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Baylor and Texas Are Banged Up, but Who Can Survive the Late-Season Attrition?

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Baylor and Texas Are Banged Up, but Who Can Survive the Late-Season Attrition?

While it may seem as if every player in the Big 12 is hurt, that is not the case, even though it feels that way.

Not immune to late-season injury problems are Baylor and Texas, teams that just so happen to be in the thick of the conference title race. 

The Bears have lost wide receiver Tevin Reese for the rest of the regular season with a dislocated wrist. His return for a bowl game is questionable. Other than Reese, though, Baylor's injury issues aren't all that bad.

Head coach Art Briles said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference that running backs Lache Seastrunk (groin) and Glasco Martin (knee) are day-to-day. Offensive lineman Cyril Richardson should be good to go for Saturday's game against Texas Tech. 

Tevin Reese

Texas, on the other hand, hasn't been so lucky. The Longhorns already lost linebacker Jordan Hicks (Achilles) for the season, and quarterback David Ash doesn't seem likely to return with his lingering concussion symptoms. Add in the season-ending losses of running back Johnathan Gray (Achilles) and defensive tackle Chris Whaley (knee), plus the other injuries to offensive linemen Josh Cochran and Kennedy Estelle, and the 'Horns are horribly banged up. 

The next three weeks of conference play are critical for both teams, which raises the question: Which one will be best able to weather the storm?

At first glance, that would seem to be Baylor, almost without question, since the Bears have had fewer injuries. But when you consider the depth that both teams have, Texas coach Mack Brown, who has done an underrated job winning this season in spite of a rash of injuries, may be able to weather the storm.

The skill position depth for both teams is unquestioned. The loss of Gray hurts, but running backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are more than capable of handling the rushing load for Texas. It's also worth pointing out that Brown, not Gray, was more of the bell cow over the past couple of weeks. 

And the loss of Reese? It's not nearly as devastating when receivers Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood are still playing.

Briles also noted Monday that, for the first time since he's been in Waco, he has the depth to compensate for any key losses. Case in point, "No. 3" running back Shock Linwood rushed for 182 yards while Seastrunk and Martin sat in Thursday's 41-12 win over Oklahoma.

The difference is going to be depth in the trenches—not so much on defense, but on offense. The 'Horns will have to shuffle some bodies around if they're down both Cochran and Estelle. That could be costly since Texas is best when it's running the ball. Plus, quarterback Case McCoy isn't the most mobile guy on the field. 

Texas was able to overcome all of those obstacles in last week's 47-40 overtime victory over West Virginia. Oklahoma State on Saturday could be a different story.

However, if the Longhorns are able to keep winning against the Cowboys and Texas Tech, there's no doubt they will have to be healthy (relatively speaking) for the season-ending game against the Bears. Baylor is playing its best defense under Briles and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett. 

Despite the injuries and its many critics, Texas has shown a ton of resolve this season. But the best teams Texas will face all season still lie ahead.

Will missing a handful of its best players finally bring the 'Horns back down to earth? Maybe.

In any case, to prevail in those games, this Texas team is going to have to dig deeper than it has in years. 

 

Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval

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