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Baylor Football

Unfortunately for an improved Baylor team, Texas is back to being elite

October 8, 2018

It's been a running joke for a handful of years, including following the first game of this season, but there is nothing to joke about now.

Jim Black
Baylor will need a repeat of their rushing performance against KSU if they hope to knock of Texas Saturday.

Texas is definitely back and Big 12 opponents are about to take notice of what Tom Herman is building firsthand. And no, they don't have intentions of leaving the label of being an elite team behind anytime soon.

Since a loss in the season opener to Maryland for the second consecutive season, Texas has defeated three ranked opponents including USC and TCU. Most recently, however, Texas claimed their most important of the three with a victory over hated rival and Big 12 favorite Oklahoma.

The Trojans and Horned Frogs have fallen out of the top 25 since their loss to the Longhorns, but haven't complete fallen off the map, combining for a 6-4 record. Both have a great shot to play their way back into the group by the end of the season and will make the Texas resume look even more impressive as the playoff committee begins evaluating the contenders.

"They were obviously extremely impressive on Saturday beating the University of Oklahoma," Rhule said. 

That's tough to hear for Baylor fans that are cautiously optimistic about their Bears after they claimed a second home victory over a Power 5 opponent this season and just their third overall victory against a Power 5 program since starting 6-0 in 2016.

Baylor is now 4-2 on the season, but lost to the same Oklahoma team by 33 that Texas upset in the Cotton Bowl

Overall Improvement from a season ago? Yes, Baylor has seen a considerable amount through six games, but it falls considerably short of the standard that has been set by Texas with their early season success.

Even with significant losses to their defensive personnel from a season ago, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has turned his talented but youthful defense into undoubtedly the best unit in the conference and among the best in the nation.

"Our guys have to come out and play very confident.Texas is playing well. They have three top 25 wins. They are a team that is clicking on all cylinders."
- Matt Rhule

Orlando's most impressive performance came against Oklahoma when they made Kyler Murray's head spin for three quarters. Murray finally caught on in the final eight minutes of the game and gave Texas a scare, but a field goal ended the millionaire CFB QB's rally. Despite the 45 points given up, anyone who watched the game will tell you how good Texas has looked.

Offensively, sophomore Sam Ehlinger presents significant stress on all opponents. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound might be labeled as a QB, but he wears multiple hats for the Longhorns on offense, including what could easily be described as a short-yardage full back.

He also has four receptions on the season in six games so you can't completely forget about him after he hands the ball off or tosses it to the perimeter.

"Sam is a great competitor," Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said Monday afternoon. "He brings a lot to the table in the terms of his ability to run the football. We played Coach Herman and that staff when they were at Houston and Greg Ward was just a difference maker with his ability to run the football. Watching Sam, he can run the ball if they have numbers. He can run zone read and scramble and he is extremely accurate, and he takes advantage of his big receivers. He is playing very well and is in a system that allows him to excel.”

Even with Ehlinger's versatility, the best news for the Longhorns is the emergence of freshman running back Keaontay Ingram of Carthage. The East Texas product is pushing his way into the role as the No. 1 back next to Ehlinger ahead of Cal grad transfer Tre Watson who has been steady himself.

All of that is before even discussing the power forwards that call themselves receivers in Collin Johnson (6-6, 220) and Lil'Jordan Humphrey (6-4, 225), they duo that creates significant mismatches on the outside and have produced at a high level in all six games. Johnson and Humphrey have combined for 966 yards and eight touchdowns on 65 receptions and have made their case as being the best duo in the conference.

The unit ranks as the No. 64 overall offense in the country in yards and No. 53 scoring offense according to the raw statistics, but the mindset of the team while playing along with an elite defense means that the two working together can be deadly for even the best teams in the country.

"They’re playing really, really well right now, and we have a lot of respect for them and their players and their coaching staff and know it will be a great opportunity for us," Rhule said.

Baylor's last win over a ranked opponent came against No. 10 North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl in 2015. Since then the Bears are 0-7 against teams inside the top 25.

Todd Nickle
Phil Snow's defense will need to be ready for one of the most improved offenses in the country. 

Texas ranks No. 9 in the latest AP Poll.

After victories in 2013 and 2014, the Bears have lost three straight to the Longhorns including a 38-7 loss in Waco last season.

"Our guys have to come out and play very confident," Rhule said. "Texas is playing well. They have three top 25 wins. They are a team that is clicking on all cylinders."

With the Longhorns currently favored by more than two touchdowns, it will take a lot of confidence and a lot of luck for the Bears to escape one of the most electric atmospheres in college football this weekend.

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