Of all the college football programs out there, there aren’t many that Texas is more familiar with than Baylor.
The Longhorns and Bears will meet for the 110th time on Saturday. Texas has faced only Texas A&M (118) and Oklahoma (116) more.
But the Baylor team that arrives at Royal-Memorial Stadium won’t be the same one that recorded a 24-10 win over Texas in 2019. It will surely look different than the squads that UT bested in 2017 and 2018. Baylor has a new coach in Dave Aranda, who replaced Matt Rhule after the latter turned a three-year run in Waco into an NFL gig with the Carolina Panthers. The Bears also have new coordinators on offense and defense.
From a scheming standpoint, those new coaches have added a wrinkle. Thus far, not much film exists on what the Bears’ offense looks like under Larry Fedora. Scouting reports are just as hard to find for Baylor’s Ron Roberts-directed defense.
“I know that they’re going to play hard,” Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger said on Tuesday. “I remember just last year the way that they played and the culture that they had.”
Had this been a normal season, Texas (2-2) would have plenty of Baylor-related materials to study. Last year, Texas travelled to see a 9-1 Bear team. The year before, Baylor had played six times ahead of its tussle with Texas. In fact, Baylor has gone into the Texas game with less than six games worth of experience on only three occasions since 2000.
This year, however, Baylor has only played twice. The Bears recorded a 47-14 win over Kansas on Sept. 26. A week later, West Virginia and Baylor dueled for four quarters and two overtime sessions before the Mountaineers earned a 27-21 win.
Like every team in the Big 12, Baylor lost two non-conference games from the schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic. Then the team’s opener against Louisiana Tech and a make-up game with Houston were scrapped. And as it dealt with COVID-19 problems on its own roster, Baylor was forced to postpone last week’s game against Oklahoma State until December.
So, how will the Longhorns prepare for this year’s iteration of the Bears?
Ehlinger said the Longhorns must study the personnel and schemes that the Bears used in their first two games. The senior also believed that it may be useful to look up what happened at these coordinators’ prior jobs. Roberts spent the previous two seasons at Louisiana. Fedora, who worked last year as an analyst for Texas, was last a coordinator in 2007. The North Carolina team that Fedora led from 2012-18 twice boasted a top-10 scoring offense, though.
“Playing at this level, this isn’t a specific coordinator’s first job,” Ehlinger said. “People generally carry over tendencies that they have from previous schools and what got them at the university that they’re coaching at because it’s probably proven (to be) successful.”
The Longhorns also have been able to scout some of Baylor’s key players over the years. Bears quarterback and Austin native Charlie Brewer has started twice against his hometown team. Running back John Lovett rushed for a touchdown in the 2017 and 2019 games. Linebacker Terrel Bernard once committed to Tom Herman while the coach was still at Houston, and Herman joked this week that it seems that the linebacker has “been playing (at Baylor) forever.”
“I played a lot of these guys before,” UT defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham said. “Even though it’s a new offense, I still have some sort of playing history with them. I also can watch film based on last year just to get a (read) on certain players.”