WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 06: Seth Russell #17 of the Baylor Bears throws against the Northwestern State Demons at McLane Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Football

Betting the Horns: This may sound scary, but the fun is over for the Texas defense

Posted October 28th, 2016

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Texas fans will cringe when they read this, but the fun is over for the Longhorns defense.

The Horns just faced two of the three worst offenses in the Big 12, with mixed results. These next three weeks, Texas gets three of the nation’s top 10 offenses in Baylor, Texas Tech and West Virginia.

Eighth-ranked Baylor, a 3½-point favorite Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium, should be a matchup nightmare for the Longhorns. Think Notre Dame or Cal, but with a more potent running game and a stout defense.

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Seth Russell #17 of the Baylor Bears celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Kansas Jayhawks in the first quarter on October 15, 2016 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Seth Russell #17 of the Baylor Bears celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Kansas Jayhawks in the first quarter on October 15, 2016 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Granted, the Bears’ stats are skewed because they’ve been accumulated against the NCAA’s 114th-ranked schedule. All the heavy lifting is yet to come; the Bears have to travel to Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Yet nobody denies Baylor retains good front-line, upper-class talent from the Art Briles days. Seth Russell is a star quarterback who’s 14-0 as a starter, Shock Linwood leads four excellent running options and KD Cannon is a bonafide No. 1 wideout.

The Bears’ ground game, whose 282.8-yard average is seventh in the country, sets up Rusell and his fleet receivers. Their 266.3 passing yard per game make this one of the best balanced attacks in FBS.

The Texas defense, 126th against the pass and 78th vs. the run, is likely to look lost again, unable to concentrate on any one thing.

After last year’s crazy game in Waco, where the Bears had to play a slot receiver at quarterback, Baylor will have revenge on its mind. The Bears, ranked 10th, were a 21-point favorite and lost 23-17.

This could be the last time for years that Baylor has the talent to beat Texas. The school’s sexual assault scandal fallout basically ruined two recruiting classes. Last year’s ravaged group was ranked as low as 56th by Rivals.com. The 2017 class is 135th in the 247Sports consensus rankings — below Harvard, Yale, South Dakota, you name it.

Sixteen of Baylor’s 22 starters are juniors or seniors. Behind them? Not much.

The pick: Baylor 45, Texas 24. The Longhorns play much better at home, so maybe it’ll be closer. However, their best chance would have been for the Bears, thinned by defections, to come in banged up. They are not. Assuming Russell doesn’t get hurt, this could get ugly.

Big 12 look: Oklahoma State (+3½) over West Virginia. The Mountaineers have held three straight Big 12 opponents to the teens in scoring. Bet they can’t make it four in a row. The Cowboys are in the right spot to play their game of the year. … TCU (-9) over Texas Tech: A loss will break one of these two emotionally fragile teams. The Red Raiders will suffer hangover from the 66-59 loss to Oklahoma. … Iowa State (+6½) over Kansas State: The Cyclones finish with four of five at home, where they play pretty well.

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