For acting head coach Jim Grobe, to some extent the real season for No. 8 Baylor is about to begin.
The Bears are 6-0 for the fourth consecutive year and have played exactly one team — Oklahoma State — with a winning record. From here, their path to a coveted playoff spot includes a finishing stretch with games at No. 16 Oklahoma and No. 10 West Virginia. But first comes Saturday’s visit to Texas.
“I think we have a fresh, healthy team,” Grobe said. “We’re getting ready to go through the gauntlet.”
We have to play better. It’s all about us doing a better job of coaching. It’s about our players playing a lot better.
Texas coach Charlie Strong
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Texas (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) has lost four of its last five games, prompting speculation about third-year coach Charlie Strong’s future with the Longhorns. Strong, asked whether he has received support from his bosses, said: “We do have support within this program. We have to play better. It’s all about us doing a better job of coaching. It’s about our players playing a lot better.”
Texas is particularly inept on defense. The Longhorns rank 94th in yards allowed and 126th in passing efficiency defense. They further hurt themselves with lapses on special teams and by scoring just three points off nine turnovers by opponents. Texas failed to score after an interception and fumble recovery in the fourth quarter during a 24-21 loss at Kansas State last week.
“They tried to give us the game,” Strong said.
Some things to look for when the Bears and Longhorns kick off on Saturday:
Texas won 12 straight against Baylor from 1998-2009. Baylor has won four of the last six but lost 23-17 in Waco last season while using its fourth-string quarterback — a converted wide receiver — for the final three quarters because of injuries. Texas competed without several injured players as well. A melee broke out during the first quarter among two teams that have a developing rivalry. Texas added four freshman recruits who were released by Baylor after the school’s sexual assault scandal.
“Honestly, I’ll say it’s been building,” Texas offensive lineman Kent Perkins said.
Baylor quarterback Seth Russell does not expect a warm reception in Austin.
“Every away game is going to be a hostile environment just because you have fans who don’t want you to win,” Russell said. “We’ve got to block that out, and we’ve done a good job of that so far. With it being the Texas game, being a rivalry game, we’re expecting it to be a little more intense than the other games.”
One of the four freshmen who bolted Baylor for Texas, wide receiver Devin Duvernay, has caught touchdowns covering 63, 75 and 80 yards in the last three games.
PERFECT DOWN STRETCH
Baylor is the only FBS team that has not allowed a point in the fourth quarter this season. Overall, the Bears rank 11th in scoring defense, allowing 17.2 points a game.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE?
Strong is 14-18 during his three seasons at Texas, including 10-12 in Big 12 games. The Longhorns’ three victories this season were against opponents — Notre Dame, UTEP and Iowa State — with a combined 5-16 record. Baylor’s six opponents have a combined 12-30 record and four of them have won only once this season.
A BRIGHT SPOT
Texas junior running back D’Onta Foreman ranks third nationally with 142.5 rushing yards per game. Foreman has reached 100 yards in eight straight games, a streak that ranks second in Longhorn history to Earl Campbell’s 11 in a row.