At one point, Baylor’s season finale against Texas looked like one last hurdle for the Bears en route to a Big 12 title and College Football Playoff bid. Meanwhile, Texas was going to be playing for postseason positioning.
Fast-forward. Oklahoma has clinched the Big 12. The Longhorns will be spending the holidays at home. Aside from Baylor possibly jumping up a few spots in the bowl pecking order, that’s all gone. This one is for Lone Star State pride.
Texas at Baylor
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: Baylor -21
Three Things to Watch
1. Who’s motivated?
Baylor head coach Art Briles loves sticking it to everyone, including the flagship school of his home state. Will his players show that same passion for pouring it on when they take the field Saturday now that the stakes are lower? Do the Longhorns care about finishing out the season on a high note?
2. Protecting Chris Johnson
The Bears are down to their third-string quarterback in sophomore Chris Johnson. While Johnson lacks the skills of Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham, he does have more than enough ability to lead Baylor to a win on Saturday. Of greater concern to Briles: Making sure his fourth-string QB, whoever that may be, isn’t forced into action.
3. Texas’ passing game
Junior Tyrone Swoopes will operate the Longhorn O on Saturday as Jerrod Heard continues to recover from a concussion. Swoopes has yet to show many signs of being an effective passer, which likely means Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will look to tee off on the run. Swoopes needs to make a few plays with his arm to take advantage of the Bears’ aggressive scheme.
This has the feeling of a bowl matchup between disappointed teams with little interest in a postseason trip to El Paso or Boise. Besides upsetting Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout, Texas has offered little reason to think it can win this game. However, an inspired effort from the Longhorns could potentially put a scare in the Bears, who are coming off an emotional letdown from losing last week to TCU.
(If by “scare” you mean keeping the game within two scores.)
Prediction: Baylor 34, Texas 21
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.