Texas Longhorns vs. Baylor Bears
Date and Time: Saturday, October 28, 2017, 12 p.m. ET
Location: McLane Stadium, Waco, TX
Opening College Football Odds: Texas -10.5
Texas vs. Baylor TV Coverage: ESPNU
The good news for the Bears is that they are clearly improving. They had their shot against West Virginia last week at home and couldn't quite finish the job, a similar story to what we saw against both Oklahoma and Kansas State.
The offense is improving under Zach Smith, but he still has a lot of problems with his offensive line and the rest of his skill position players. The Bears are No. 115 in the nation in sacks allowed per game at 3.14, and their ground game is averaging just 4.0 yards per carry this year.
You'd like to think that Texas will be able to take advantage of this, especially with the way that its defense has played since Week 1 against Maryland. The Longhorns only rank No. 66 in total defense and No. 47 in scoring, but you have to remember the context here. Texas hasn't played against an FCS team this year, its three non-conference games came against Maryland, San Jose State and USC, and it has yet to play either Baylor or Kansas in conference play.
Simply put: The Longhorns are underachieving for sure at 3-4, and they're only about 60/40 to reach bowl eligibility this year, but they're better than their record would indicate.
Sam Ehlinger had a learning moment last week against Oklahoma State. A game that he played poorly in overall was there for the winning in overtime thanks to his defense. Yet facing a 13-10 deficit in the second half of the first overtime period, Ehlinger made a bonehead decision to loft a ball into the end zone on 3rd and 4 that was picked off to end the game.
Ehlinger admitted after the game that it was a silly decision on his part, as he tried to win the game instead of taking the sure three points that would have been had on the next down to send the game to a second overtime.
Now is where we see how the kid is set to respond. Ehlinger has shown some good wheels, and his arm is more than capable of leading the Longhorns. Yet in his last two games, the frosh has barely completed half of his passes, and he has just one touchdown pass. He avoided the crucial mistake up until that last pass against Okie State, and that's why games were close, but how he responds to that blunder will be telling.
Texas vs. Baylor Free Picks
Herman knows that his Longhorns can't afford to let Baylor hang around in this game and gain some confidence. Matt Rhule is still a great head coach, and he's going to get the best that he can out of his depleted roster week in and week out.
That said, we don't like this matchup for the Bears. This feels too hard-hitting for their liking. The games they've stuck around in have largely been finesse games and ones where defense was remotely optional on both sides of the ball.
For all of the flaws the Longhorns have shown, holding Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to 42 total points in two games is a massive accomplishment. So long as Ehlinger doesn't screw the proverbial pooch early on in this one, we can't see Texas not winning by double-digits to beat the odds set by the top college football sportsbooks.
College Football ATS Pick: Texas -10.5 at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: Texas 38, Baylor 20