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Baylor vs. Texas Preview Part III: Manny iaz?

The final piece of our preview puzzle this week focuses on Baylor's best chance for victory: a matchup with the downtrodden Texas defense.

Justin K. Aller

First and foremost, if you haven't read that FootballStudyHall piece I ported to the layout this morning, you should. It's an incredibly vivid look at the offensive tactics West Virginia and Oklahoma used to confuse and eventually beat the Texas defense. If we're smart as an offensive team, and I think we are, we'll do the exact same thing until Texas shows they can stop it.

Second, in a weird twist on last week, we've gone from facing a troubled offensive team full of injuries to a troubled defensive team dealing with the same thing. Aside from Jackson Jeffcoat, who is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, Texas announced that Jordan Hicks will miss his third game in a row due to injury. He's Texas' best linebacker and someone they need, particularly in the running game. Sophomore Kendall Thompson will play in his place. Up front, Texas expects to get JUCO transfer Brandon Moore back after his scary incident last week against OU. According to Peter Bean of BurntOrangeNation, his trip to the hospital following the game was purely precautionary and he should play. We'll use that as a segue to the full Texas depth chart.

The Players

Position No. Player | No. Player | No. Player
Buck 92 Reggie Wilson | 88 Cedric Reed
Tackle (Nose) 99 Desmond Jackson | 97 Brandon Moore OR 90 Malcom Brown
Tackle 96 Chris Whaley | 85 Ashton Dorsey
Strong End 80 Alex Okafor | 1 Shiro Davis
Strongside LB 7 Demarco Cobbs | 11 Tevin Jackson
Middle LB 33 Steve Edmond | 55 Dalton Santos
Weakside LB 3 Jordan Hicks OR 35 Kendall Thompson | 19 Peter Jinkens
CB 6 Quandre Diggs | 21 Duke Thomas
Free Safety 4 Kenny Vaccaro |
25 Josh Turner
Strong Safety 2 Mykkele Thompson OR 17 Adrian Phillips
CB 23 Carrington Byndom | 31 Leroy Scott | 29 Sheroid Evans
Punter 15 Alex King | 14 William Russ

Junior Reggie Wilson (6-3, 259) steps in for Jeffcoat at the Buck position, which is basically just another defensive end in the Texas scheme except that he will always line up on the weak side. He'll play opposite Alex Okafor (SR, 6-4.5, 265), one of the best defensive ends in the country and a true threat in the pass rush. He is second on the team in tackles for loss behind only Jeffcoat (7) and leads in sacks (6). He'll line up on the strong side on every defensive play. Former RB-turned-DT Chris Whaley (JR, 6-3, 252) and Desmond Jackson (SO, 6-1, 303) play up front, with Whaley typically in the B gap on the strong side and Jackson lined up shading the center in the weak A. Expect to see a ton of Glasco Martin hitting the B gap between Jackson and Wilson tomorrow night. That's a weak spot on the Texas defense without Jeffcoat and yards could be easier to come by there.

With Jeffcoat out, Texas loses 29% of their sacks on the season and nearly 18% of their total tackles for loss. Look for us to double Okafor as much as possible and for Jarred Salubi to block him on almost every passing play where he blocks anyone. Texas' defense will line up off Salubi (or whichever RB is back there), anyway, so Okafor will already be on his side. Texas subs frequently on the line, so we'll get a healthy dose of Ashton Dorsey (JR, 6-2, 265), Whaley's backup, and Moore, if he plays, behind Jackson.

Behind that group are freshman sensation Steve Edmond (a sophomore now, 6-3, 255) in the middle, Demarco Cobbs (JR, 6-2, 218) on the strong side, and the aforementioned Thompson (SO, 6-3, 239) on the weak. Edmond has been the target of significant angst from Texas fans this year for his failures in coverage, and Cobbs seems to be in a charitable mood this season with broken tackles. Edmond is tied for the team lead in tackles with 45 with safety Kenny Vaccaro (SR, 6-1, 218), a constant whipping boy for Texas fans. I think if you asked most Texas fans, the linebackers are the biggest question mark on Texas' defense due to inconsistent play, injuries, and basically a lack of production.

