1. One would have to think that this game has been circled on the calendar for the Baylor Bears all season. Last year's upset loss that cost Baylor a New Years Day Bowl game was one that has stuck with Baylor all offseason. Add to that the loss of several signees in the Summer to Texas and the noise from 90 miles south of Waco, and this might be the most anticipated game of the year for Baylor fans.
With the Longhorns attempting to implement a Briles-style offense with first year coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, the teams also are starting to look alike. The Lonhorns have a definite green and gold tint to their 2016 squad, from the offense to the smattering of former Baylor signees all across the offense. At 3-4 however, the results have not been close to the success that the Bears have seen the past 4-years. Coach Charlie Strong is looking for his first winning season, after going 6-7 and 5-7 in his first two campaigns.
With road losses to Oklahoma, Cal, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, the Longhorns have been a perfect 3-0 at home. Their "statement" win to open the 2016 season against Notre Dame was fools gold as the Irish are just 2-5. Their other two wins? UTEP and Iowa State.
2. Texas has been successful at home though in those three games. Their 50-47 victory over Notre Dame would easily be the Bears second best win of 2016. A 41-7 win over UTEP and a 27-6 victory over Iowa State are also equal to what the Bears have done in similar games. True freshman Shane Buechele has been significantly better at home, passing for 32 more yards per game, 1.5 more yards per pass attempt, and seeing his QB Rating rise from 133 to 168. They are averaging almost 6 more points per game at home as well.
Defensively, the gap is even larger, with their points per game falling to 20 at home versus 42 away from Austin. Of course, those stats are skewed by the schedule, and the fact that the Longhorns are benefiting from home games against UTEP and Iowa State. They allow a lot of years on the ground, but are average when it comes to yards per run (3.86 - 43rd). Where the Longhorns have gotten destroyed is against the pass. They allow the 3rd highest QB Rating in the nation at 160.91. That is 4-spots below Texas Tech. The 16 passing touchdowns they have surrendered and the 3 interceptions they have secured are both 108th in the nation, This is the worst passing defense the Bears will have seen in 2016 when looking at the raw stats. The advanced stats are kinder though, ranking Texas 92nd in pass defense according to S&P+. That is ahead of Oklahoma State (104th) and Rice (128th - last).
3. If there is one big advantage for the Longhorns over the Bears, it is their power running game. Even without starting running back Chris Warren, the Longhorns still feature a dominant big back in D'Onta Foreman. The 250 pound junior is averaging 6.1 yards per carry and has 855 yards on the season to go along with 3 touchdowns. Reserve quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has also been featured heavily in "wildcat" packages, especially in the redzone. He already has 6 touchdowns on the ground this year in limited playing time.
The Bears rush defense has been exceptional when teams try to get to the edges of the defense. With the Bears speed, especially Pat Levels and Travon Blanchard leading the way, the Bears just don't let team get to the sideline. Where they struggle is on the inside, where the lack of size on the defensive line and inside linebackers hurts the Bears. Against Iowa State, Mike Warren led a power-rushing attack for a season high 204 yards and four touchdowns. The Bears could not slow down the sophomore runner. Foreman is much more of a natural power runner and poses a bigger threat than Warren.
4. Sacks on Shane Buechele have been a major issue for the Longhorns. They are 86th in adjusted sack rate on offense and have allowed 15 sacks on the season. On passing downs, they are allowing a sack 10.7% of the time, 105th in the nation. That has hurt Texas on third downs, where they only convert 41.28% of their chances (57th in the nation).
Defensively, they have 25 sacks on the year, but 13 of those were in their two games against UTEP and Iowa State. The Bears offensive line has the 14th best passing down sack rate in the nation at 3.4% and are 5th in the nation in standard downs at 1%. Baylor has allowed just 4 sacks on the year, second fewest in the nation, among the likes of Army and UNLV who are among the least frequent passing teams in the nation. Troy leads in the nation allowing just 1 sack, while attempting the 20th most passing attempts, by far the standard bearer in that statistic.
5. Truly, this is a matchup with a proven program and a team looking to mimic the other hoping for that level of success. Texas is in year one of their journey, while the Bears are tried, true and tested. Even with lesser athletes as some might say, the Bears are simply better at doing what they do than Texas at this point. From the quarterback play, to the offensive line, to how the defense has grown into a suitable partner, the Bears are simply farther down that path to a championship. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but the Bears aren't interested in that. They are interested in starting a new winning streak against a heated rival and continuing their domination over the program just 90 miles south of them.