In many ways, Baylor and UTSA are in a similar boat heading into Saturday's game, both prepped for opening weekend, and both want a do-over. UTSA scheduled Houston for week one, but three days before the game, out of an abundance of prudence, authorities canceled the game due to Hurricane Harvey. Baylor would like a do-over after a stunning loss to Liberty on Saturday night.
Regardless, the Roadrunners and Bears tangle in one of the more intriguing matchups of the early 2017 season. Here are a few keys to the game.
Be quick by don't hurry
The old John Wooden axiom certainly applies here, the Roadrunners are sitting on a tremendous opportunity as they head into Waco Saturday night, but UTSA needs to play smart and within themselves. As we've seen in week one, games are decided based on mistakes, turnovers, blown schemes, and downright stupidity. UTSA has a chance to grab a win over a Power 5 program, but not one as wounded as the Roadrunners might think. Plus the Roadrunners haven't thrown in yet on the 2017 season to get the rust off. The key to a successful Saturday night in Waco is still execution and efficiency, two hallmarks of Frank Wilson's program.
Chris Platt might be the fastest player in college football. He's also never run anything other than a nine route, and for a good reason, the junior from Willis averaged 16.2 yards per catch last season. He ran past Liberty's corners to the tune of three catches and 102 yards with two scores. If Platt isn't running past DB's then Pooh Sticklin or Denzel Mims are, they're the remnants of the Briles' Bear Raid, three flyers that take the top off a defense. UTSA can't allow Baylor to move the ball in chunks. Instead, make the Bears move the ball downfield in fits and starts. The Bear offensive line is young, thin, and needs explosive play as a crutch, UTSA's defensive backfield, especially their young safeties need to be vigilant.
Right now the Baylor football program is scrambling trying to figure out what happened last weekend against Liberty and whether the loss was a blip or a blot. No better time to infuse a bit more confusion and doubt if you're Wilson's team. If the Roadrunners can get out early, the onus shifts back to the home team to formulate some response and with Baylor playing so many young players and reeling from last week, a quick start might doom the Bears.
Adjust on the fly
Liberty's scheme and UTSA's scheme are night and day different, but both pressure the back end of the back end of the defense. The Bears watched a Liberty quarterback set a school record on Saturday night, with graduation and other attrition, the Bears might be in for more of the same this season. Phil Snow can coach up a defense, and he'll have his hands full this week working out exactly how to avoid a repeat of last week's yardage festival. The return of safety Davion Hall and corner Jameson Houston should help.
It's John Lovett's Time
Baylor is fresh out of scholarship running backs with JaMycal Hasty on the shelf and Terence Williams not back for the foreseeable future, the Baylor rushing attack falls to true freshman John Lovett. At his weekly press conference, Matt Rhule said as much, stating that it' Lovett's time. Baylor averaged 7.5 yards a carry with the help of Anu Solomon pitching in. Baylor needs Lovett to play big on Saturday night.
Don't Let Liberty Beat You Twice
As debilitating as the Liberty loss seems, the Bears can't let it define their season. Matt Rhule has to re-re-stabilize the ship. The best way to do that is to get back to basics, blocking, tackling, and limit turnovers. Baylor probably assumed they'd be 1-0 heading into the UTSA game, Rhule can't let the Flames help push his team to 0-2.
Notes and Numbers
- Baylor safety Chance Waz will miss the first half of Saturday's game due to a targeting suspension.
- Baylor played eleven true freshman Saturday night and Matt Rhule expects as many as five more may play against UTSA.
- BU quarterback Anu Solomon led the Bears in both passing and rushing yards on Saturday night and passed 7,000 yards in passing yards for his career.
- Solomon started twice against the Roadrunners while at Arizona in 2014 and 2015, he is a combined 39-68 for 460 yards with 5 touchdown passes.
- This will be UTSA's first trip to Waco and first road trip to a Big 12, Texas Power 5.
- UTSA corner Austin Jupe signed with Baylor out of East Central High School, but transferred to UTSA a year later.
- UTSA is 5-1 in season openers in school history, their only loss came to Solomon and Arizona in 2015.
- Baylor is currently a 16.5 point favorite.