Bears, Longhorns anxious to get back on the field
The Bears have had three games canceled already in this COVID-laced 2020 season, including last week's game with Oklahoma State. They officially "paused" their football activities for a week on Oct. 8 due to coronavirus cases within the program. The last time the Bears played a game it was a 27-21 double-overtime loss at West Virginia back on Oct. 3.
Meanwhile, the Longhorns have had two weeks to stew over their four-overtime loss to hated rival Oklahoma. That 53-45 scorefest has vexed the Horns and their psyche, especially on the defensive side of the ball. In their three Big 12 games played so far the UT defense has given up 56, 33, and 53 points, going 1-2 vs. Texas Tech, TCU, and the Sooners.
Baylor at Texas
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas -9
When Baylor Has the Ball
Trust in Trestan. New head coach Dave Aranda says that running back/return man Trestan Ebner has "elite pass-catching skills." And he showed his game-breaking ability in the opener against Kansas, returning two kickoffs to the house and also scoring a touchdown on the ground and through the air. But Ebner went quiet in the loss to West Virginia, running for nine yards and posting just 17 as a receiver. If this game vs. Texas is going to be the track meet we anticipate, Ebner is going to have to be a difference-maker to help the Bears' cause.
Coming up clutch. Baylor heads into this game as one of the worst red-zone offenses in the country with just two touchdowns in seven trips inside the 20. With an uber-experienced quarterback like Charlie Brewer, that's a bit of a surprise. Opposite of that the Longhorns are second in the Big 12 in stopping opponents in the red zone — surrendering a field goal or nothing on eight of 20 such situations.
Tackle better. Line up better. Execute better. Texas head coach Tom Herman has been adamant about the play of his defense. During his weekly press conference, he said all areas of the defense need to step up. Assignments have been missed, poor tackling has been rampant and coverages have been blown. Stay tuned to how much improvement (or not) that the defense has made during this week. Co-defensive coordinators Chris Ash and Coleman Hutzler, the pressure's on you to stop the Burnt Orange from getting burned even more.
When Texas Has the Ball
The Sam Show rolls on. It's not hard to realize that Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger is the key to this offense. He does it all. Or maybe we could say he HAS to do it all. Against Oklahoma, Ehlinger went 30-of-53 for 287 yards as well as 112 rushing yards on 23 carries. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Ehlinger accounts for 45 percent of Texas' ground game so far this season. A little more balance is a must for the Longhorns, especially the emergence of the running backs.
Cut down on the mistakes. This is obviously a "must do" for each and every game for each and every team. But despite leading the nation in scoring (49.5 ppg), the Horns still need to stop being generous to the opposition. Ehlinger needs to cut down on the interceptions and Keaontay Ingram needs to put a handle on the ball so he doesn't let it fall out of his arms. On top of that, UT has committed a stunning 38 penalties, all of which seem to happen after a big play is made.
Baylor has the better defense. But will it be good enough to stop Ehlinger and the Longhorns? The Bears are 18th nationally in total yards (336.5), 15th in passing defense (185), and 17th in points (20.5) allowed per game. As mentioned above the Horns lead the country in scoring and seem to beat themselves more than anything else.
Texas and Baylor come into this one in different situations. Keep in mind that the Bears had to suspend practices for nearly a week leading up to Saturday's contest. When the New England Patriots went through a similar shutdown in their operations, the first game back they lost 18-12 to the Denver Broncos. Following that line of thinking, the Longhorns get the advantage here.
Prediction: Texas 48, Baylor 35
Podcast: Week 8 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.