Right after Matt Rhule got the job as Baylor’s head coach, Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells — then at Utah State — got a meeting with his future coaching nemesis. It was set up because Wells’ wife is a Baylor grad, and wanted to talk to the new coach.
At the time, Baylor football was in a dark place. When the two teams, and coaches, face off on Saturday at 3 p.m., it will be a chance for the Bears to clinch bowl eligibility and keep a perfect start to the season.
“The guy is a program builder,” Wells said. “He’s a culture builder. He’s done it his way. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. … It doesn’t surprise me to see him flip that program.”
Baylor is off to its best start since the program was significantly set back by the wide-ranging scandal involving former head coach Art Briles and the athletic department. Rhule has turned the team around from 1-11, to 7-6 and now he’s looking to go 6-0.
“We try really hard here to let the tape define who we are,” Rhule said. “And we’ve done that since we’ve got here, because when you’re losing your first year, but you see improvement, you want to be encouraged by the improvement. We try to understand that you are what you put on tape, you’re not people say you are.”
The Bears will look for the big rivalry win, with the game being played in Waco for the first time since 2007. The two teams have faced off in Arlington every year since 2011, but the teams haven’t played a true home game since a matchup in Lubbock in 2008.
Five key stats:
1,022 – 533
Baylor has outrushed its opposition 1,022-533 this season, while carrying the ball just five more times than the the teams it has faced (176-171). Five players have ran for at least 125 yards this season, led by Jon Lovett’s 316 yards on the ground. That’s 14 times in the end zone for Baylor rushers and just six for the opponents. Baylor is 37th in FBS in rushing yards and 27th in rushing defense. TTU has two great rushers in Armand Shyne and SaRodrick Thompson that have combined to rush for more than the 533 that Baylor has allowed.
That’s the total number of points that Baylor has given up this season the second quarter. In fact, Baylor has only allowed 13 points in the first half all year. Of the 77 points that the Bears have allowed 51 of those points have come in the fourth quarter, at times when the best defensive personnel aren’t always on the field. No opponent has scored more than 21 points.
Baylor’s strength of schedule to this point ranks second-to-last in the Big 12. Stephen F. Austin, Rice and UTSA weren’t tough tests, but the Bears have stepped up against solid competition in Iowa State and Kansas State. Texas Tech might be one of the toughest tests on the schedule to date.
The Texas Tech kicking game is in a good spot. Trey Wolff is 8-of-9 this season — Baylor is just 2-of-4 total. Wolff has been able to connect from as far out as 45 yards this season, but the redshirt freshman has been good as the team’s go-to kicker. He’s also 18-of-18 on PATs this year.
Texas Tech has been sacked a total of just four times this season, while the defense has taken down the opposing quarterback 14 times this year. There have been 11 players on the Red Raiders defense that have contributed to these sacks.