Joining Vaccaro in the defensive backfield are Carrington Byndom, another freshman sensation who hasn't lived up to his billing since, Quandre Diggs (SO, 5-10, 200), Texas' best cover corner, and Mykkele Thompson (SO, 6-2, 183), who alternates with Adrian Phillips (JR, 5-11, 201). I haven't seen enough of Texas this season to know what the big problem is here. I know it's probably not a good thing that Vaccaro leads the team in tackles, just like it isn't for us when Holl does it. Diggs is extremely good, so look for him to match up with Terrance Williams (Terrence Williams) on the outside. Byndom will get Lanear Sampson, a matchup we may look to exploit.

Scheme-wise, Texas lines up in fairly standard 4-3 defense, though they do switch things around at the first and second level more than you'd expect based on strong vs. weak. It will be interesting to see how much they're able to substitute players and move things around with Baylor's offense lining up so quickly, and our offensive pace could be a factor for that reason. Their corners typically play fairly aggressive coverage, but nothing like what TCU did last week or Sam Houston State earlier in the season. West Virginia was able to pound them on the ground by spreading things out and then running up the middle. OU did, too. Saying the Longhorns are bad at tackling is doing a disservice to other bad tacklers; they're awful. They have size all over but lack fundamentals.

The Results

For this particular matchup, here are the S&P+ and FEI rankings for the relevant units: Texas' offense and Baylor's defense. This is the first week so far this season that we've had specific unit FEI rankings available, so get excited! I'm going to cut out most of the values today and just keep the rankings to simplify things a bit.

S&P+ -- Baylor Off vs. Texas Def

Baylor Off Texas Def
Rank 11 29
S&P+ 125.8 112.2
Rush S&P+ 7 43
Pass S&P+ 23 16
Std. Downs 6 31
Pass Downs 7 6
S&P 4 106
Success Rate 52.2 % (7) 46.1% (100)
PPP 0.48 (7) 0.40 (104)

The first thing you should notice is that Texas' un-adjusted numbers (the last three rows) do not match up with the adjusted numbers (everything else). There's something going on there with defensive adjustments that I don't quite understand. Our offensive numbers are doing the same thing to a lower degree.

  • Surprised to see our numbers as low as they are? I was, too, particularly considering who we've played. I think we're seeing a lot of blowback from last week's game against TCU, to be honest, since they're the only quality FBS defense we've played so far. I'm fairly positive the Pass S&P+ number is impacted negatively by Florence's turnovers. He has 9 now, after all.
  • I'm surprised to see our rushing offense so highly regarded. Very surprised. If that number bears out against Texas' defense, it may be our best chance to do a lot of damage. They've had significant issues against the running game in the last two games.

FEI- Baylor Off vs. Texas Def

Baylor Off Texas Def
Rank 1 67
OFEI/DFEI 1.040 .004
OE/DE 1 113
FD 2 83
AY 1 82
Ex 1 92
Me 10 95
Va 1 84
OSOS pvs 75 3
OSOS fut 3 8

The Baylor offense against the Texas defense isn't quite the mismatch of the other side, but almost if you look at the actual values. Baylor has the best offense in the country according to FEI, a ranking largely predicated on our outstanding ability to generate explosive plays. We've also been extremely good at getting first downs and points no matter our position on the field.

  • Methodical drives are the only big weakness of the Baylor offense this season, something I think we all recognize. That probably comes from a weakness in the running game (unless you believe S&P+'s ratings) and the fact that we score so quickly through the air.
  • For Texas' part, these are the numbers that keep their fans up at night. There is just no reason why, with the talent Texas brings in every year, they should be so poor. Their defense is actually rated significantly worse this season than their offense. Can you believe that?

Baylor's Offensive Plan

I've already basically said it. Texas is not good against the run this season and we need to take advantage. This would be the perfect game to get our rushing offense going, but that said, we need to attack early and often. It's hard to know where the Longhorns are mentally at this point in the season and whether last week will serve as a call to circle the wagons or abandon the ship, but I think we know by now that theirs is a team that does not respond well to adversity. If we can get a lead early and get just a few stops on defense, we may be able to run away and hide. That said, this game is incredibly important to both sides now and everybody knows it.

Nick Florence isn't going to throw 4 picks again, so put that out of your mind. We're not going to put the ball on the ground twice again, either. Six turnovers is a huge anomaly for a Briles offense, and I don't see it happening tomorrow. Get ready for our offense to hit its stride again versus a defense with significant problems of its own. This one could be a shootout, so get your heart medication and your alcohol (if you partake, obviously) ready.