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Offensive Preview: Baylor

Charlie Brewer and the Baylor offense have helped the Bears roll through an easy first half. Can they keep it up against Texas?

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Ray Carlin, USA TODAY Sports

Baylor has quietly gone 4-2 to start 2018 after winning 1 game all of last season. Part of the success in Matt Rhule’s second season can be attributed to a favorable schedule in the first half, but the Bears have also played better football this season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Let’s take a look at what to expect from the Baylor offense on Saturday afternoon:

Quarterback

Baylor lists Charlie Brewer and Jalan McClendon as co-starters on the depth chart, but Brewer is the unquestioned starter. The sophomore from Lake Travis took every snap last week against Kansas State and has made strides after taking over the reigns as a freshman in 2017. Brewer has thrown for 1558 yards and 9 touchdowns compared to just 2 interceptions.

Brewer is a strong-armed QB who has learned in his second season that it’s okay to throw it up to his two primary targets, Denzel Mims and Jalen Hurd, and let them make a play. Brewer is not much of a threat as a runner, but his passing has made notable improvements and he now has the weapons around him to make the Baylor offense respectable.

Running Back

The bulk of the carries are split pretty equally between 3 talented backs: JaMycal Hasty, John Lovett and Trestan Ebner. Hasty and Lovett are more natural runners who do a nice job running between the tackles. Ebner was a former TCU defensive back commit who flipped to Baylor with the promise he would be utilized on offense. He will be involved heavily in the passing game, with 15 receptions already on the season.

Wide Receiver

As mentioned above, Denzel Mims and Jalen Hurd make life a lot easier for Charlie Brewer. Mims had over 1000 yards receiving a season ago and is off to a strong start so far in 2018, hauling in 32 passes for 449 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is a good route runner for his size (6’3) and will be a handful for Davante Davis and Kris Boyd. Hurd is a former standout running back for Tennessee who transferred after he felt he was being misused and wanted to switch positions. Baylor welcomed him with open arms, and he has rewarded them with 550 yards and 3 touchdowns through the first half of the season. Hurd also has 19 carries for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns, meaning he will still see time as a traditional running back in the backfield. Senior Chris Platt will serve as the the primary option out of the slot.

Offensive Line

The Bears boast a veteran offensive line unit, but it has not translated to a lot of success. The unit would likely rank in the lower half of the Big 12, with pass protection being a big concern. Baylor is allowing 3 sacks per game so far this season, ranking 108th in the FBS. LT Jake Fruhmorgan is the Bears’ biggest name. The Clemson transfer who enrolled at Florida in 2017 before transferring again to Baylor has been solid, but not spectacular. Guard Johncarlo Valentin is another transfer, coming from the junior college ranks after being considered one of the top junior college guards in the country in 2017. It is surprising to see the Bears only averaging 174 rushing yards per game, considering their schedule thus far. The passing game has become the focal point of the offense, which means the Texas secondary and defensive line will face another big test. The difference is, this time they will not have to worry about Kylar Murray running wild outside of the pocket.

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Jameson McCausland is originally from Frisco, Texas, where he grew up a Longhorn fan. His two favorite sports are football and baseball, both of which he covers for HornSports. He enjoys spending time with family and friends in his spare time. Jameson is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.

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College Football

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Baylor

Texas narrowly escaped with a victory against Baylor on Saturday, and there are several areas that the Longhorns must clean up to stay atop the Big 12

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John Gutierrez, USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another close ballgame that came down to the final drive for Texas. The Longhorns found themselves behind the eight ball when Sam Ehlinger exited the game with an injury in the 1st quarter, and Baylor ended up giving Texas all they could handle. Regardless, Texas is now 6-1 and sits alone atop of the Big 12 conference standings. The Longhorns will gladly welcome the bye week as they prepare for the final stretch of the season. Let’s take a look at the good and the bad from a 23-17 win over the Bears:

The Good

Texas finally has a 100-yard rusher

For the first time in the Tom Herman era, Texas had a 100-yard rusher. Freshman Keaontay Ingram finished the afternoon with 110 yards on 19 carries. It’s hard to believe it had been 20 games since the Longhorns had someone surpass the 100-yard rushing mark, but it is only appropriate Ingram was the one to break the streak. Ingram continues to see an uptick in touches and has proven to be the best running back on the roster.

Collin Johnson continues to dominate

Texas now has a good problem on their hands. Collin Johnson is playing himself into position to be a potential high NFL draft pick, and I don’t think you will find many people who are upset about it. Johnson has cemented himself as a number 1 receiver after turning in another great performance on Saturday, hauling in 11 receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown. The biggest improvement he has made from his first two seasons is his physicality. Johnson has proven to be reliable going over the middle of the field while also also improving his ability beat corners off the line of scrimmage.

