Matchup: Week 5 vs Baylor

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By Ian Boyd , Inside Texas Special Contributor
Posted Jul 23, 2014
Copyright © 2017 InsideTexas.com


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Cedric Reed

2013 was the biggest season the Bears have ever had as a football program and I type that with the confidence to avoid spending even the smallest amount of time researching to verify this claim. 

 

Week 5Baylor

 

Already on to their 2ndquarterback after Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, the 2013 Bears accomplished the unthinkable and exploited a down year in the Big 12 for their first league title. They parlayed that into their first ever BCS bowl game where they surprisingly met their match in fellow Cinderella, UCF.

 

In the bizarro Big 12 of 2013, Baylor had one of the league’s top defenses and played Texas in a de facto “conference championship game” to end the season. There, the two programs trajectories intersected as Baylor ascended with a crushing win while Mack Brown was finally forced to pay the piper for relying on Case McCoy to save his season and job.

 

A logical conclusion after this season would have been to do what it took to stop Baylor’s surge to the top by prioritizing Briles and handing the king of Texas football his rightful place on the throne in Austin.

 

Interestingly, Texas instead installed a tough defensive coach and set up a fascinating battle over the next few years in which the Bears are trying to seize more and more attention and recruits away from Texas while the Longhorns fight to hang on and rebuild their former empire.

 

That’s a big win for fans of college football and it sets up the 2014 game in Austin as aother battle royaleBriles’ Bears are going to look to absolutely maul Charlie Strong’s Texas and build their 2014 season around the continued narrative of replacing Texas as the top Texas program in the state. Meanwhile Strong will hope to stampede the upstart Bears and put them back in their place as annual Longhorn fodder.


Bear offense: Match-up challenges for Texas

 

Baylor’s offense presents match-up challenges for every opponent. There are three different philosophies at work in the Baylor system, the spread, the veer, and Briles’ own inventions.

 

They spread teams out with wider receiver splits, pound them inside with massive lineman blocking at angles, and then break them over the top with Briles ‘vertical or not’ passing game. The Baylor receivers make use vertical option routes on a large number of their plays, often supported by play-action.

 

It’s a fully modern option offense with the intent to try and score on virtually every play. This year expect them to expand their bag of tricks to include even more options for the QB to hand-off or throw downfield.

 

The loss of Robbie Rhodes was a relief to Texas and other B12 defenses since he was likely to emerge as a stud in 2014, but they still have receivers that are challenging to handle on vertical routes. Antwan Goodley will hurt you in a hurry if you can’t stay on top of him and prevent him from catching slants at full speed over the middle. Between Levi Norwood, Corey Coleman, and Jay Lee they have some other burners ready to step up and join him.

 

Baylor’s RB Shock Linwood proved to be a worthy successor to the Baylor RB position, where anyone who can read the hole and blow through arm tackles DBs can find success, but word on the street is that RB Johnny Jefferson might be the most explosive player on the roster.

 

Baylor loses All-American guard Cyril Richardson from their fold along with center Stefan Hubner but they return likely All-American left tackle Spencer Drango and some other promising pieces that will likely result in another strong Bear OL.

 

The Bears also present some interesting challenges with their TE, Tre’Von Armstead, who was recruited to play OT but has remained at 280 pounds, can run a 4.8 40, and has flashed soft hands. When the Bears line him up at H-back or TE he allows them to throw a lot of weight around in their run game while still spreading the field and attacking the deep coverage.

 

Bryce Petty is the biggest challenge for Texas to solve. If he’s healthier in 2014 and more accurate on intermediate routes then finding ways to throw him off will be essential or else his ability to throw it deep or take off running will prove too much.

 

Best 5-man skill player lineup:

 

11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE)

 

In the red zone at least, the Bears ability to combine three vertical threats with a backfield of Petty, RB, and Armstead is a puzzle that will prove very difficult to solve.

 

Defenses have started trying to defend Baylor with an aggressive front backed by man-free coverage, but Baylor’sincorporation of Armstead makes this a tricky business. To begin with, he makes their run game a tough match for a seven-man box because of his ability to block DEs or LBs.

 

Secondly, he can feign a block and run a quick hitting route over the middle if Texas’ linebackers start attacking the line of scrimmage too quickly.

 

Finally, he helps their protection by bolstering the run and play-action threat and by teaming up with their right tackle and Drango on the left side to make their protections nearly unassailable.

 

The other challenge for Texas is deep safety coverage. Do they have anyone that can lock down the deep middle and show enough range on the back end to protect the deep field from Petty?

 

If Strong tries to turn this into a low scoring contest will that approach work against a team that can go from 0 to 21 on the scoreboard in half a quarter? Can Texas keep the Bear deep threats silent for an entire game?

 

Even keeping the Bear offense under 30 points would be a difficult and worthy goal.

 

Bear offense: Match-up advantages for Texas

 

The Bears’ interior OL will go 6-foot-6, 385 lbs at left guard, 6-foot-4, 305 lbs at center, and 6-foot-4, 330 lbs and shoving people out of the way with big people inside is a major part of their strategy. New center Kyle Fuller may end up being a star but guards McGowan (the 385-pound behemoth) and Hilliard (returning starter) are likely to struggle to root out Tank Jackson and Malcom Brown.

