Baylor Bears Preview

Texas and Baylor resume a series this Saturday that has logged nearly 100 battles, with the vast majority going to the Longhorns. Their gaping lead is 71-22-4 and a 10-game winning streak. Can the big underdog Bears surprise?

Baylor—surprisingly competitive early—has generally sagged upon hitting Big XII conference play. The Bears did lose by a mere field goal in Waco to Missouri last week, indicating a vastly improved BU product from prior seasons. But they're also mired in a three game skid, starting with a 34-6 thumping at the hands of Oklahoma State.

Only a triumph over hapless Iowa State separates Baylor from a longer losing binge, having been pelted by the Oklahoma Sooners in Waco the week before, 49-17.

While Art Briles appears to have the program on the upswing, it's simply poor timing for a newbie head coach of a bottom-dwelling program to be in the South division of the Big XII. Much of the best football not just in the conference, but the country, is being played weekly.

Still, this group of green Bears can cause havoc for anyone not paying full attention, and Texas—after a brutal four-game stretch, could be considered primed for a letdown.

Has Baylor improved that much, though? After all, the last time the Bears beat the Longhorns, they did Texas fans a favor, virtually ensuring the departure of John Mackovic in 1997. Mack's not only annually chalked up the ‘W' against them, but mostly by monstrous margins, including 62-0 (twice) and 56-0.

So, back to this fall. Baylor has some solid parts and an exceptional one, triggerman and true freshman Robert Griffin, whose poise exceeds his years and matches his athleticism.

Griffin has a double take 11-1 TD-INT ratio, finally throwing his first to someone not in green last Saturday in Baylor's near-upset of Missouri. But, the mature freshman shredded the Tigers for two touchdowns on 26 completions from 35 attempts for 283 yards.

Despite facing one of the nation's tougher schedules, he's led Baylor to a respectable 48th in total offense while placing 22nd in passing efficiency, adding 65 yards per game rushing. The term "dual-threat" may be worn already, but it applies to Griffin.

Even so, he normally inflicts only limited aerial damage on the better defenses, with just three 200-yard games (none for 300) against I-A competition. Versus Oklahoma, Griffin passed for a meager 75 yards.

Beyond Griffin's own ground game contributions, sophomore Jay Finley ekes out one yard more per game than the quarterback, but boasts a sparkling six yards per pop figure in the process. He's averaged 80 yards the last two weeks versus Nebraska and Missouri, so he's becoming more a central focus for Art Briles' attack.

It's somewhat doubtful, though, to expect Finley to gobble up anywhere near that kind of real estate against uber-stingy Texas. The ‘Horns allow only 73 yards on the ground, ranking Will Muschamp's unit fourth nationally.

If anything, Robert Griffin will need to give Texas trouble with designed runs and scrambles for Baylor to avoid relying too much on his arm.

Defensively, Baylor naturally will need to corral Colt McCoy's aerial game to have any shot at a monumental Austin upset.

From the Bears' perspective, that's a nerve inducing matchup: they rank pitifully in both pass defense (96th, 246 yards per game) and, more importantly, pass efficiency D' (91st, 134.18 rating).

If Quan Cosby (questionable) returns this Saturday, it makes things that much harder for the oft-burned BU secondary. Cosby, per wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy, looked good at midweek.

Texas has been pretty solemn on the ground many Saturdays, but Baylor won't be making things particularly hard on the ‘Horns in that area either. The green and gold defenders are more respectable against the rush, but not by a lot, ranking just 72nd (149 ypg) in rush defense.

Is it any surprise, then, Baylor's "stop unit" is very little stop? It's listed 92nd in total defense (nearly 400 yards per game) and 76th in scoring defense (27.9 ppg).

Considering the Bears have had to face offenses of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Missouri, their rankings are understandable. But they won't be getting any breather this weekend. Texas is ninth nationally in total offense and sixth in scoring.

The Longhorns may have recently been brought back to earth, but they won't sink to the gutter this Saturday against Art Briles' squad.

Baylor's new coach has a rebuilding project that will have to wait a bit longer. His Bears have yet to win beyond Waco this fall, and Saturday in Austin isn't the time for their first.

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