The Bad

Punting

It’s hard to find a lot of negative when you look at Ryan Bujcevski’s stat line: 47.8 yards per punt and 3 punts inside the 20. Unfortunately, the stats do not tell the full story. Texas continues to have major issues getting punts off in a timely manner, and I am beginning to think it is more on Bujcevski than the protection unit. The Aussie takes far too long to get the ball off his foot once he receives the snap. Baylor nearly had a block yesterday, and it is a minor miracle the Longhorns have not had a punt blocked this year.

Opening drive scores

The Texas defense has had a tough time stopping opponents on their opening drives this season. In the 7 opening drives opponents have had against the Longhorns this year, 5 have ended in either a touchdown or field goal. Todd Orlando has stressed the importance of starting fast on defense, but a trend has emerged.

Cameron Dicker comes back to earth

Cameron Dicker carried over his momentum from his game winner against Oklahoma, going 3 for 3 on field goals in the first half, including a 47-yarder to end the half. The second half was a different story. Dicker missed a 34-yard attempt late in the 4th quarter that would have given Texas a 9-point lead. He followed it up with a miss from 51 yards. It has been a roller coaster ride for Tom Herman as he tries to manage the punting and kicking unit, but it’s hard to expect anything less since he is having to trot out a true freshman punter and kicker.

The Ugly

Zero second half points

The Longhorns had 5 drives in the second half — 2 ending in punts, 2 in missed field goals and one with an interception. Similar to the Kansas State game, the Texas offense moved the ball at times in the second half but were hurt by the inability to finish drives. Tom Herman and the offensive staff have shown improvements in making halftime adjustments, but the staff failed to put Shane Buechele and the offense in a position to finish off drives against a Baylor defense that ranked at or near the bottom of the Big 12 in nearly every major statistical category.

Sam Ehlinger’s injury

Texas fans now have a greater appreciation for Sam Ehlinger after watching the offense try to operate for almost 4 full quarters without him. Shane Buechele is considered a quality passer, but he fails to bring the running dimension to the offense that Ehlinger brings. The Longhorn offense is built around Ehlinger, and if he were to miss any extended period of time, it would not be good. If he is healthy enough for Oklahoma State, he needs to play. The Texas offense is not good enough to plug in the backup and rest the starter, even against a team like Oklahoma State.

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Big 12

Seahorn’s Five Thoughts: Baylor

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John Gutierrez, USA TODAY Sports

Things didn’t go according to plan from the jump with Sam Ehlinger suffering a shoulder injury during the first series of the football game. Yet the Longhorns managed to gut out a win against the pesky Bears of Waco and move to 6-1 on the season. The Longhorns have now won 6 in a row and still have a chance to accomplish the goals they set out for at the start of the season. The main thing right now is for them to get healthy and nurse some bumps and bruises before heading to Stillwater to take on the Cowboys.

Here’s what I’ve got on my mind after today’s tight contest against Baylor.

  • It Wasn’t Pretty… but it was a Win

This game had a hard left turn in the first offensive series for Texas, with Ehlinger suffering a shoulder injury that would eventually rule him out for the rest of the game. This meant backup quarterback Shane Buechele was called in cold to guide the ship for the rest of the contest. Buechele hasn’t received a game snap all year long, and was thrown right into the pressure cooker. Thankfully the junior quarterback has several starts under his belt and he was able to lean on that experience to help get the Longhorns across the finish line today with a win today.

Don’t get it twisted, though. Ehlinger going out early completely changed the dynamics of this ball game and how the Texas offense typically operates. The designed quarterback runs were out the window, Ehlinger’s ability to improvise and hurt a defense with his feet was gone, and most importantly, the steady hand that has guided the Texas offense all year long was gone. Nobody really knew what to expect when Buechele was thrust into action this afternoon. He made some nice throws, led some solid drives, but he also had one interception on a ball that he overshot on a post, resulting in points for Baylor.

On the flip side of things the Texas defense had a solid day at the office, but with the offense handling some adversity, they had a tall task of slowing down a capable offense. The secondary had some forgettable moments today (particularly on third down and long), but at the end of the day they were able to hold the Baylor offense to 17 points and 328 yards of offense. When you take into account that a good chunk of that came on the final drive when the Bears started in the shadows of their own goal posts, then it’s not too bad in the grand scheme of things.

This wasn’t a style-point game like many hoped it would be and it wasn’t always pretty, but it was still a win nonetheless and you will take them however you can get them.

