Matchups: Week 14

Wes Maulsby

Quarterback: This one is obvious. Baylor has a Heisman candidate at quarterback with Robert Griffin III. He has passed for 3,678 yards with 72-percent completion. He has led Baylor to eight wins this season, including winning four in a row. He is also dangerous on the ground, with two 100-yard rushing games this season, and is averaging 55 yards per game on the ground. Texas, meanwhile, has been struggling all year at the quarterback position, but it may have finally found an answer. McCoy didn’t have a passing touchdown and only 110 yards through the air, but he made plays when it mattered as he guided Texas to a win over Texas A&M. Baylor has a Heisman candidate in the backfield, and the definite edge at the position.

Running Back: Texas peaked here in the two-game span against Texas Tech and Kansas, but has since rushed for 353 yards in three games. The Longhorns got more than 400 against both Texas Tech and Kansas. With the injuries to Fozzy Whittaker, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, the running game for Texas has sputtered. Baylor averages more than 210 yards per game on the ground and shredded the Red Raiders for 360 yards rushing with Terrence Ganaway rushed for a career-high 246 yards. With all the injuries that Texas has suffered at the position, the advantage has to go to Baylor with Ganaway and Griffin combining for a dangerous ground attack.

Receivers: Texas got a much needed boost at this position with Jaxon Shipley returning to the lineup last week against the Aggies. Though he only caught three passes for 34 yards, he threw a touchdown pass to Blaine Irby in the second quarter and provides a much needed play-making presence to a team constantly looking for one. In addition to catching the touchdown pass, Irby has become a key to the offense and has seven catches with two touchdown catches in the last three games. Kendall Wright has been an explosive player all year for the Bears and is their leading receiver. He has 95 catches this for 1,406 yards this season. Baylor has four receivers with at least 35 catches, and three of them have more than 750 yards receiving. Baylor’s receiving corps has playmakers and experience all over the field, while Texas is relying on a true freshman as its primary playmaker.

Offensive Line: Baylor is second in the nation in total offense and is in the top 20 in rush offense this season. The Bears have allowed 24 sacks this season and are third in the conference in tackles for loss allowed, having only given up 52 so far this season. The Texas line has allowed 66 tackles for loss this season and has also allowed 24 sacks this season. Both teams can run the ball, but the Bears have been more consistent in recent weeks at running and passing the ball. The Texas line has had its moments, including some dominating short yardage situations against Texas A&M. Both lines have been solid this season, but the Bears have been putting up better numbers and has more experience.

Defensive Line: The Texas defensive line has been a force of nature of late and has been dominating Big 12 offensive lines. Texas has 88 tackles for loss on the season, with 64 of those coming in the last five games at a rate of more than 12 per game. Baylor only has 55 tackles for loss on the season and is in near the bottom third of the country in sacks with 17. Alex Okafor lived in the Aggie backfield last week and, though only credited with one tackle, was a primary part of forcing Tannehill into quick throws. Texas’ depth along the line has been a problem for opposing teams. Baylor is No. 102 against the run and has not been able to get into the backfield enough this season. The Texas line is among the best in the country, not just the conference, while Baylor’s line lags in the bottom third in the conference.

Linebackers: Emmanuel Acho has been playing at an all-conference level and has 98 tackles so far this season. Alongside him is Keenan Robinson who overcame an injured thumb to haunt Tannehill in the backfield last week on blitzes and rushes, getting to him many times throughout the game. Baylor is led by senior Elliot Coffey, who has 89 tackles this season. Baylor has a poor rush defense, and an even worse pass defense. Baylor’s linebackers have to do a better job of getting into the backfield to break up the play and forcing the backs into the defensive line. Texas’ linebackers have been playing at an all conference level over the past five games and should do significantly better than the Baylor linebackers.

Secondary: Against one of the best receiving units in the Big 12, Texas’ defensive backs had their marquee game of the season. With three interceptions, and a pick-six by Carrington Byndom, the Longhorn defensive backs had one of the best games by a secondary unit this season in the Big 12. Texas has the No. 35 pass defense in the nation but is No. 8 in pass efficiency defense. Baylor has one of the worst pass defenses in the conference and is in the bottom third of pass efficiency defense nationally. Even against a Heisman candidate, the Texas pass defense should be stout, and one of the best individual matchups of the game will be Texas’ Byndom against Kendall Wright of Baylor.

Special Teams: Baylor is one of the worst kickoff return teams in the nation and is last in the conference. Texas, even without Whittaker, is in the top 15 in kickoff returns nationally and only trails Kansas State in the Big 12. Baylor is significantly better on punt returns, but the advantage still lies with Texas, which is the top punt return team in the conference and No. 7 nationally. Although Baylor’s kicker, Aaron Jones, has made 95 percent of his PATs but is only hitting half of his field goals, missing from all ranges. Texas’ Justin Tucker didn’t have a good day punting the ball against Texas A&M, but he made the game winning, 40-yard field goal as time expired and has been money in the bank for the Longhorns all season. Texas has the superior athletes on special teams and one of the most reliable kickers in the Big 12.