(7) Baylor (4-0) at Texas (2-2) (ET)
GAME NOTES: Lone Star State rivals square off on Saturday afternoon, as the seventh-ranked Baylor Bears pay a visit to the Texas Longhorns for a Big 12 Conference tussle at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Baylor enters the fray a perfect 4-0, having easily disposed of SMU (45-0), Northwestern State (70-6), Buffalo (63-21) and Iowa State (49-28), the latter of which occurred last weekend and was the Bears's conference opener. BU, which is playing its third straight road game this week after kicking off the campaign with a pair of tilts at its brand new stadium, is the defending Big 12 champs, and it appears in all likelihood that Art Briles' club will battle Oklahoma for the league's top spot this season.
Texas has split its first four games of the Charlie Strong era, sandwiching a pair of relatively easy wins (38-7 over North Texas, 23-0 over Kansas) around a pair of tough losses (41-7 versus BYU, 20-17 to UCLA). The Longhorns are back in Austin for the first time since the Sept. 6 setback to the Cougars, and they'll play only three more times in front of the hometown faithful after this contest.
Texas owns a commanding 74-25-4 lead in the all-time series with Baylor, but the Bears won last year's meeting in Waco, 30-10, giving them their first Big 12 title and sending them to the Fiesta Bowl.
Baylor's offensive exploits are bordering on the absurd, as the team continues to lead the nation in both scoring (56.8 ppg) and total offense (641.0 ypg). Under the direction of quarterback Bryce Petty, the Bears own the No. 4 passing attack, accounting for 401.3 ypg. Petty has hit the mark on 65.3 percent of his throws, and has seven touchdown passes against only one interception. Backup Seth Russell has the same TD-to-INT ratio.
KD Cannon is the top receiver, as he has hauled in 23 balls for 519 yards and four scores, while Jay Lee has four TD catches as part of his 19-reception, 294-yard effort. As for the Baylor ground assault, Shock Linwood leads the way with 301 yards and seven scores, helping the team as a whole generate 239.8 ypg and amass 18 TDs.
The Baylor defense hasn't faced much adversity this season, and as a result permits just 13.8 ppg. The Bears have stood tall against both the run (80.0 ypg) and the pass (170.5 ypg), and they've logged 18 sacks while not allowing a single one on offense. Bryce Hager leads the way with 21 tackles, while Orion Stewart is next with 20.
Petty was his usual productive self in last week's rout of Iowa State, passing for 336 yards and a TD, while scoring twice on the ground. Linwood added three rushing scores and the Bears totaled 601 total yards compared to only 339 for the Cyclones. Corey Coleman was a monster in the passing game, bringing in a dozen balls for a career-best 154 yards and TD, while Cannon caught a career- high nine passes (48 yards) and Antwan Goodley tallied six for 114 yards.
Alavion Edwards paced the Bears with 11 tackles, two of which were for a loss, and the defense was credited with three sacks while allowing ISU to reach the red zone only twice.
While it wasn't the best game they've played, Briles was proud of the overall effort put forth by his guys in a tough spot.
"It's tough to win on the road. Iowa State is a good football team. We did what we had to do. We're not happy, we're not patting each other on the back or saying were the best team around. We did a workman-like job tonight and took care of business in an environment that wanted to beat us."
In stark contrast to the explosiveness Baylor is capable of when it has the ball, the Texas offense produces just 21.2 points and 315.5 yards per game. Neither mode of attack strikes much fear into the hearts of opposing defenders, with the run accounting for just 120.5 ypg and the pass only 195 ypg.
Tyrone Swoopes took over for the injured David Ash and has performed well, completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 590 yards and five TDs. He has been picked off only once, and his go-to guys are Jaxon Shipley and John Harris, with each having caught more than three times as many passes any other player on the roster. Harris has four TD grabs. The run game features a pair of backs with at least 191 yards. Johnathan Gray paces the unit with 222 yards, while Malcolm Brown has half of the team's four rushing scores.
Take away the 41 points surrendered to BYU, and the Longhorns have been fairly stout on defense. In all, foes are averaging just 17 points and 319.8 yards per contest. The 'Horns have been especially tough against the pass, yielding a mere 140.2 ypg and only two aerial scores.
Jordan Hicks leads the way with 55 tackles, while Steve Edmond has 46. Malcolm Brown is credited with 3.5 of the team's 17 sacks, and Hicks, Quandre Diggs and Duke Thomas each have a pair of INTs, the unit as a whole coming up with nine picks.
Last week's shutout win at Kansas wasn't pretty, as the Longhorns tallied just 329 total yards, including a mere 111 on 36 rushing attempts (3.1 ypc). Gray finished with just 44 yards, leaving it up to Swoopes to get the job done. The sophomore quarterback completed 19-of-34 passes for 218 yards and a TD, with both Harris and Shipley turning in solid performances with a combined 12 catches for 170 yards and a score (Harris).
Although it was against a struggling offense, the Longhorns were impressive on defense last week in holding the Jayhawks to just 313 yards, only 140 of which came via the pass. The unit recorded four sacks and came up with as many turnovers (all INTs), including both of Thomas' picks on the season. Hicks was all over the field for Strong's club, logging 15 tackles and an INT, while Edmond was hot on his heels with 14 stops, including a sack.
Strong felt the same way as Briles did about winning a conference road game.
"It is tough to go in someone's place and beat them, especially when they play in your conference. So it's a big win for us. I tell them anytime you play on the road you've got to pack your defense and your special teams. Those two units played well."
Texas is sure to put forth maximum effort in front of the home fans, but the Longhorns don't have the offensive firepower to keep up with the high-octane Baylor attack. If UT plays exceptional defense and is able to come up with some key takeaways, it could be a game. If not, expect the Bears to keep motoring along as they seek a repeat of last year's championship season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Baylor 35, Texas 17