  • Keaontay Ingram Goes Over the Century Mark

Coming into the contest, Texas had yet to tally a 100-yard rusher, but that came to end via freshman running back Keaontay Ingram. Ingram led the Texas rushing attack to the tune of 110 yards on 19 carries (5.78 YPC) and he dazzled with some really nice runs, showing off his vision and patience in the process.

Ingram flashes remarkable traits and often seems to get positive yardage when it looks like he has no room to run. There were times where I could see penetration from the Baylor front before Ingram got to the LOS and he still managed to squeeze through the hole and pop out on the other side. Mind you, this is all transpiring after Tom Herman said that Ingram isn’t playing at 100% from the injury that caused him to miss a game earlier this year.

The future is bright for #26 in burnt orange, who looks better every week.

  • Dicker the Kicker is Mortal

Freshman kicker Cameron Dicker showed today that even after draining a game-winning kick against Oklahoma last week and making three field goals afternoon, he is in fact capable of missing. The freshman from Lake Travis started the day 3 for 3 before missing two kicks (both his shortest and longest attempts) that would have put the game out of reach for Baylor.

It may sound like I’m nitpicking here on a freshman, but when points were at a premium like they were today, you have to push one of those through and give yourself a little more wiggle room.

  • The Secondary has Some Sore Spots That Need Addressing

The Texas defense only allowed 240 yards passing today against a pretty good offense, but they were also fortunate in some cases that it wasn’t more. This is going to feel like I’m calling some guys out, but when Baylor needed a big play or was in a crucial spot they seemed to always go at whoever PJ Locke or Davante Davis was covering.

Both Davis and Locke have spilled blood for the program and have been solid citizens, but it seems obvious at times that teams are picking on them. I’ve been quietly wondering if the defensive staff would start working in some alternative options, but as the season has moved forward they’ve continued to roll with their guys.

I don’t have access to how practices play out, so I’m not sure if guys like Josh Thompson or Anthony Cook aren’t doing enough to unseat the veterans, but I know what I see on Saturdays hasn’t been great. Eventually it could get this team beat if the right opponent presents itself.

  • The Injury of Sam Ehlinger

I hate ending on a sour note, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit concerned about the injury that kept Ehlinger out for essentially the entire ball game. When Ehlinger emerged from the locker room, most thought he was just getting the cut on his hand addressed, but others noticed he was not really moving his shoulder as he moved around. Herman addressed the media after the game and disclosed that Ehlinger suffered an AC sprain in his throwing shoulder, and that they were hopeful that he could be throwing by the end of the week.

The silver lining is that Texas is heading into a bye week, so Texas has an extra week to get 11 healthy. If he does have to miss a game, they have an extra week to get Buechele reps and game ready for road test against a team that Texas has struggled with in recent contests.

The down side of things is that injury of this nature could take several weeks to fully heal, and with Ehlinger being as important as he is to the team, you may not want to risk further aggravating the injury. Needless to say, this is going to be something to monitor closely as the matchup gets closer.

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College Football

Staff Predictions: Baylor vs. Texas

Texas looks to continue its winning ways against an underrated Baylor team

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Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

The Baylor Bears travel to Austin to try and end the Longhorns’ current streak of success. Since Art Briles left, the Baylor program has not been the same — but Matt Rhule appears to have the Bears heading in the right direction. The Baylor offense will give the Texas defense some problems, but having a full crowd at DKR after a big rivalry win will make it very difficult for the Bears to pull off the upset.

Daniel Seahorn (2-4)

Can this Texas team put a big Oklahoma win behind them and avoid a hangover against the Bears from Waco? I for one am anxious to see how this team handles success as the season wears on, particularly after a win over a conference rival that was exhausting physically and emotionally.

The Longhorns are the better team on paper and should be on Saturday.  The Bears aren’t going to roll over, though. They have an offense that is able to give a defense some problems. The Longhorns control their destiny after the win over the Sooners, and now more than ever need to be following their mantra of going 1-0 each week. Focus on the task at hand with the Bears, and everything else will take care of itself.

I like the the Longhorns to be victorious this week, but I expect the Bears to be more competitive than they were last year in Waco.

Prediction: Texas 45, Baylor 27

Jameson McCausland (4-2)

The trend with Texas this season is playing up and down to their competition. If that continues on Saturday, Texas will find itself in a close ballgame late in the 4th quarter. The 2018 Baylor Bears are not as bad as some think. They are extremely thin at certain positions, but Matt Rhule has brought in some nice pieces to build around, namely QB Charlie Brewer.

