday will mark 11th time in series history that a ranked Baylor team met an unranked Texas program. The previous 10 meetings have seen both, Texas and Baylor win 5.
  • Texas’ longest win streak was 16 games between 1958 and 1973.

Numbers Never Lie?

Across the board, the Bears enter Saturday’s meeting with the Longhorns with an advantage in nearly every meaningful statistical category.

Points per game - Texas 36.1, Baylor 43.7

Points allowed per game - Texas 32.6, Baylor 17.2

Passing defense per game - Texas 263.1, Baylor 160.8

Rushing defense per game - Texas 175.6, Baylor 159.5

Total offense per game - Texas 438.7, Baylor 549.3

Average time of possession - Texas 27:01, Baylor 27:04

Plays per game - Texas 80.3, Baylor 83.2

Turnover margin - Texas 0, Baylor +6

About those Bears

  • The Bears have started 6-0 in each of the last four seasons, making Baylor the only FBS program to do so.
  • Baylor is the only FBS program to not allow a 4th-quarter point in 2016.
  • Baylor has been ranked in 58 straight AP Polls; a school record and the FBS’ fourth-best streak.
  • The Bears have won 32 of their last 36 games played in Texas.
  • Baylor has had 20 touchdown drives of two minutes or less.
  • Baylor has won seven straight dating back to last season’s bowl win.

Bears to watch for

  • Seth Russell - the senior has complimented his 1,470 yard and 16 touchdowns through the air with 302 yards and five scores on the ground. Russell is 14-0 as Baylor’s starting quarterback.
  • Shock Linwood - now Baylor’s all-time career leader in rushing yards (3,962) and rushing touchdowns (36), Linwood headlines a four-headed rushing beast for Baylor that headlines the Big 12 (282.8).
  • Taylor Young - the junior linebacker has found himself on numerous award watch lists to this point as a returning All-Big 12 talent. He leads Baylor with 46 tackles, three sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.
  • KD Cannon - the junior from Mount Pleasant is Russell’s go-to target and leads a talented receiving corps across the board with 30 receptions for 445 yards and five scores.

Texas Tidbits

  • Texas has won two straight versus top 10-ranked opponents and four straight over top 12-ranked opponents.
  • Texas’ 180 first downs are 20th-best in the FBS.
  • The ‘Horns have played 15 true freshman this season after playing 17 last season, including starting a school record 10.
  • The only program to hold Baylor scoreless in the first half of the last 64 games was Texas last season during a 23-17 victory in Waco.
  • D’Onta Foreman is 145 yards away from 1,000 on the season; a feat that would make Foreman the 23rd Longhorns to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a season.
  • If Foreman reaches 1,000 yards this season, he’ll become the first Longhorn with a 1,000-yard rushing season since Jamaal Charles in 2007 (1,619).
  • Foreman’s eight-game streak with at least 100 yards rushing leads the FBS and is closing in on Earl Campbell’s school record of 11 straight.