Baylor Preview: Bad News Bears

There's been little but bad news for the Bears in Waco this season and they will be massive underdogs Saturday. But in one of the most upset-heavy seasons ever in college football, the Baylor Bears will try to get back on track when the Longhorns come rolling into town.

But it's just Baylor, right?

This year, it seems, no team has the luxury of saying, "Oh, it's just [blank]." Often times, [blank] has ended up upsetting the big dogs in spectacular fashion.

The upset bug didn't come close to biting Texas in the Horns' 56-3 crushing of Iowa State last week and the Baylor Bears will be about as lightly regarded as Gene Chizik's Cyclones were. But the game in Ames was against a dramatically inferior team that Texas easily handled last season and is going through a transition with a new coach whose weaknesses the Longhorns are intimately aware of.

This will not be the case on Saturday. Baylor, utilizing its pass-first -- and second, and pretty much all the time -- offense, went up and down the field on Texas last season to the tune of 31 points. Granted, on the defensive side of the ball the Bears gave up 63 points to Texas on a record-setting performance for Colt McCoy and the aforementioned Iowa State coach was the Horns' defensive coordinator at the time, it still is indicative of the danger presented by Baylor's spread 'em out, let 'er rip, Texas Tech-style passing attack.

The Bears will also need every win they can get. With only three victories on the season, the Bears are still three wins away from being bowl eligible. With games against Kansas State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State remaining on the schedule, Baylor may not win a game in the Big 12.

Texas conversely, will become bowl-eligible with a win on Saturday and will be fighting for better post-season position, a slim chance at a Big 12 South title and respect.

As for a BCS bowl? Stranger things have happened. Not much stranger (Think about that time David Spade dated Heather Locklear. That ballpark.), but it's happened.

Hold onto your hats, folks. The road begins on Saturday.

The running game is essentially non-existent in the Bears pass-happy offense. Baylor is ranked 111th in the nation in rushing (81.3 yards per game) and have only four TDs on the ground. Conversely, the Bears are ranked 19th in the pass with 285 yards per game through the air, but the passing game, although occasionally explosive, has been inconsistent and the possibility of starter Blake Szymanski sitting due to a mild concussion sustained against Kansas does not help.

If Szymanski is unable to go, Midwestern State transfer Ryan Roberts will get the call. Roberts went 3-for-5 for 28 yards in a brief bit of relief during the 58-10 blowout loss and brings much the same to the table as Szymanski (which, according to the statistics isn't spectacular).

Look for Baylor to make use of 6-5 slot receiver Justin Akers against Texas' shorter corners. Akers is first on the team in receiving yards with 321. He's second, however, in receptions to running back Brandon Whitaker, who has 31. Essentially, the dump off pass serves as the Baylor running game. Expect liberal use of it.

The most consistent part of the offense has been the line. Despite the pass-heavy offense, the Bears have only given up eight sacks on the year and the Longhorns will be facing something a little different than they're used to in Baylor's exceptionally wide splits.

The potential threat provided by the Baylor offense is a point of discussion. The defense is not.

The Bears defense is ranked 86th in the nation in total defense (423.6 ypg) and 91st in points allowed (31.4 ppg). Generating turnovers has also been an issue for Baylor. The Bears have only recovered six fumbles and forced six interceptions, compared with 21 turnovers given up.

The team's leader in tackling is safety Jordan Lake. This may be less a product of the scheme than opponent's getting to the second level, but regardless, his 63 stops tops the team.

Something that is notable is the Baylor defensive front is effective at getting to the quarterback. The Bears' total 17 sacks on the season, with all of them fairly evenly distributed over nine different players, the most being 3.5, held by DT Vincent Rhodes. With the Longhorns occasional miscues in blocking, this is a huge key to the game. If the Bears want a chance to win, they have to get to McCoy. If the Texas line stands strong, the Horns will be able to go to air all day.

Given the statistics stacked against the Bears, their goal is clear: Outscore the opponent. Whether or not they'll be able to do it remains to be seen, but they'll need an upset of titanic proportions to pull it off.

Par for the course this year, basically.

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