The Texas Longhorns are way ahead in the all-time series against the Baylor Bears, but most years it’s a dogfight between the two teams. Heading into the fourth week of conference play, both teams are in a position to control their narrative for the season and how they factor into the Big 12 race.
Baylor is 4-2, led by quarterback Charlie Brewer who is No. 15 in the country in passing yards and has a 9-to-2 touchdown to interception rating this season. He benefits from being coupled with Jalen Hurd and Denzel Mims, a pair of big, dynamic playmakers in the passing game. However, even with that talent on board, they have struggled with consistency in their two losses this year.
To help shed light on what is actually going on with Baylor, Kendall Kaut — manager of Our Daily Bears — took time to answer our questions. To interact with Kendall you can follow him on Twitter (@kendallkaut) and follow Our Daily Bears (@OurDailyBears) for more Baylor coverage.
Burnt Orange Nation: The Bears are coming off of a back-and-forth battle with the Kansas State Wildcats, winning the game on a last-second field goal. What does Matt Rhule do to get his team to properly rebound from an emotional win and head into a tough road game mentally prepared for the game?
Our Daily Bears: I think the big deal will be pointing out some of the catastrophic mistakes the team made with big plays. The offense has been quite good — and the offensive line a good deal better — but Alex Barnes ran for a career high 250 yards. The defense has to get immensely better.
BON: Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer is, at least from a national spotlight standpoint, having an incredible year. He’s No. 15 in the country in passing yards with 1,558, completing 64% of his passes and has thrown just two interceptions. With the start against Texas, he will presumably surpass all of his 2017 production in one game fewer. Is this what was expected of him or has he surpassed what people hoped for from his sophomore season?
ODB: I think he’s met expectations. The hype was very high for Brewer. He was a co-starter until recently, and has won the job outright. He occasionally holds onto the ball too long and doesn’t throw it away enough, but his arm strength has improved and even his bad throws give his receivers chances. It’s odd, as David Fankhauser from our site pointed out, but he’s been undeniably better than Jarrett Stidham this season, which is pretty wild to think.
BON: From just looking at statistics, it’s hard to identify a trend on why Baylor has struggled in its two losses. In the loss to Duke, the offense was fairly balanced and managed 400 yards, while OU managed to force them to abandon the run. What did you see that the team did differently in the wins than what it did in the two losses?
BON: Baylor played a catastrophic first half against Duke. The Blue Devils got up 23-0, and Baylor was unlucky in turnover recovery. Bill Connelly’s box-score analysis gave Baylor a greater than 50 percent chance in that game.
Oklahoma showed that Baylor has a very difficult time defending mobile quarterbacks and teams that can run. Baylor’s linebackers and safeties often struggle with gap integrity and take bad angles. The linebackers have been abysmal. They have to improve fast.
BON: Is there one player that you think can be the difference-maker for the Bears Saturday? If not one player, maybe what one group do you think can make the difference for Baylor?
ODB: Baylor’s wide receiver corps is the best Texas has seen so far. The Bears offense isn’t as good as Oklahoma’s, but Jalen Hurd, Denzel Mims, and Chris Platt are as good of a trio as Texas will see this year. If those guys can go wild, Baylor might have a chance to get into a boat race and hope for some luck.
BON: Who is one Texas player you are the most-worried about as a matchup for the Bears Saturday?
ODB: Kris Boyd. Baylor needs a giant day from the receiving corps, and if Boyd can limit Hurd or Mims, then the Bears are going to have a tough time. Baylor can’t win a 20-17 game against Texas.
BON: What’s your prediction for the game?
ODB: I have Texas winning 42-27. Baylor’s going to have an extremely difficult time stopping Sam Ehlinger from running, and if Baylor wants to play quite a bit of Tampa 2 or use quarterback spies, then Texas is going to have some underneath routes open. Baylor’s best defensive players are underclassmen, so there’s hope for the 2019 and 2020 Baylor defense. There isn’t much for the 2018 unit against good teams.
I think Baylor will score a decent bit in this game. Texas might be able to shut down Baylor’s running game, and the Bears will really struggle if another offensive linemen goes down. But this offense has been pretty good lately, and I think they’ll give the Longhorns some problems. But ultimately, Baylor doesn’t have the talent to match Texas, and this team is too young to feel like they have much of a chance in Austin.