What a difference a decade makes. Since 1997, Baylor has had three coaches and zero winning seasons; Texas is the defending national champ. But I am old enough to remember when the home team won nearly every game in this series from 1973-93 (the exceptions were 1982, 1989 and 1991). There was a stretch from 1983-94 when Baylor went to a decent bowl game, on average, of every other year. Now, Texas coach Mack Brown is saying Baylor is back (or, at least to where the Bears will be a factor in the conference race).
"Baylor is back to where they're winning games and are going to be competitive now," Brown said.
The Bears have a couple of DBs, a WR and a punter who are pro prospects. But they are light-years away from bridging the across-the-board talent differential between themselves and Texas. Baylor has not beaten Texas since that ignoble November afternoon in Waco. And no team has beaten Texas the week after OU on Brown's watch. (A notable stat considering Texas was 5-5 in the week following the OU game in the decade prior to Brown's arrival.) What's more, the Bears have failed to score against Texas in three of the past four ballgames. That's a cumulative score of....wait, let me get my calculator...159-14.
Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik said his unit is still vulnerable to "dink-and-dunk" passing attacks, and that's what we'll get two of the next three weeks. (Chizik knows that, and I'm sure he was issuing a challenge to his crew via the media this week.) At least one of his troops is salivating at the thought of Baylor putting the ball in the air at least 40 times Saturday.
"We're gonna tighten up our chinstraps and get to that quarterback all day," said DE Brian Orakpo.
I believe him. Texas 45, Baylor 13.
Ross Lucksinger, InsideTexas.com Editor -- This is a better Baylor team than the Horns will have seen in a long time. Guy Morriss has done a spectacular job with the Bears, but the talent level is still nowhere near Texas and the Longhorns will roll Baylor, just as they have in years past.
The Baylor defense is where the biggest mismatch in the game is located. If BU is going to have any shot in this game, they must stop the run. They've had a good measure of success against the run this season, giving up only four TDs on the ground, but that number will be nearly doubled as Texas' offensive line will have their way with Baylor's defense.
The offensive side of the ball is where Baylor will have some success. They've been averaging 279.8 through the air this season and the biggest weakness in the Texas defense is depth in the secondary. The Bears will score a couple of TDs and Gene Chizik will be as angry as he always is when his unit doesn't play up to what he feels they can, but it won't matter as the Texas O will be running up and down the field all day. Texas 42, Baylor 14.
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor -- First off, lets be clear. There will be no "I-35 Surprise" as Baylor defensive back C.J. Wilson has predicted. I have to admit, though, I like C.J.s pluck and enthusiasm, and hes probably just having some fun. He reminds me of Plankton, the trash-talking character on the SpongeBob Squarepants cartoon (yes, I have kids), a little guy who rants and rails and loudly and emphatically proclaims that hes taking over the world. In the end, though, he is foiled by the reality of being one-inch tall, and he marches frustratingly back home, vowing to take over the world on another day.
Check out SpongeBob the next time you get a chance, C.J.
Granted, Baylor is better than before, but the Bears enter the game as about a 30-point underdog, and thats about right. The Bears took multiple overtimes last week to beat a Colorado team that is clearly, in my view, the worst team in the Big 12.
Guy Morriss has decided that throwing the ball all over the field, Tech-style, will be in the best interest of his program, and hes probably right. Right now, Baylor cant recruit enough offensive linemen and talented running backs to run a "pound it up the middle" running attack, so this gives the Bears a better chance to compete. But not this week.
The problem is, the Longhorns have become brutally efficient in dismantling this type of offense. Texas Tech came to Austin last year ranked high, and left bruised and humbled. The Texas defensive backs are probably feeling pretty good about themselves after the Oklahoma game, so expect an interception or two or three.
The Longhorns will rush the passer and manhandle the Baylor line, and on offense, look for both McCoys to play quarterback in this one, with some Jevan Snead in the middle. The Texas running backs will be begging to get into this game, and one of them will ring up a couple of hundred yards, thanks to a big play of 50 or more yards. This will not be pretty.
I-35 Surprise? Nope. I-35 Demise. Sorry, C.J. Lets go with Texas 40, Baylor 10.
Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher -- There's excitement on the Brazos, Waco-style! Baylor is actually proving to be a tough, competitive football team in '06, with a wide-open, Red Raider-type offense and a defense that had not given up over 17 points in any game this season until the triple-OT 34-31 win against Colorado at Boulder last week. They are sitting atop the Big 12 South, tied with Texas at 2-0 in conference. Not only that, they have a player, C.J. Wilson, telling reporters the Bears are poised to pull off the upset of the ages, or the "I-35 Surprise", on Saturday night in DKR.
Well, if Wilson eats a worm before the game, no, make that a bucket of worms, then I may be concerned. Otherwise, Texas still has way too much talent for the Bears, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines, for Baylor to pull off the upset.
Actually, Baylor's seeming resurgence and Wilson's good-natured prediction have added some fun and excitement to a game week that for just about the entirety of the Mack Brown era has been a sleepy, "who do we play after Baylor" situation. Not this week, though. Although Texas has to come down off the high of beating OU and keep from looking ahead to the trip to Lincoln, the fact that Baylor has suddenly emerged as a dangerous team should keep the Horns focused. Additionally, playing the game at night in Austin on national television, under cooler, possibly rainy conditions, in front of a crowd that will be loud and raucous, primed to see Texas take down the "upstart from up the road," will help the Horns take care of business. The fact that Mack Brown has guided his teams to an outstanding 8-0 record the week following OU tells you that Brown and his staff have learned how to address whatever emotional state the team may be in, and whatever team is on the board next, post-Oklahoma. So any hopes Baylor may have that they can sneak into Austin and fell the snoozing giant are far-fetched.
That said, expect Baylor to come in with spirit and some cockiness and throw caution to the wind. I see Baylor scoring a couple of TDs and keeping it interesting for about a half, before Texas wears the Bears down, creating some turnovers that lead to points, in route to a comfortable win. I'm going Texas 38, Baylor 14.
Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher -- So what is it that has the Bears so darn feisty this year heading into their annual beat-down by Texas? I tried to figure that out earlier this week after I read C.J. Wilson's "I-35 Surprise" comments. I haven't had a chance to watch Baylor play much this year, but a 3-3 mark heading into Austin, given the Bears' schedule, didn't seem worthy of Wilson's boast. (Then I read that this is the same guy who predicted his team to win last year. He was only, oh, 63 points off. That explains it!) Perhaps it's the 2-0 mark in Big 12 play. For Baylor, that is indeed impressive.
Coming from a defender, the public confidence is more likely, I think, a result of a fairly stout defense over the first six weeks of the season. Bill Bradley's D has held opponents to 20 points or fewer in regulation each week, and picked off 12 passes, including four by Mr. Wilson. That too is impressive.
But let's look at the worst-case scenario: Colt McCoy has two passes picked off (Baylor's per-game average) in the first quarter that are returned for touchdowns. At that point, Texas could literally run the ball every play for the rest of the evening and come back and still win the game relatively handily. The Bears are giving up 3.8 yards per rush attempt (with sacks removed from the rushing total), and that's to TCU, Northwestern State, Washington State, Army, K-State and Colorado. UT, with one of the top offensive lines in the country, will average at least five yards per carry (which is currently the Horns' season average per attempt), and I suspect it will be even more than that. On the flipside, Baylor simply will not be able to run the ball against Texas (the Horns are giving up 1.9 yards per rushing attempt and the Bears are averaging just over 2 per attempt). Sure, they're going to try to throw the ball all over the field against the an at-times suspect Longhorn secondary, and they'll surely complete quite a few, but this is a Baylor offense that has managed 7, 15, 20, 17 and 17 points aside from its 47-point outburst vs. Northwestern State. Texas defensive ends Tim Crowder and Brian Robison (and Brian Orakpo and Aaron Lewis) are going to disrupt the timing in the passing game, register a season-high sack total, and the reinvigorated Texas defense will limit the Bears' scoring opportunities.
So, in summation, I've actually come around to C.J.'s upset prediction. I just think he's two weeks off. It'll be a "Highway 6 Surprise" on Oct. 28 for the Bears vs. the Aggies in Waco, not an "I-35 Surprise" this weekend in Austin. Texas 44, Baylor 10.
Pat Culpepper, Special to Inside Texas -- Texas 31, Baylor 7.
Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 44, Baylor 9.
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