What has made Case McCoy effective this year in getting this team to a point where they can win the Big 12 conference?
For the most part, the biggest thing he's done has been to avoid the turnovers that have plagued him in the past. The last time Texas traveled to Floyd Casey, McCoy threw for 300-plus yards, but also threw four crucial interceptions. What the coaches have been able to convey to McCoy is that they don't necessarily need for him to throw for 300 to win. But they do need him to take care of the ball. The Longhorns have rebuilt the offense around his strengths and weaknesses, running the ball a lot more and relying on McCoy's accuracy on the deep ball to create big plays. And he's done a nice job of making pre-snap checks and adjustments to keep the Texas offense humming.
What is an area of exposure on the Texas offensive unit - where do you see a weak point?
It's probably McCoy. Texas is very good at running back, even without the injured Johnathan Gray, who is out for the year with an Achilles injury. And the Longhorns are as deep and as talented at receiver as they've been. The offensive line has also been decent-to-good (decent as a run-blocking team, very good in pass protection). That leaves McCoy, who can't run the spread the offensive coaches envisioned because he's not a great runner, and because he lacks the arm strength to make the horizontal throws they asked David Ash to make.
Other than Jackson Jeffcoat, who is one or two defensive players to keep an eye on?
Cedric Reed has actually probably had a better season than Jeffcoat on a play-by-play basis. He's more effective against the run than Jeffcoat, and has nearly proven his equal as a pass-rusher. Together, they've formed a pretty strong end tandem. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown has emerged as one of the Big 12's top defensive tackles. He eats up double-teams on a lot of plays, and makes plays when he's single-blocked. It's scary that he's just a sophomore. He might be the most talented player on the defense. On the back-seven, a guy that not a lot of people are talking about, but they should, is Adrian Phillips. He does a lot of things that go unnoticed, like getting guys lined up correctly and playing everything from an extra linebacker to an over-the-top free safety. His versatility is hugely key for this defense.
How do you see the Texas defense attacking the Bears offense?
It will be interesting to see what Texas does with its defensive backs. They've been a bit up and down this year, playing fantastically well against Texas Tech, but struggling against a worse wide receiver group in Oklahoma State's receiving corps. Quandre Diggs is an excellent nickel corner who can help a ton against Baylor's slot receivers, so you might see the Longhorns elect to man-up on the outside with Carrington Byndom and Duke Thomas while trying to slide an extra player or two into the box to help against the run. Against Tech, Texas also used a defensive grouping that put three defensive ends on the field, using Jeffcoat as a roving linebacker. You might see that as well, especially in passing situations.
What is your perception of the mental state of the team coming into the game against Baylor? How about your perception of the mental state of the Texas fans?
This Texas team could have folded when starting 1-2, but they've clawed back thanks to a "one game at a time" mentality. And while they know this game is for the Big 12 championship — the winner gets at least a share — you get the feeling that they're more just focused on beating the team in front of them. As for the fans, it's difficult to tell. You have pockets of fans wanting different things. Most want a title. Many want Mack Brown gone after this season. And a small group probably want Texas to falter to ensure that that move would happen.