The Baylor defense is terrible, and that is putting it nicely. This is a unit that is worse than the Oklahoma unit Texas put up 48 points on a week ago. I expect big games from Tre Watson and Keaontay Ingram, and I will predict a long touchdown for Devin Duvernay. Baylor will hang around for most of the game, but I expect the Texas offense to simply be too much.

Prediction: Texas 38, Baylor 21

Aaron Carrara (5-1)

Post-Oklahoma, Tom Herman mentioned how nice it was for his offense to carry the team instead of having to rely on the defense to get the job done. The Longhorns will need Sam Ehlinger and the offense to put up points and carry the team against a Baylor offense that is equally as capable as the Sooners. Texas has the edge in defense, which is why I think they get the job done on Saturday. I expect Texas to have success in the air against the Bears, but I would be surprised if they aren’t run-heavy against a defense that allows almost 200 rushing yards per game. Keaontay Ingram was 14 yards shy of the century mark against the Sooners, but he could be in for a big day on Saturday. Todd Orlando’s defense needs to play better than they did in the 4th quarter against Oklahoma, or it could be an interesting game. Baylor is no slouch and Texas knows it, but Tom Herman has done a fantastic job of preaching and ingraining the 1-0 mentality week after week with his players.

Prediction: Texas 38, Baylor 31

Harrison Wier (2-4)

Baylor is no slouch. Texas fans may not know it, but Texas certainly does. If the Longhorns allow the Bears to stay in the game, things could get interesting late. I ultimately believe Texas will come away victorious due to lack of productivity from the Bears defense this season.

Todd Orlando has a great opportunity to use this game as a confidence-builder for his unit. The Baylor offense is extremely capable of putting up points on anyone, and if Texas holds, it could do wonders for the unit’s confidence after giving up 21 unanswered points to Oklahoma last week. The Texas offense has been consistent and dominant lately, and that should not change on Saturday. I expect big games from Sam Ehlinger and the Texas running back corps.

Ultimately, Texas should be too much for Baylor. Matt Rhule has the Bears heading in the right direction, but the program is just not quite there in terms of competing with the rest of the conference. Texas will impose its will at times and hopefully not take its foot off the gas.

Prediction: Texas 42, Baylor 31

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College Football

Defensive Preview: Baylor

The Texas offense looks to exploit an inexperienced and underperforming Baylor defense this Saturday

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Ray Carlin, USA TODAY Sports

While the Baylor offense has taken steps forward in 2018, the defense still finds itself struggling mightily. The Bears do not have a lot of depth and are relying on players who simply should not be seeing the field this early in their career. Nevertheless Matt Rhule has to work with what he has — a few decent upperclassmen and a lot of players still trying to put everything together. Baylor has been gashed on the ground and through the air, and Texas is coming off a victory resulting in the firing of a defensive coordinator. Let’s take a look at what to expect from the Baylor defense:

Defensive Line

Baylor’s defensive line is anchored in the middle by NT Ira Lewis, who is in his 3rd season as a full-time starter. Lewis will serve as a good challenge for Zach Shackelford, who has struggled in the past with big and effective nose tackles. James Lynch is the Bears best pass rusher, tallying 4 sacks through the first 6 games of 2018.

As a whole, the Baylor defensive line has been productive against inferior competition and has been dominated by superior competition. Against Oklahoma and Kansas State — arguably the top two offensive lines in the Big 12 — the Bears allowed huge chunk plays in the run game, while their pass rush was also neutralized.

Linebacker

After watching previous games, it’s not hard to conclude that Baylor lacks quality linebacker play. This unit is small, struggles against the run and can’t defend in space. Former WR Blake Lynch, who played with Kris Boyd at Gilmer, made the switch from WR to defense this season, and the 210-pounder now finds himself at linebacker. Middle linebacker Clay Johnston has had a quiet season, failing to record a TFL thus far.

The linebackers and defensive line share equal blame with how poorly Baylor has defended the run. The Bears linebackers are not being helped out by the defensive line, but they also need to improve on plugging holes and diagnosing plays.

Defensive Back

Two weeks ago, Kyler Murray threw for 432 yards on just 17 completions against the Baylor secondary. The big plays are there for the Texas offense. The Bears are very young at corner, with sophomores Harrison Hand and Raleigh Texada both seeing the field along with freshman Kalon Barnes. Temple graduate transfer Derrek Thomas is the most experienced of the group, but quite frankly has had a rough season.

Safety Chris Miller is the team’s leading tackler with 34 and will be used to help slow down the Texas rushing attack. Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey are likely licking their chops watching film this week. Devin Duvernay should also get a fair share of looks down the field as Texas tries to take the top off the Bears’ defense.

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