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Texas Football: Longhorns Defense Holds Key to Upsetting Baylor Bears

Taylor Gaspar@Taylor_GasparFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2014

Aug 30, 2014; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway (98) celebrates after making a sack against the North Texas Mean Green during the second half at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Texas won 38-7. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

When Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford was asked if Baylor's offense scares him to death or fires him up, his answer was both.

"I have had sleepless nights and restless days trying to figure out how to slow them down," Bedford said. "I've looked at every video from this year and last, and nobody has really slowed them down."

Bedford admitted that the only thing that slowed down Baylor's offense was cold weather in 2013. However, the coach doesn't have the power to bring that to Austin Saturday afternoon.

What he does have is a talented defense that is still angry about losing the Big 12 Championship to the Bears last season.

Bob Ballou @BobBallouSports

Charlie Strong: We can't get into track meet. No way we can generate the points.

Since quarterback Tyrone Swoopes was named the starter, the Longhorns offense has only averaged 15.6 points per game. Meanwhile, Baylor is averaging a whopping 56.7 points against opponents.

But considering the offense has struggled to get into the end zone, the pressure will be on the defense to hold Baylor to limited points in order for the Longhorns to have a chance at pulling off an upset.

Game-planning for Baylor's offense has not been an easy task for Bedford and the Texas defense. The Bears have a variety of impact players on the roster and a quarterback who does not make many mistakes.

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But one of the biggest factors that plays to Baylor's offensive success is the fast tempo of the game.

"When an offense is going fast, sometimes it's hard to see who's lined up where. That's a concern," Bedford said. "[Bryce Petty] hasn't been sacked this year. The ball is out that fast. I don't know how to get to the guy. We were watching video today and all I can do is just shake my head. We might as well not rush anybody and drop everyone and hope he gets tired and takes a knee."

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Baylor would pose a threat to any defense in the nation. It would take an enormous performance to shut down Petty and the Bears offense.

No opponent has stepped up to the challenge thus far.

With that said, Baylor has not faced a defense with the amount of talent that the Longhorns' unit has. The defense is also still holding on to the fact that it was 30 minutes away from winning the Big 12 Championship against the Bears last season.

"That's something you never forget," safety Mykkele Thompson said of losing the Big 12 title and a Fiesta Bowl bid last season. "You just try throughout this week to work hard to make sure you have an opportunity to change that."

The Longhorns understand that a shutout is likely not possible. The team is not preparing for that scenario.

What it is working toward is limiting the number of points Baylor's offense puts up on the board.

When outsiders look at the stat sheet, they may think the Texas defense has struggled more often than not in the first four games of the season, which is simply wrong.

The Longhorns defense played one bad quarter in four games—the third quarter against BYU. Texas gave up a few big plays against UCLA, but overall the defense has not been the issue this season.

The trend is moving more in favor of a stout defense. However, will it move quickly enough to contain the almighty Baylor offense?

"We are making strides. We're headed in the right direction. We're taking baby-steps. But the only thing about the baby steps we are taking is we are going to run into a buzz saw. You wish we were playing Podunk U, but we're not. We're playing Baylor University, who is leading the entire country in offense," Bedford said. "You don't want to take baby steps against that opponent."

Nobody is giving Texas the benefit of the doubt against Baylor, including the experts in Las Vegas.

Head coach Charlie Strong was not surprised to hear his Longhorns were an underdog to the Baylor Bears. However, he was taken back when he heard how little faith Vegas has in his team.

"Wow, they're something," said Strong, who couldn't help but laugh at how significant the spread was. "But you know what, they deserve every bit of it."

According to Odds Shark, the opening spread listed Baylor as a 13-point favorite over Texas.

The number has gradually moved further in favor of the Bears, and Bedford tends to agree with the larger spread.

"Somebody told me we were a 14-point underdog. I'd give them 21 points," Bedford said. "If it were up to me, I don't even know if I would want to show up for the game. I just want to wave a white flag and surrender. You talk about not sleeping and not eating, trying to defend these guys will do it all to you."

Anwar Richardson @AnwarRichardson

#Longhorns #HookEm DC Vance Bedford has too much confidence for me to believe he does not have a game plan. I think he's joking

But does anyone believe Bedford, who played football for the University of Texas, is actually going to wave a white flag to Baylor?

Absolutely not.

There may not be an exact recipe to shut down Baylor's offense, but thinking Bedford and Strong are willing to surrender is naive.

These are two of the best defensive minds in college football. They may not have the talent of years past, but they are going to do all they can to find the right game plan to withstand the Bears.

However, it will be up to the players to step up to the challenge.

"As a defense we see it as a challenge. They're going to come into our house and try and put points up on us," linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "We're going to take that into consideration this week and make sure that we're doing everything that we can to make sure that doesn't happen."

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter @Taylor_Gaspar.

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