Offense vs. Defense
When Baylor has the ball
How the Longhorns attack the Baylor defense could be dictated by something that is not under the control of Art Briles, as least as far as we know…the weather. It will be cold, no doubt, but if the winds are swirling and sleet is falling, the passing attack of the Bears could be diminished. That will allow Texas to focus even more on a Baylor rushing attack that has stubbed its toe the last two games in a loss to Oklahoma State and a narrow victory over TCU.
However, you can expect defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to show multiple looks up front and make it difficult for the Bears to find star linebacker/end Jackson Jeffcoat. He lined up as a 4-3 end and a 3-4 linebacker last week against Texas Tech, and the Red Raider line simply couldn't find him or his teammates resulting in a season high 9 sacks. Texas will play both of those fronts, and have two or three true linebackers out on the field. They will also go with a nickel back as well, or an additional corner in more passing situations.
The Texas defense has been heavy on substitutions this year though, and that could play into the Bears favor. Baylor likes to get the ball moving and snap the ball quickly, thus eliminating time for defensive substitutions. If the Bears can convert a third and short and do a quick snap, they could find the Texas defense in a more run stopping short yardage personnel group, and be able to strike over the top.
When Texas has the ball
Texas will lean on an extremely experienced offensive line, with a combined 155 career starts, to block for a talented group of running backs. They are not a pure power run team, but they definitely skew that way. Texas will run out a tight end and even a seldom seen in the college game full-back as well for certain sets.
The Texas backfield is led by Malcolm Brown, who is a balanced running back with good size and speed. He is a 25+ carry a game type of running back who they can trust to get tough yards and wear a defense down. Backing him up is their big running back, who is their short yard specialist in Joe Bergeron. He will get some carries, but look out for him near the goal line. The UT rush attack will involve other players as well, including speedster running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson and quarterback Case McCoy. Also be on the lookout for backup quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, as he is a dangerous runner who could make an appearance.
But do not overlook the Texas passing game, which has one of the more dynamic wide receivers in the Big 12 in Mike Davis on one side, and a steady possession receiver in Jaxon Shipley on the other. Davis will run multiple routes, but is at his best running deep and simply beating a defense over the top. With the Bears struggles the past few weeks with deep routes (either with completions or penalties) look out for Davis. Shipley is their go to guy when they need a catch especially on third or even fourth down. He is a steady route runner who has good chemistry with quarterback Case McCoy.
Fun Stats to Ponder
-This is the 103rd meeting between the Bears and Longhorns, being the 3rd-longest series for the Longhorns and the longest series for the Bears
-In home games, Baylor is 18-1 since 2011, 22-3 over the last 3+ seasons and 28-10 in the Art Briles era
-Thirty-three of Jaxon Shipley's team leading 52 receptions have resulted in a first down, including three on fourth down
- Baylor has trailed for just 82:09 over last 13 games (780 total minutes) dating to 2012 (12-1 during span)
Keys to the Game
1. Beat the UT linebackers – There is an obvious weakness to the Longhorn defense, and it is their linebackers. Texas has a tremendous defensive line and they are strong in the secondary as well, but injuries have robbed them of their best players in the linebacker group and left them young and thin there. With Steve Edmond, Tevin Jackson and Jordan Hicks no longer available to the Texas coaching staff. That is two starters in Edmond and Hicks at the beginning of the year and a key reserve, all who happen to be juniors.
In their places are two sophomores and a freshman. Baylor has to put these linebackers in position to make a choice, and hope they choose poorly, or at least can't execute when they do make the right read. Look for the Bears to involve the tight ends in the passing game early, as they did with success against TCU before going away from it, and possibly even utilizing Shock Linwood in the passing game as well to isolate against the linebackers.
2. Win the Man-to-Man battles
How the Baylor receivers react to the bump and run man coverage that has taken them off of their game the past few weeks will be a key thing to watch. If they can get open and make plays, that will force UT to drop more guys into coverage thus opening up running lanes for the Baylor rush attack.
3. Pass Protection – Against TCU, the Baylor offensive line struggled with the array of twists, stunts and other tactics of the TCU defensive line. It caused a reshuffled offensive line to have communication errors and let free rushers get into the back field on passing plays and rushes. New starting left tackle Kelvin Palmer had some issues getting on the same page as star guard Cyril Richardson. Texas will utilize Jackson Jeffcoat in a variety of positions, even as a 3-4 linebacker in some sets to try and get him in a favorable matchup. Baylor has to communicate better than they did against TCU and make sure they are blocking the front four of the Longhorns.
4. Make McCoy Rush – On the flip side, Case McCoy has been a much better quarterback when given time, similar to pretty much every quarterback in the history of the world. The Longhorns have a very experienced offensive line, with all but their starting right tackle being a senior with more than 22 starts in their career. They have worked together for a long time and know how to block together, something that is often overlooked with offensive lines.
Baylor's defense will not rely on just their defensive line to get pressure, they will bring multiple linebackers and secondary players leaving them in a Zero-Coverage situation. When the Bears dial that up, they have to get there and make sure to fluster or speed up McCoy, as he has been quite good this year at dealing with blitzes and going deep. In fact, his deep ball is probably the best throw he makes right now.
5. Be in the moment – Look, this is a huge game for the Bears. In fact, this might be the most emotional game of their seasons by far. Senior day for a group of talented and indispensable seniors that are leaders all over the field, in front of hopefully the largest crowd in Baylor history, closing out their home in some cold and nasty weather with a chance to at least win a share of the Big 12 title. I mean…wow. That is a lot on their plates, and a lot of pressure to live up to. Against Oklahoma State, they were consumed a bit by that pressure and intensity, and they cannot let that happen against Texas. The Bears don't have to be perfect, they just have to be themselves and play like they did last time they were at home.