No. 14 Baylor and Texas were both fighting for a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game, but after Saturday, only one has punched their ticket to Arlington. The Bears, led by a defense that has been an anchor all season, stuffed the Longhorns in a 24-10 win. That officially clinches one of the two spots for Jerry World in two weeks while knocking the Longhorns out of contention.
Baylor's defense was the story of the win. With one sack on the day, defensive lineman James Lynch broke Shawn Oakman's school record of 17.5 career sacks. Lynch was part of a much bigger defensive unit that put all kinds of pressure on Horns quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who was sacked five times, and nearly kept Texas out of the end zone for the first time since Nov. 25, 2016. That's when Texas lost to TCU 31-9. Coach Charlie Strong was fired a day later, ushering in the Tom Herman era. Outside of a 68-yard run from running back Keaontay Ingram right before the half, Texas showed absolutely nothing on offense.
While Baylor is enjoying its ticket to Arlington, Texas drops to 6-5 in what continues to be a bitterly disappointing season. Though bowl eligible, Texas will try to avoid a potential losing season by beating Texas Tech on Black Friday. Here's what else we learned from Baylor's dominating win over the Longhorns.
There is angst, officially, with Tom Herman. Herman is not on the hot seat, mind you. Not yet. He is one season removed from a 10-win effort that included an appearance in the Big 12 Championship Game and a Sugar Bowl victory. You can't pull the cane on him yet. And probably not even in 2020. But this season is a good reminder of what Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express News wrote last year: Herman will never be able to "overachieve" at Texas again. The expectations are and will be too high.
And the results speak for themselves. Texas has lost at least four games in each season this decade, arguably bringing about the most average era of Longhorn football ever. And after losing just 19 games in the previous decade, Texas has now lost 24 games to the Big 12's non-blue blood teams since the conference went to its current format in 2012. One sure sign that you're not "back": regularly losing to teams that you shouldn't. Next season will be a clean slate again, but there will be no Ehlinger to shoulder the load of the offense. Speaking of which ...
Texas' offense has gotten worse. With this latest lost, it's undeniable that changes are needed. What changes are those? Let's start with the offense. At least early in the season, Texas could score enough points to keep its head above water and winning (or nearly winning) games. Through the first seven games, Texas averaged nearly 41 points per game. But as the season has progressed, the offense has regressed. Texas has not scored more than 27 points in the past five weeks. Some of this is a matter of warning signs coming home to roost. The Longhorns were thin at running back and breaking in a mostly new offensive line, for example. And outside of Devin Duvernay, the wide receiver group was mostly new as well. Those things can eventually catch up to you.
But there's also the matter of Ehlinger's regression. He may not have much help, but he's thrown nine interceptions this year after tossing just 12 in his previous two seasons. Some of those throws have been truly ill-advised. Texas can't run outside of Ehlinger, and against Baylor, Duvernay was good (10 catches for 78 yards) but not a difference-maker. The Longhorns have had defensive liabilities for most of the season because of injuries and inexperience, but now the offense can't make up the difference.
Baylor is going to the Big 12 Championship Game. What a season it's been for Rhule's group. This marks the first 10-win season for Baylor since 2015 and it will be the program's first trip to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship Game. If No. 9 Oklahoma beats TCU on Saturday, the title game will be a rematch of the Sooners and Bears' thrilling game in Waco in Week 12. While making trips to Arlington are a regular occurrence for Oklahoma, this is a big deal for Baylor. In just three seasons, Rhule has taken the Bears from the Big 12's basement (1-11 in 2017) all the way to the top. It's not a "redemption story" for a program once scarred by the widespread sexual assault scandal under its previous administration, but it does prove that Rhule is one of the top program builders in college football. He did it his way, too, focusing on stout defense as the cornerstone of success. Baylor leads the Big 12 in many of the major defensive categories and is a top-25 overall unit.
Denzel Mims should be getting more national love. Sometimes, there are so many great wide receivers in the Big 12, even the really good ones get lost in the shuffle. Case in point: Baylor's Denzel Mims. When everyone else is talking about Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma State's Tylan Wallace or Texas' Devin Duvernay, Mims can be forgotten. He proved on Saturday why overlooking him is a mistake. The lengthy wideout had seven catches for 125 yards and a score. Mims is closing in on 1,000 yards receiving and will probably get there by season's end. He makes ridiculous catches on a routine basis and is one of the toughest players to defend at his position. He should be getting more national love.