By Shehan Jeyarajah
Baylor football has put together one of the best seasons in school history in 2013. For only the third time ever, Baylor has reached double-digit wins, and that is with a game left to go. The Bears also tied a school record by being ranked third overall in the Associated Press poll for the first time since 1953.
With history behind them, No. 9 Baylor football (10-1, 7-1) will look to match up with No. 25 University of Texas (8-3, 7-1) in the final game at Floyd Casey Stadium. With a win, Baylor can clinch a share of the Big 12 Championship for the first time in school history.
“I want to finish off my career right,” senior defensive end Chris McAllister said. I want to give Baylor its first Big 12 Championship and finish out right for Coach Briles and what he’s done for me. There’s a lot that has been thought about going into this game.”
The Bears have played one of the greatest offensive seasons in the history of football. Baylor averages 635.1 yards of offense per game and 55.4 points per game. Both of these marks lead the nation.
Junior quarterback Bryce Petty leads a top five-rated passing attack with 323.4 yards per game and 28 passing touchdowns. No quarterback in football has the same combination of touchdowns, passing yards and low interception numbers. Petty is second in the nation in passer rating and leads the nation in yards per passing attempt.
Despite being depleted with injuries, Baylor’s running backs have posted the No. 11 running attack in the nation with 109.1 yards per game. Junior running back Lache Seastrunk and freshman Shock Linwood each rank top 15 in yards per carry with 7.8 and 7.0 respectively. The two backs both rank top 5 in the Big 12 in rushing yards.
Baylor’s defense has stepped up in a big way this season compared to last year. After being bottom five in total defense last season, the Bears rank top 30 in total defense and scoring defense.
The Bears allow only 355.5 yards per game, which is second in the Big 12. They also allow only 22.2 points per game, which is third in the Big 12. The Bears are fifth in the nation in tackles for loss.
In Saturday’s game, traditional rival TCU made it closer than anyone expected. That is, before Baylor’s defense grabbed two pick-sixes and forced two other turnovers en route to a 41-38 victory in Fort Worth.
Texas has revitalized its season after starting 1-2 in nonconference play. After allowing 550 yards against BYU, new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has led Texas to the top rushing defense in the Big 12, allowing only 127.1 yards per game.
“They’ve had an outstanding season bouncing back from losing games,” senior safety Ahmad Dixon said. “They’re a great team. Mack Brown has done a great job with those guys, and I look forward to playing them.”
With starting quarterback David Ash lost for the season, senior Case McCoy has stepped in and thrown for 166.5 yards per game. The Longhorns throw for 241.1 yards per game.
Since Ash went down, there has been a new emphasis on the rushing game. Junior running backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron have combined for 985 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns on the season. The Longhorns as a team average 200.7 rushing yards per game.
This matchup will depend on which running game shows up. For Texas, McCoy has played a solid season, but he has not been reliable going down the field. If Baylor can take away the run game from Texas, it may be a long day for McCoy.
Baylor has posted the best run offense in football, but struggled the past two weeks against TCU and Oklahoma State. With Seastrunk and senior running back Glasco Martin fully healthy, the run game will be key to establishing the vertical passing game for Baylor.
Baylor has played Texas more than any other team in school history outside of TCU. The Bears first played the Longhorns all the way back in 1903. The Bears are only 23-74-4 during that stretch, but they have won two of the last three matchups under head coach Art Briles.
Baylor will play its final game at 63-year-old Floyd Casey Stadium before moving to its new riverfront home at Baylor Stadium next season.
“It certainly worked out nicely,” Briles said. “Whoever made up the Big 12 schedule is sitting around getting the hands off their back this morning because it certainly turned out well at the end with the two games that are going on. You couldn’t ask for a better scenario.”
No. 9 Baylor will play No. 25 Texas at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The game will be nationally broadcast on Fox.
Baylor will wear throwback uniforms to pay homage to the inaugural season at Floyd Casey Stadium in 1950. With the high stakes of a Big 12 title on the line, Floyd Casey is sure to go out in style.