On Thanksgiving, the No. 25 Texas Longhorns throttled Texas Tech 41-16 thanks to a relentless pass rush and a stout run defense.
When it comes to slowing down the No. 9 Baylor Bears on December 7, the formula should be much the same.
As has become customary, the Bears' offense is rolling under head coach Art Briles. They lead the Big 12 in every major offensive category, translating to an FBS-best 55.4 points per game.
At its best, this offense can strike from anywhere and attack the defense with scary balance. But it has shown some holes in its past two games, and Texas needs to exploit them in order to keep its BCS hopes alive.
Though the Bears average a Big 12-best 323.4 passing yards per game, the key to Baylor's attack is its conference-leading rushing attack. The combination of Lache Seastrunk, Glasco Martin and Shock Linwood have combined to average 269.2 yards per game on the ground.
But in Baylor's lone loss to Oklahoma State, this group was held to a season-low 94 yards and 2.6 yards per carry. In narrow wins over Kansas State and TCU, they were also held at least 100 yards below their season average and at 3.2 yards a pop or less.
Without an effective run game, this offense becomes much more manageable. Briles wants to use the run to create one-on-one matchups for his receivers, who will routinely beat single coverage with ease. Take that away, and Bryce Petty is prone to throw more drive-shortening interceptions.
Granted, there is a far cry from knowing you have to stop this running attack and actually doing it. And under Greg Robinson, this Texas defense has proven it can plug the holes even while dealing with substantial injuries on that side of the ball.
Prayers go out to LB Steve Edmond, who is done for the season after a lacerated liver in the victory against Texas Tech.— Longhorns Football (@Horns_Football) December 1, 2013
With Robinson calling the defense, Texas has held six of nine opponents under four yards per carry. The other three teams (Ole Miss, Iowa State, Oklahoma State) all found substantial success with a mobile quarterback under center, which Petty is not.
The final piece of the equation is getting Petty on the ground. The conference's most efficient passer has only been sacked 18 times this season, and the 'Horns have to find a way to get pressure.
Texas leads the Big 12 in sacks with 10 apiece from ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed. But the 'Horns have not recorded a sack in either of their three losses this season, so getting into the Baylor backfield is no given for this group.
However, Robinson may have found the lethal recipe to turning both Jeffcoat and Reed loose. Rather than simply lining them up on opposite sides, he moved Jeffcoat around to tackle and linebacker to exploit different matchups.
Players said Texas DE Jackson Jeffcoat was playing the "Viper" position last night. Hybrid DE/LB rusher common in Ohio State's D.— Max Olson (@max_olson) November 29, 2013
The result was a career-high three sacks for Jeffcoat and a season-high 10 for the 'Horns. Reed also benefitted from the added attention his fellow bookend required, tacking on three quarterback takedowns of his own.
Stop the run, attack Petty. The Longhorns have the personnel and ability to do both en route to an upset win over the Bears.