After losing back-to-back heartbreakers against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Texas Longhorns travel to Waco with hopes to right the ship and pull to 4-4 on the season. However, in spite of their winless record, the Baylor Bears possess the tools to shock any team in the conference.
In their conference opener against then No. 3 Oklahoma, the Bears were down 21-7 deficit before stringing together three unanswered touchdowns to take the lead in the third quarter. A week ago against West Virginia, the Bears again mounted a three-score comeback and were a two-point conversion away from heading to overtime with the Mountaineers.
Through seven games, the Baylor offense has been serviceable, ranking No. 58 in total offense with 415.4 yards and tied for No, 78 in scoring, with 26.9 points per contest. However, a recent shake up in the Bears offense could be the spark they need to turn things around.
Against West Virginia, Baylor head coach Matt Rhule pulled starting quarterback Zach Smith in favor of freshman Charlie Brewer, which turned out to be right call. Following the change, the Bears scored 23 unanswered points to pull within two of the Mountaineers. Baylor was unable to recover the onside and West Virginia kneeled to end the game.
Even though the outcome wasn’t in their favor, Brewer looked impressive, finishing the game with 109 yards and two touchdowns on just eight completions.
No matter which quarterback is in the backfield, receiver Denzel Mims is a difference-maker for this offense. The 6-foot-3, 197-pound sophomore has been dominant in the last four contests, hauling in 27 receptions for 471 yards and four touchdowns – including an impressive 71-yard strike that gashed the middle of the Oklahoma secondary.
The offensive youth movement is not contained to the quarterback position. Freshman running back John Lovett leads the team with 403 yards on seven rushes and four touchdowns, making the most of the injury to spring starter JaMycal Hasty.
In spite of their ability to move the ball, the biggest flaw in the Bears’ system is their tendency to give the ball away to opponents. In its seven games this season, Baylor turned the ball over 13 times, nine of which via interception.
The Bears already played two of the top offenses in the nation this season, and their defense could not keep up. Baylor ranks near the bottom of the FBS, coming in at No. 125 of the 128 schools with 514.1 yards surrendered. Against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, the Bears defense surrendered 1,372 yards and 108 points in those games.
A pair of underclassmen, sophomore middle linebacker Clay Johnston and freshman cornerback Harrison Hand, lead the charge defensively for the Bears.
Johnston may be the team’s most-talented defender, and leads the Bears with 52 total tackles, 34 solo tackles and nine tackles for loss. Hand, a New Jersey native who chose the Bears over hometown Rutgers, is an instant contributor for the defense, with 35 tackles and eight passes broken up.
With a matchup against No. 4 TCU looming on the horizon, Texas cannot afford to look past a Baylor team most are writing off. With five games left on the schedule, the Longhorns have to win against the Bears to keep their bowl hopes alive.