The Baylor Bears look to do something they have never done against long-time rival Texas this weekend. That is beat them for the 3rd year in a row. This rivalry has historically been defined by the dominance of Texas, owning a74-26-4 record over the Bears. However, the more recent history has been ruled by the Bears, winners of four of the last 5 matchups between the two teams. The Bears have won the last two games in Waco by an average of 22 points and defeated Texas in Austin, 28-7 last year in their first matchup with Charlie Strong as the head coach.
Texas is just 4-7 on the year, and even with some 5-win teams being considered for bowl games, the Longhorn season ends in Waco Saturday. With a win for the Bears, it would give them their 10th win of the season, and send them to the Sugar Bowl. That would be their 3rd year in a row with double-digit wins and an appearance in a New Years Day Bowl.
Players to Watch
Chris Warren - Freshman Running Back
With Jonathan Gray and D'Onta Foreman injured in the Longhorns loss to West Virginia, freshman running back Chris Warren got his first extended look as the feature running back. He did not let the opportunity slip by, rushing for 276 yards and four touchdowns against an overmatched Texas Tech defense. Warren was one of the top prep running backs in the nation last year, the 6th highest rated runningback in the Scout rankings. Warren is more of a power back than a pure speed guy, though he does have a little burst in his legs. He
Tyrone Swoopes - Junior Quarterback
The starting quarterback for the Longhorns to begin the year, lost his job after a dismal season opening performance against Notre Dame. Limited to more of a gimmick role in the offense since that point, Swoopes has performed well as a running threat close to the endzone. He has 11 touchdowns on the ground, with all of those coming during conference play. Against Texas Tech, freshman starter Jerrod Heard suffered a concussion, bringing Swoopes back to the starting position. Heard has been cleared to practice and might even play against the Bears, but Swoopes has been named the starter.
A very innacurate passer, Swoopes is completing under 50% of his passes in 2015. He has just 3 touchdowns and 1 interception on the year. He did start most of the 2014 season for Texas, completing a more respectable 58% of his passes, but only had 13 passing touchdowns against 11 interceptions on the year.
Malik Jefferson - Freshman Linebacker
The star of the 2015 recruiting class for Texas, the 5-star middle linebacker has started from day-1 for the Longhorns. He is second on the team in tackles, behind fellow linebacker Peter Jinkens who suffered a knee injury against Texas Tech and is out for the year. Jefferson has NFL size, speed, and ability, but still is a very young player. He has been more steady in the middle, rather than a big-play maker. He has 7 tackles for loss, to go along with 2.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery. Jefferson was also banged up against Tech, and is questionable to play against the Bears. If he were to miss the game, former Baylor commitment Breckyn Hager would see a larger role for the Longhorns.
Duke Thomas - Senior Cornerback
One of just a small handful of seniors that are playing big roles for the young and rebuilding Longhorns, Thomas has been a solid cover corner all year. He is a good tackler corner, currently 3rd on the team in tackles, and is 2nd on the team in passes broken up, trailing freshman Davante Davis. The Longhorns have gone younger in their backfield recently, putting freshmen Holton Hill, John Bonney and Kris Boyd on the field more and more.
Keys to the Game
1. Play loose and Free - The Bears are the better team, even with a 3rd string quarterback. They have more talent all over the field, and are more experienced at key positions. Texas will be without several key starters, possibly including quarterback Javon Heard. Running back Jonathan Gray is questionable along with linebacker Malik Jefferson. This is a team that is hurting on the field, and one that has just not been that good in 2015. They have been below average on offense and defense throughout the season, either looking at traditional or advanced statistics. Even with a win, the Longhorns season is over. Baylor still has a ton to play for, including a berth in the Sugar Bowl and a probably Top-10 finish to close out the year.
2. Make Texas Pass - The Longhorns passing attack has been awful this year. They rank 116th in passing S&P+ and 121st in success rate. They have completed under 55% of their passes this year, finishing with just 8 passing touchdowns on the year. This is a bad passing attack, with minimal threats on the outside. Daje Johnson, John Burt and Armanti Foreman are their main weapons at wide receiver. They also allow quite a few sacks, with 19.2% of their passing downs ending in a sack. The run attack has been solid for Texas throughout the year, but when they are forced to pass, their offense just stops.
3. Honor the Seniors - This has been the most successful senior class in Baylor history. They 5th year players have seen the Bears rise to prominence, starting with the magical 2011 season that ended with Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman trophy. They have won two Big 12 championships, and have smashed the supposed glass ceiling on what Baylor should be able to do. Players like Spencer Drango, Jay Lee, Jamal Palmer, Pat Colbert, and Beau Blackshear are players that should be remembered for a long time by Baylor fans. The fans, coaching staff, and the rest of the team owe it to them to go out there and play great football. They deserve it.
Massey Ratings – Bears win 41-21
RealTime RPI – Bears win 49-19
S&P+ Rating - Bears win 45-20
Vegas Line - Baylor -20.5 (Over/Under - 68.5)
Staff Predictions COMING SOON!