IT’s Bill Frisbie, Ross Lucksinger, Mike Blackwell, Michael Pearle and Clendon Ross give you their picks, and their reasoning for the picks, for Saturday’s match-up between Texas and Baylor at DKR.
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Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer – We don’t need a stat sheet, or a depth chart, to assess Texas’ game against improving Baylor as much as we do a psychological assessment. There is the kind of loss that makes a team angry, and there is the kind of loss that leaves them despondent. For many of the Horns, it wasn’t so much that they lost but how they lost. For the first time this season, they were out-hit, out-muscled and out-played at Texas Tech. When Mack Brown was asked Monday what he was going to say to the Horns to make them feel better, he said he was still trying to figure how to make himself feel better. Hence Brown’s decision was to get physical in practice this week. There would be no rest for the weary following the most brutal four-game stretch in program history. There was attention to fundamentals and rhetoric of younger players getting a chance to grab some PT and infuse a hurting team with fresh legs and a fresh start. Baylor is also smarting from allowing a potential upset against Missouri to slip through its fingertips late in the game. It would have been the signature win of Art Briles’ first year as Baylor coach, and the Bears believe dual-threat QB Robert Griffin at least gives them a chance in every game. On paper, this looks like another one of those 52-10 home wins for Texas (given the across-the-board talent differential between the programs). But I suspect Griffin can keep Baylor in it for a while and, more than likely, Texas may need 20 minutes of football to shake out the cobwebs of last weekend. Texas 41, Baylor 17.
Ross Lucksinger, Inside Texas Editor – On this week’s podcast, Clendon told me he wants four quarters of great football out of Texas this week against Baylor.
Well I don’t. I just want two. I want two awesome quarters to start the game and to get the starters out of there.
These last four games have been absolutely brutal to the Texas Longhorns. Playing four top 15 teams in a row will do that to you and it clear had an affect on Texas up in Lubbock. There’s a difference between a team playing lazy and a team that’s tired. The result may be the same, but it looks different when each occurs.
Last Saturday, Texas looked tired.
The Longhorns know that they need to fly out of the gates against the Bears, not just because of anger over the loss in Lubbock, not just because they need to earn their place in the Big 12 and perhaps even BCS Championship game, but also because they need to leave no question of victory at halftime so the backups can get back in.
After that, as long as they don’t give up the win, the backups can do as they please. It’s basically what happened against Missouri. The Horns built up a huge lead, put in the backups, they gave up some yards and some points but in the end the Texas lead was too great.
Defensive backs coach Duane Akina opined this week that his willingness to put in backups against opponenets’ starters is one of the reasons his pass defense is better than its 116th ranking (288.67 ypg) indicates.
“When there’s 14th minutes left in the fourth quarter and up 50 points, I want to empty the bench and put in some walk-ons,” said Akina. “If you look at some of those yards in the Colorado game, when you’re defending the clock not the play and they throw for 130 yards in the last quarter, I don’t count those. The NCAA does.”
And that’s what I expect this game to be. Baylor is an upstart team with a strong quarterback and a great offensive system but just not enough talent across the board to hang with Texas. Basically Missouri all over again.
I’ll go out on a limb and guess that my score prediction has a closer margin of victory than any other on the staff, but what I’m actually predicting is more of a blowout than this score indicates. Texas 45, Baylor 31.
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor – There will be much ‘venting’ by the Texas Longhorns Saturday morning against Baylor. Their last experience on a football field was floating helplessly in a delirious sea of black and red last Saturday night in Lubbock. Now it’s time to vent.And vent they will. Poor Baylor is catching Texas at precisely the wrong time. November is “beauty pageant” month in college football. Teams across the land are showing their stuff to the BCS judges, trying their damndest to beat the living dog out of every opponent they face. It’s not enough to simply win now, in the current idiocy that is the BCS. You have to win, and you have to win big. You have to make those computers purr.Sorry, Baylor, the Longhorns mean no ill will. You have a coach you can rely on and a splendid quarterback and a top-notch Baptist curriculum.All of which will mean nothing on Saturday.Saturday will be “Meet Fozzy Whittaker” day at DKR. Whittaker was a much-too-late arrival to the fray last week in Lubbock. Not this week. With Quan Cosby banged up and an embarrassed offensive line, the Texas offense in general and run game in particular will be amped up on Saturday. Texas will throw the ball less on Saturday than they have the entire season. Whitaker will run the ball 20 times for 120 yards and a couple of touchdowns against the Bears.The Texas defense will also be eager to push the Texas Tech heartbreak into the far reaches of their psyche. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin is talented but young; hence a hard-to-read Will Muschamp game plan for Saturday. Passing quarterbacks are scary for Texas (see: Sam Bradford, Graham Harrell). Running quarterbacks are not.Though Colt McCoy won’t throw much Saturday, he will complete at least 70 percent of his passes, and he’ll probably add 2-3 touchdowns. And he’ll be much more assertive running the ball than he was last week.Look for the Horns to win this one easily. Texas 45, Baylor 14.Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher – If Baylor is ever going to catch Texas at a low ebb with a chance to spring an upset, this weekend might be the time.
