Baylor offense vs. Texas defense
The Bears showed they can be explosive offensively when freshman Charlie Brewer stepped in and led them to 23 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a 38-36 loss to No. 22 West Virginia. But with Zach Smith continuing to start at quarterback, the Bears need to show more consistency throughout the game. Texas will be one of the best defenses Baylor faces all season. The Longhorns made a great Oklahoma State offense look ordinary in last weekend’s 13-10 overtime loss in Austin.
Baylor defense vs. Texas offense
Like Baylor, Texas has a quarterback quandary after freshman Sam Ehlinger was diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms following the loss to the Cowboys. If Ehlinger can’t play, sophomore Shane Buechele will step in. While Ehlinger has given Texas a spark, he’s still prone to freshman mistakes as he threw an interception in the end zone to stop an overtime chance to beat Oklahoma State. Texas’ running game has been inconsistent despite the presence of Chris Warren.
Key matchup: Baylor running backs vs. Texas defensive line
The Bears are more productive offensively when they can run the ball, but they’ve had difficulty getting the ground game untracked all season. Terence Williams, JaMycal Hasty, John Lovett and Trestan Ebner should all be ready to play, and Baylor coach Matt Rhule will likely go with the hot hand. Ebner gave the Bears a lift against West Virginia by breaking loose for a 40-yard touchdown and catching a pair of scoring passes from Brewer in the fourth quarter. But Texas’ defensive line has been superb and will probably makes things tough for the Bears again.
Connor Martin continues to be a bright spot for the Bears as he nailed three field goals for the second straight week. He leads the Big 12 in field goal accuracy by hitting 14 of 16, and has shown good range with a 46-yarder. He’s also punted well since stepping in for injured Drew Galitz by averaging 44.9 yards on 12 attempts. Texas features the best punter in the Big 12 in Michael Dickson who is averaging 49.0 yards. But kicker Joshua Rowland has nailed just six of 11 field goals.
The Bears and Longhorns clearly have different goals. With a 3-4 record, Texas is shooting for a bowl game while Baylor is still searching for its first win in the Matt Rhule era after going 0-7. Texas has lost overtime games to USC and Oklahoma State and had a shot to beat Oklahoma before Baker Mayfield threw a late touchdown pass to secure a 29-24 win. The Bears are clearly getting closer to a breakthrough as their two-point loss to West Virginia showed. But if there are a lot of Texas fans at McLane Stadium, Baylor won’t have much of a home-field advantage.
— John Werner