Baylor-Texas rivalry has flipped
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Baylor-Texas rivalry has turned. So far, in fact, it’s more like it’s been flipped on its head.
Once dismissed among the dregs of the Big 12, Baylor has emerged as one of the top programs in the league. The Bears are the defending Big 12 champs, are ranked No. 7 and have won three of the last four against Texas (2-2) in games Baylor (4-0) easily controlled.
Those easy Texas victories in a rivalry that dates to 1901? You have to go all the way back to Colt McCoy and Vince Young for those. This is a new rivalry now and one first-year Texas coach Charlie Strong is about to see up close Saturday.
In his first matchup with Baylor coach Art Briles, Strong’s team is a two-touchdown underdog — at home.
“No. 1 in offense, scoring offense and total offense. They just generate points,” Strong said. “You watch a play and it’s a touchdown there, and then the next time they come back up, hand the ball off, then they go score another touchdown. ... So it’s going to be a major test for us, and we’re going to have to play well. We’re going to have to play above our heads.”
Briles dismisses any talk that his program has surpassed mighty Texas.
“We certainly don’t feel that way and really don’t look at things that way,” Briles said. “All that stuff really has no bearing on what’s going to happen Saturday.”
Texas wide receiver John Harris stirred things up on Monday when asked about Baylor’s success against Texas when he said, “They’re still Baylor. .... We’re still Texas.”
Harris’ comments immediately lit up social media and fan message boards, but Baylor players weren’t interested in taking the bait.
“Just so we’re clear: I’m not going to answer any questions about any of their tweets or anything like that,” Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said.
Here are some things to watch when Baylor and Texas play Saturday:
THE QUARTERBACKS: Petty is among a handful of Heisman Trophy hopefuls, an experienced player who leads a dominant offense. Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is very much a work in progress. Swoopes has three career starts and is showing improvement, but the Longhorns’ offense ranks among the worst in the country.
BAYLOR DEFENSIVE END SHAWN OAKMAN: The 6-foot-9, 280-pound Oakman could be Swoopes’ worst nightmare on Saturday. Oakman has five sacks already and this week matches up against a patchwork offensive line that has been decimated by injury and suspensions. Strong has already kicked starting tackle Kennedy Estelle off the team and Desmond Harrison, who was expected to be the other starter, still hasn’t played yet because of violations of team rules.
BAYLOR RUNNING BACK SHOCK LINWOOD: Petty and the long touchdown passes get all the publicity, but Linwood does the dirty work, pounding out the tough yards rushing that draw in defenses for the big play. He’s productive, too. Linwood averages 4.9 yards and has scored seven touchdowns.
BAYLOR WIDE RECEIVERS: This is a track team and freshman K.D. Cannon is just the latest speedster. Cannon averages 130 yards and has scored five touchdowns of 46, 81, 50, 42 and 89 yards. The Bears return Levi Norwood, who missed three games because of a wrist injury, and Antwan Goodley had six catches for 114 yards last week against Iowa State.
TEXAS DEFENSIVE BACKS: If Texas has a strength, it’s creating turnovers. Cornerback Duke Thomas bit on a fake and surrendered the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minutes against UCLA, but rebounded with two interceptions last week against Kansas. Cornerback Quandre Diggs also has snuffed two scoring drives this season with end zone interceptions. Texas has nine total interceptions this season and if the Longhorns can force turnovers that give Swoopes a short field, Texas can keep the game close.