After losing a gut-wrencher to Texas Tech, with players like Brian Orakpo and Quan Cosby hobbled, with a high-profile, off-the-field incident distracting the team and possibly messing with its chemistry, and with a natural letdown inevitable as the Horns face their first unranked foe in five weeks, Texas is likely to come out lethargic Saturday. The 11 a.m. start doesn’t help; I am expecting the stands to be about two-thirds full at kickoff, as many late-risers finish their tailgate bloody marys and make it in by the end of the first quarter. At that point, Baylor will be moving the football on the feet and arm of freshman standout Robert Griffin.
(Question: given the massive praise Mack Brown has heaped on Griffin all week, why the heck didn’t he recruit him? I know that Mack and Greg Davis had their sights set on Garrett Gilbert for 2009, but it certainly appears Griffin might have come in this season and immediately challenged for the number two spot; instead, the Horns will have to deal with him for the next four years.)
The Horns have not faced a dual-threat QB like Griffin all season, so the defense will have some adjustments to make to keep Griffin from punishing them. It may take a while to sort out, as the Bears gain some early confidence and keep it close with a couple of scores.
By halftime, Texas will be clinging to a seven-point lead, which will expand to 14 by the end of the third quarter. But by the fourth quarter, the Horns will pull away a bit against a Baylor team that is becoming competitive, but is still a Big 12 cellar-dweller. By game’s end, the Horns will have managed to put some salve in the wound still fresh from the heart-breaking loss to Tech, and will still be alive in the Big 12 and national championship hunt, at least for one more week. Texas 41, Baylor 20.Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher – We’re going to learn a lot more about this Texas team Saturday at DKR. It’s not that we haven’t already learned a lot through the brutal four-game stretch that wrapped up in heartbreak last Saturday in Lubbock, but it’s that very heartbreak that makes the Baylor game perhaps an indicator of what we will see from the Horns over the season’s less than brutal closing stretch. Will the Tech loss (and to a lesser extent the close call vs. Oklahoma State) motivate Texas to the level of play we saw consistently through the season’s first seven games? And do the Horns still believe that a Big 12 and even national title is within reach? Or did the loss to the Red Raiders so demoralize the team, and did the physical and mental stress of the mid-season Murder’s Row take such a toll that this team is simply incapable of returning to a championship level of play? Surprisingly, the Bears are a good test of where the Horns’ heads (and bodies) are at. Under new coach Art Briles, Baylor is not the complete patsy that it has been for much of the Big 12’s history (thanks again, Aggies, for hiring Mike Sherman instead of Briles) that would have made this contest almost meaningless in previous years. The Texas coaches are almost surely able to capture their players’ attention with film of Robert Griffin at quarterback, and of a Baylor defense that has played reasonably well in close losses to Nebraska and Missouri.Oh, and I’m thinking that the coaches, and Will Muschamp in particular, have captured the players’ attention with film of their own play last week. Aside from the punt units, there is not a position unit on the team that didn’t contribute to last week’s loss, and that should have created a good learning environment (although the players may disagree with the use of the word “good” in that phrase) and a motivated group of guys this week in Austin. Although I’m a bottom line guy (a win is a win is a win), this needs to be a statement game from Texas. A statement that the performance from both the players and coaches last week was an aberration, and not an indication of a team on the decline. It’ll take leadership from Colt McCoy and Roy Miller, from Mack Brown and Will Muschamp, and it’ll take a four quarter effort from everyone, including the guys that will be asked to step in for the injured Quan Cosby and Brian Orakpo. And that’s what I expect we’ll see Saturday morning. Texas 45, Baylor 16.
Pat Culpepper: Texas 42, Baylor 17. Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 49, Baylor 18.Make Your Texas Tech game picks in the Inside Texas Pick ‘Em Contest