For the first time since 2010, Texas is ranked in the top 10. Tom Herman knows his team will need to play its best every week to preserve that status, and it starts this weekend against a stingy Baylor team hoping to ruin the Longhorns’ newly minted ranking among nationally elite teams.
Here are four players for the Bears who will be difference makers in Saturday’s matchup:
#12 Charlie Brewer — Quarterback
Quarterback Charlie Brewer’s ties to the Longhorns run deep. Brewer, an Austin native who shined during a prolific career at Lake Travis High School, has two family members who starred for the Longhorns — his father, Robert, and grandfather, Charles. Needless to say, a game against Texas will carry significant weight for the local product.
Brewer has been a bright spot for a Baylor team rebounding from its worst season in the past decade. He’s thrown for 1,558 yards, nine touchdowns and just two interceptions, leading the Bears to become the fifth-ranked offense in the Big 12. Brewer also adds an extra element to the offense with his running ability, rushing for 117 yards and four touchdowns this season.
#5 Jalen Hurd — Wide receiver
After two successful seasons at Tennessee, Jalen Hurd surprised many when he announced his intentions to transfer. His decision, albeit a peculiar one, landed him in Waco, and his transition has been seamless. He leads the team in receptions and receiving yards, and ties for receiving touchdowns.
The former running back’s combination of size and speed, which made him a prized five-star recruit out of high school, translates well to Baylor’s dynamic offensive system where he’s given the opportunity to exploit smaller defensive backs. Although the Texas secondary will be the best unit he’s faced all season, if he’s able to find ways to get open and get the ball in his hands, Hurd would make it much easier to find success for Charlie Brewer and the Baylor offense.
#93 James Lynch — Defensive tackle
Another Central Texas product making headlines for the Bears this season is defensive tackle James Lynch. The Round Rock, Texas, native has impressed in just his second season, leading all Baylor defensive lineman in tackles with 20 and tallying a team-high four sacks. Lynch showed his abilities as a run-stopper and pass rusher last week against Kansas State when he recorded five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.
But Lynch will need to build on those numbers this Saturday against the Longhorns. In fact, he’s been critical to helping the Baylor defense succeed, especially with his pass rush. In the two games where he didn’t record a sack this season, the Bears lost. They also sacrificed the most points they had all season in those two contests. Lynch finding a way to impact the game will be an X factor for the Bears’ defense.
#3 Chris Miller — Safety
Safety Chris Miller leads a Baylor secondary that’s greatly improved from a season ago. A year after giving up 267 passing yards per game, the unit has only given up 219 through the air. The Frisco, Texas, native is also an extremely reliable tackler — leading all Baylor players with 34 total tackles.
Miller and the Baylor defense, however, will need to find a way to perform better than they did last week against Kansas State. The Wildcats ripped the Bears to the tune of 34 points and 468 total yards, the most compiled by Kansas State against an opponent this season. Texas offensive coordinator Tim Beck will see that as a sign he can exert his will on the Bears come Saturday. Where Miller will need to step up is in run support and preventing big passing plays. If he doesn’t, it could be a long day for the Baylor defense.