UPDATE: The scheduledafter the Bears failed to meet the Big 12 COVID-19 thresholds.
This weekend's game between Baylor and Houston is so 2020 that it's almost perfect. The contest, literally scheduled last week, has produced all kinds of unpredictable storylines. In one corner, there's Dave Aranda's Bears. Aranda is a first-time head coach who didn't get the benefit of a full offseason due to COVID-19 shutdowns, delays and general hiccups. In the other corner, Houston is entering Year Two -- or Year One, version 2.0, if you will -- of the Dana Holgorsen era. After essentially hitting the reset button a few games into last year, the Cougars are back and looking for a fresh start.
It's hard to know what to make of this game as neither team has played. Given the short time to prepare, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest it's not just us who'll be guessing about the outcome, either. But there are things to watch for here, from Baylor's rebuilt defense under Aranda's guidance to Houston's electrifying receiver Marquez Stevenson. Bookmakers have pegged this as a close game, so who knows? Maybe Baylor and Houston will end up being one of the better, more unpredictable games of a Week 3 slate that doesn't show a ton of promise on paper. Let's get to some storylines.
Baylor: Quarterback Charlie Brewer is the more well-known name and one of the more underrated players at his position nationally. But for the Bears' first game, a lot of focus is on the defense. That's Aranda's background and nine starters off of last year's stellar unit are gone, including the entire defensive line. That front seven was a productive pass rushing unit and the Bears have to basically start over. And trying to install a new defense without the help of a full offseason is a challenge. The Bears still have some players -- linebacker Terrel Bernard is a staple -- but it'll be interesting to see how they do against Houston's offense.
Houston: Quarterback Clayton Tune is the unquestioned starter and should finally be ready for a big year now that he's healthy. The Cougars also have a good one-two punch at running back with Kyle Porter and Mulbah Car. Still, Stevenson is probably the go-to player if there's a difference maker. The senior is ultra fast and can make an impact in the return game. Just a hunch: if this game is close and/or not firing on all cylinders -- which wouldn't be a first this year given the circumstances -- a big play on offense or special teams would be the difference. Stevenson needs to be the best player on the field.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 19 | Time: Noon ET
Location: McLane Stadium -- Waco, Texas
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Game prediction, picks
This isn't an assured pick. Two teams playing their first games with their respective backgrounds being what they are -- you may as well pull your pick out of a hat. If I had a lean, though, it's that Houston is only a slight road dog with, I think, the best player (Stevenson). I'm cautious of what Baylor's defensive turnover will mean with a new coach and a limited offseason. I'll take the points and wouldn't be surprised if Houston pulled the outright upset. Pick: Houston +5
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