The Texas Longhorns and Baylor Bears renew an underrated Lone Star State rivalry this weekend.
In Year 2 under head coach Dave Aranda, the Bears are surging at 6-1 overall. A 3-1 record in Big 12 play has put them squarely in the mix for a spot in the Big 12 title game. Having lost two straight games, the Longhorns (4-3, 2-2) have to stop the bleeding before they can aspire to such heights.
Here's what to watch as both teams enter the home stretch of the season.
Texas at No. 16 Baylor
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 30 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Baylor -3
When Texas Has the Ball
The Longhorns don't lack firepower. Importantly, Bijan Robinson has removed any doubt this season about who the best running back in the country is. The workhorse from Arizona is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and has already run for 10 touchdowns in seven games. Don't be surprised to see head coach Steve Sarkisian put the ball in Robinson's hands early and often.
The Bears are solid against the run, allowing 3.6 yards per attempt on the ground. The Texas ground attack will be their toughest test yet.
Baylor is stingier through the air. Opponents are averaging 6.8 yards per attempt against the Bears, the fewest in the Big 12. Sarkisian may want to let quarterback Casey Thompson get the benefit of working off play-action, rather than coming out throwing on Saturday.
When Baylor Has the Ball
Baylor adapted quickly to the offensive scheme of first-year coordinator Jeff Grimes. The Bears are averaging 38.3 points per game this year, good for third in the Big 12.
Interestingly, the Bears are No. 1 in the conference at 6.1 yards per carry. When they throw, they're pumping out nine yards on average — also the third-best mark in the league. There's no better word for the offense's production other than "solid."
Texas needs to shore up its leaky run defense fast with five games left in the season. If the Longhorns can contain Baylor running backs Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner on Saturday, take that as a promising sign for this unit.
When a college football team does everything with overwhelming competence, it can win its fair share of games. Welcome to Baylor football in 2021.
There's no reason to believe the Bears will start backsliding this week after enjoying an open date last Saturday. More importantly, what did the off week do for Texas on defense?
The Longhorns have the pieces to field a competent D, but they continually get pushed around versus the run. Grimes will undoubtedly want to gash UT up front to control the flow of the game and keep the ball away from the explosive Texas offense. The open date gave Texas defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski an opportunity to come up with a plan to fortify his unit on the ground. We'll find out how he made use of it on Saturday.
Everything about this matchup points to a Baylor win, from the strengths of the teams to the fact the game is in Waco. However, a chance to do more installations and smooth out the rough edges tends to do more for a coaching staff in the first season with a team. Expect the Longhorns to make a bigger leap on Saturday and earn an upset win over the Bears.
Prediction: Texas 31, Baylor 28
Podcast: Week 9 Preview, Predictions + Picks Against the Spread & Texas Tech Coaching Search
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.