 

The Longhorn tackles play with good pad level and are too quick for the Bears tconsistently control them. When the Bears don’t have their cheat 6th OL on the field it’s likely that the Texas DL will cause big problems. That could be key in creating drive-killing plays or turnovers in a toughly fought game.

 

Texas’ nickel package with Diggs that we outlined on this site is also capable of showing more coverages, pressures, and disguise than Baylor is accustomed to facing from opponents. Petty simply isn’t forced to read the field under pressure very often, hence his absurdly low INT numbers, so if the Longhorns put him under duress thengood things could follow.

 

Worst 5-man skill player lineup

 

10 personnel (1 RB, 0 TEs)

 

Baylor’s ultra-spread formations are liable to do damage by running the ball on the perimeter against Diggs and their ability to flood the field with vertical threats is a major challenge but overall Texas has to like their chances to get pressure with Reed and Shiro on the edge against a spread set.

 

Spreading out Texas and matching them athlete for athlete is still not an optimal strategy and will become even more inadvisable with Bedford’s pressure packages.

 

Bear defense: Match-up challenges for Texas

 

Briles has slowly but surely upgraded the athleticism of his defensive roster. In general, he’s shown the necessary deference for building defense in multiple recruiting classesto build a program that can compete.

 

Schematically, the Bears use a 4-3 Over front backed by a Cover-4 defense very similar to what you see from Michigan St except the Bears need athleticism from their tackles to beat zone blocks.

 

Briles’ hard work on building a defense is most evident on the DL where the Bears could actually end up having one of the best units in the conference.

 

We have to start with Andrew Billings, who’s likely to be the best nose-tackle in the conference at some point before he graduates. Over at the three-technique spot they are looking at either Beau Blackshear or long lost five-star, Javonte Magee, who has predictably grown into a DT. They have a lot of bodies up front with the length and quickness to be a challenge for Texas to beat with outside zone blocking.

 

Outside, Baylor replaces two solid, veteran DEs three more athletic upgrades. Briles has raved about 6-foot-9, 280-pound Shawn Oakman, who was amongst the Big 12 leaders last year with 12 tackles for loss despite playing as a reserve. Whether or not his pass rush moves are sophisticated 


I’m not sure but he’s physically overwhelming in the run game. Opposite Oakman you’ll probably see Jamal Palmer who had five sacks last season, also as a reserve. Finally there’s Boise St. transfer Sam Ukwuachu who will either push Palmer for starting time or simply rotate as a third DE.

 

The Bears’ preferred strategy is to play a sort of 4-2-5 nickel defense with the nickelback aggressively playing the edge and leaving vertical routes to the field safety, returning starter Terrell Burt.

 

Much of how Baylor’s season will go will hinge on the play of their new outside linebackers, corners, and strong safety Orion “the hunter” Stewart who has to replace Ahmad Dixon’s steady run support and intimidating hits over the middle.

 

Although they are less experienced, if you can’t force the boundary safety and nickelback to sit back and mind the passing game they will hound your run game with numbers.

 

Best configuration:

4-2-5 playing press-quarters and bringing six-man pressures

 

The best version of the Baylor defense can play press Cover-4 with their safeties close to the line of scrimmage and able to arrive quickly in run support, essentially daring you to try beat press coverage with low percentage fade routes or out routes to slot receivers.

 

Even though they’ve lost great run defenders like Eddie Lackey (Will), Dixon (SS), and Sam Holl (nickel), the Bears have enough to control a run game if Texas can’t make them play respect the pass. Tight end formations with Swaim and co are not a great idea unless Texas can dominate the matchups on the outside enough to draw safety attention.

 

Bear defenseMatch-up advantages for Texas

 

The Bears are putting a great deal of trust in converted safety Terrence Singleton and the super athletic, 6-foot-2, 200-pound Xavier Howard to be able to man the corners without safety help. If Texas can abuse them with double moves and savvy routes by Shipley and Johnson, then they’ll have to back up their safeties.

 

If they back up their safeties that leaves a reduced and undersized linebacker corp trying to control the perimeter against the run and quick pass game. Texas happens to have a strong WR corp in a year when many opponents have green players stepping into prominent roles in the secondary. It’s a major advantage.

 

It should also go without saying that Baylor has no easy answers for Daje Johnson either.

 

Worst configuration:

 

Base 4-2-5 vs 10 personnel (1 RB, 0 TEs)

 

Building a game plan around the run game simply doesn’t make a ton of sense in this game. Baylor’s defensive backfield can reach the ball too quickly to allow Texas’ power backs to find much open grass and the Bear DL won’t be as easy to punish with a mobile Texas OL as most opponents.

 

Instead, Texas needs to spread the Bears out and create conflicts for their edge players, ideally with Daje. Some choice formations would include pairing Daje with Marcus Johnson on the boundary to force Orion Stewart to play coverage and be less present vs the run game. Or using Daje as the inside receiver in a trips spread set that forces Baylor to choose to either leave a linebacker on Texas’ speedster or draw help away from Shipley or Marcus.

 

The best approach here would be to rely on defense and ball control but to achieve the latter by deploying Daje in a quick passing, ball-control attack.

 

Summary:


Playing at home, and more importantly away from Waco, Texas should be able to exploit the young Bear defense and control this game in a fashion similar to some of Texas’ victories over Leach’s Red Raider teams.

 

If they fail to capitalize on that advantage early on, it’ll only be a matter of time before Briles lands a few haymakers and Texas finds itself unable to get back up in time.

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