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Quick Look: Baylor Bears

This one will likely be a defensive battle...

NCAA Football: Baylor at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

This rivalry game doesn’t feel as much fun this year, does it?

TCU has struggled mightily out of the gate, and fan support is waning — or worse, indifferent.

Meanwhile, before Saturday, the Bears had had more games cancelled than they had played, and now had three of each. The Horned Frogs are a sad 1-3 and the Bears just 1-2, and neither team has anything close to the fireworks on offense of years past.

Instead, we will be treated to a defensive duel between two of the game’s brightest minds on that side of the ball; first year head coach Dave Aranda has a national championship ring on his finger from directing the potent LSU defense in 2019, but the star power is considerably more dim in Waco this fall. Gary Patterson’s defense hasn’t been bad, but has been snake bit by big plays — big plays that the Baylor O has struggled to produce.

In 2018, these teams battled to a 16-9 TCU win.

This one might be lower scoring.

That being said, for Frog fans, beating Texas and Baylor still matter, if they could sweep those two programs, maybe all won’t be lost in 2020.

Offense:

The Bears punted from the Texas 30 yesterday, and it was a touchback. That should tell you all you need to know about the state of affairs in Waco, as senior QB Charlie Brewer has been subpar this season, averaging just about 200 yards per game — barely above Kansas, a true freshman (Will Howard), and a guy who isn’t even playing (Shane Illingworth). He’s 8th in efficiency and the Bears are 7th in scoring at just 28 points per game (TCU is at 23.8, just laugh, it hurts less).

The Bears are in the bottom third of the league in both pass and rush offense, and they have yet to establish a go-to guy at running back (no player averages more than 40 yards per game) or receiver (R.J. Sneed is the closest, averaging five receptions per game), but it’s also a little hard to judge because they have only played three games — one of which was Kansas.

The offensive line has been okay; there’s a real problem at RT, but otherwise, the line has blocked well for the pass. The running game, on the other hand, has suffered by poor run blocking, which might explain why they’re averaging just 3.0 yards per attempt.

We don’t know much about this Baylor offense other than it hasn’t been very good, but the talent is clearly there to be better once they have a few more snaps under their belt. The TCU defense should be able to hold up against them, but this team can still strike with explosive plays. Limiting those will, as usual, be the key to success.

Defense:

The defense of the Bears is pretty good; they are among the league leaders in scoring defense, allowing just 22.7 points per game, and they have stars in Terrel Bernard (leads the league with 40 tackles despite having played just three games) and J.T. Woods, who has two picks already.

The Bears are vulnerable against the run, allowing over 150 yards per game, but opponents struggle to throw the ball against the secondary, which has limited teams to just 210 yards through the air on average. Of course, they have played Kansas, WVU, and Texas — and aside from Sam Ehlinger (who threw for 270) — there hasn’t been much in the way of good QB play to shut down.

I don’t know that TCU will present much of a challenge to the Bears’ D, though Max Duggan is arguably the best thrower of the football that they have faced this year. If he can replicate Ehlinger’s game through the air and on the ground, the Frogs should be able to move the football, but Aranda has plenty of film on the Frogs’ O to devise a game plan that could fluster and flummox a unit that has struggled to string together successful drives all season long.

Prediction:

I have no idea. This game is in Waco, on Halloween, between two teams that aren’t as good as we thought they would be but that will both pull out all of the stops to beat each other. I expect the energy level to be high Saturday; much like we saw in Austin, TCU players tend to get up for this one.

I expect lots of punts, lots of 3-and-outs, and lots of missed opportunities. But if there’s an area that I think the Frogs have an advantage, it’s the kicking game — despite Kell’s miss from long Saturday, he’s been very good in 2020.

Give me TCU 19, Baylor 13.