Redshirt senior Bryce Petty sat out one game with back issues, but he rebounded with two rushing touchdowns and 336 passing yards last week. If he can keep up the strong numbers against tough competition, he may find himself back in the running for the Heisman.
Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes had a career-high 218 passing yards last week, but those yards were against a miserable Kansas defense. That number is microscopic compared to the number of yards Baylor will put up. On the bright side, Swoopes has thrown only one interception through three games.
Baylor has morphed into “Oregon South” thanks to an influx of pocket-sized scat backs, who put up monster stats in the zone read offense. 5-foot-9-inch sophomore Shock Linwood has been the Bears’ feature back and has already scored seven rushing touchdowns while averaging a shade under five yards per carry.
Texas has two immensely talented backs, junior Johnathan Gray and senior Malcolm Brown, but neither has been able to pick up meaningful yardage behind their patchwork offensive line. The tandem has also been non-existent in the passing game, combining for just 20 yards on 10 receptions.
Senior Antwan Goodley and redshirt sophomore Corey Coleman, two of Baylor’s top receivers, made their season debuts against Iowa State with 100-yard performances. Freshman KD Cannon is averaging 22.6 yards per catch and may be the most explosive weapon in the Baylor offense.
Senior John Harris continued his torrid streak against Kansas, posting his fourth consecutive game with a touchdown, and senior Jaxon Shipley made a couple of huge snags. Swoopes has not looked accurate enough to routinely connect on deep passes, so the receivers need to pick up the slack by running for more yards after the catch.
The Baylor line has torn holes into opposing defensive fronts, allowing its running backs to routinely spring into the second level of the defense. Junior left tackle Spencer Drango is a potential All-American and the anchor of a unit that has not allowed a sack in 162 drop backs.
Texas’ offensive line is an eclectic mix of inexperienced sophomores, juniors and a converted defensive lineman in Marcus Hutchins. The offensive line even struggled to pave the way for the running backs against a weak Kansas front.
This unit has the individual talent to be the strength of the Longhorn defense, but senior Cedric Reed cannot continuously fight off the opposing offenses’ double teams. Sophomore defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway will have to win his matchups with Baylor’s interior linemen if the Longhorns hope to stop the run.
Statistically, Baylor’s defensive line is one of the best in college football, but Iowa State has been the only thing resembling a challenge so far this season. Junior defensive end Shawn Oakman, a Penn State transfer, was an All-Big 12 selection last season and could spend a lot of time in the Texas backfield.
Fifth-year senior Bryce Hager has two All-Big 12 distinctions under his belt and may add All-American to his résumé by the end of the year. The linebackers have been instrumental in holding opponents to a conference-best 80 rushing yards
This unit played well against Kansas for the Longhorns but so has just about everyone who has faced the Jayhawks. Fifth-year senior Jordan Hicks recorded an interception against Kansas, but he will have to make an extra effort to cover the sidelines in order to rein in Baylor’s speedy
This unit has quietly held opponents to the sixth-fewest passing yards in the nation. Junior Duke Thomas is still susceptible to the occasional big play, but he snagged two interceptions last week. He and senior Quandre Diggs have to play flawlessly in their biggest challenge of
Baylor’s defensive backs have held opponents to 170.5 passing yards per game but that may be a result of a weak schedule through four games. That being said, redshirt sophomore cornerback Xavien Howard has already recorded two interceptions on the season.
Baylor’s punt coverage has been spectacular. It has held opponents to only one yard per return in the early going. Sophomore Lynx Hawthorne has been dangerous on kick returns, but sophomore kicker Chris Callahan is an atrocious 1-for-6 on field goal tries.
Extra points and blocked field goal tries have now been added to the long list of things that have gone wrong for the Longhorns’ special teams this season. Texas cannot beat ranked opponents if it makes a habit of missing field goals. Shipley did have a big return against Kansas, however.