Baylor’s 7th game of the 2018 season will come against the Texas Longhorns in Austin. Many media members are high on the Longhorns this year, with most picking them to finish in the top third of the conference (although, I feel like this has become an annual tradition. Whether or not the Longhorns will actually “be back” is yet to be seen).
As with past years, the Texas offense seems to fit the same narrative: lots of experience and returners but 1) No proven weapons and 2) No guaranteed standout quarterback. Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele are both back, but both were largely decent last season... nothing like the Colt McCoys and Vince Youngs of the past, but not awful either. They’re safe. But with no explosive weapons, safe quarterback play might not be enough to cut it. Last season, the Longhorns were the least explosive offense in the Big 12, even behind Kansas. And with the loss of their outstanding punter, Michael Dickson, “safe” three and outs aren’t going to win games.
With the offensive struggles the Longhorns could very well face, the defense should be the bedrock of the team. They return most of their defensive starters... except for their best players at least level. Replacing defensive lineman Poona Ford, linebacker Malik Jefferson, and safety DeShon Elliott is a tall order. But with plenty of experience, the defense should be stable. Which I really think is going to be the theme of this season by and large. Safe offense and stable defense, but neither particularly explosive. Enough to get 8 wins? Probably. Enough to take the Longhorns back to national prominence? Doubtful.
Regardless, this is a tough instate rival to face on the road for the Bears. The FPI doesn’t like this match up for Baylor, giving it the second least likely win percentage at 22.9% behind only Oklahoma (which is at 13.7%). However, I definitely think there are vulnerabilities for Baylor to attack. These games tend to be chippy as well; Baylor’s roster loaded with Texas recruits will likely be hungry to get a piece of the Longhorns. This is not a must win by any means this year, but a win in Austin would be a huge step forward and a sign that Matt Rhule has stabilized and elevated the team.