Two 0–2 starts, two different outlooks. What's the difference between Baylor and Texas Tech?

Photos by Carter Pirtle | Paul Roberts

Share or Save for Later

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Save to Favorites

On the surface, Texas Tech and Baylor look like mirror images of the same putrid start to 2023.

They both round out the bottom of the Big 12 standings as the only 0–2 teams in the conference. Both of them kicked off the season with an upset loss at the hands of a double-digit underdog Group of Five program. They followed it up by blowing a second-half lead in a close defeat to a top 15-ranked Pac-12 contender. It's like they even have the same deficiencies: losing the time of possession battle (Tech at 26:51 minutes per game, Baylor at 28:45 minutes) because a porous defense can't get off the field (Tech surrendering 396 yards per game, Baylor at 409).

So why does it feel like Texas Tech still has everything in front of them to play for, and the sky is falling in Waco? Well, for starters, Tech just reeled in a commitment from five-star wide receiver Micah Hudson, the highest-rated recruit in program history and maintain seismic recruiting momentum. But also because the numbers previously cited only tell part of the story.

Texas Tech went on a road trip to Laramie and lost in double overtime to Wyoming after giving up a 17-point lead and waiting for a 78-minute lightning delay. Baylor hosted a Texas State program that had never won a game against a Power Five opponent and got physically whooped from the opening whistle. After losing to UTSA this past weekend, Texas State head coach GJ Kinne said the Roadrunners were better than the Bears.

The Red Raiders also played a No. 13 Oregon team with seasoned veteran Bo Nix at the helm in front of a sold-out crowd at Jones AT&T Stadium, a sign of the excitement surrounding Texas Tech in year two of the Joey McGuire era. In Baylor's fourth year under Dave Aranda, the Bears surrendered a 15-play, 88-yard drive to No.12 Utah's third-string, redshirt freshman quarterback Nate Jackson that tied a game the Utes had no business winning in front of a sleepy McLane Stadium where Utah fans were able to get chants started. A Sawyer Robertson interception on the ensuing drive sealed Baylor's fate and cemented their sixth-consecutive loss dating back to 2022.

Here are the main issues each program faces and why Tech's 0–2 start vastly differs from Baylor's.


Quarterback qualms

Tyler Shough and his four total touchdowns are why Texas Tech was in the game late with Oregon. Tyler Shough is also a big reason Texas Tech currently ranks 115th in the nation with a -3 turnover margin.

Let's be clear: Shough has had exceptional moments. He leads the Big 12 right now with 310 passing yards per game, and he's the team's best running threat (More on that later). But there are a couple plays the fifth-year senior would love to have back from the bout with Oregon. He held on to the ball a hair too long and fumbled in the red zone with four minutes left in the first half when the Red Raiders were down 15-13. Later, in the third quarter, Jones AT&T Stadium was raucous after Texas Tech partially blocked a punt. Shough started at Oregon's 41-yard line looking to extend a 20-18 lead. Instead, he threw an interception as Jerand Bradley was held up in the throwing lane and Khyree Jackson peeled off him to make the play.

Add in two more interceptions and the fact Oregon committed none, and it's a wonder Texas Tech played this game as close as it did.

“It says a lot about our players and our team, how resilient they are and how hard they played," McGuire said after the game. "Because you probably look at any other game, and you have four turnovers, and you don’t have the lead that late.”

While Tech fans are juiced about backup quarterback Behren Morton's future, I don't think Shough's job is in jeopardy. He is not a guy with a turnover problem, historically, and his picks can be explained away to miscommunication, getting sacked as he threw on the pick-six and a hail mary attempt as time expired. Nevertheless, Tech can only win if he takes better care of the football.

Tech's turnover problems will be easier to fix than Baylor's dilemma at the signal caller spot: injuries.

Blake Shapen won the starting job in spring practice and played admirably in the opener against Texas State, but suffered an MCL injury that kept him out for the Utah game and will keep him out this week against Long Island. Aranda said Monday he's questionable for Baylor's week four matchup with No. 4 Texas as well.

Sawyer Robertson, a Mississippi State transfer, came on in relief at the end of the Texas State game and started off strong against Utah. Four of his first six drives ended in either a touchdown or a field goal attempt. But Robertson was noticeably gimpy in the second half after getting his right knee rolled up on a read option play, and he was never the same, ending with two interceptions and two three-and-outs.

Robertson will have to gut through a couple more games until Shapen is fully healed, but his mobility might be hampered.

Grounded ground game

At the bare minimum, Shough may be a mid-to-late-round NFL Draft pick if he stays healthy. But that's a huge if, considering he's undergone two major shoulder surgeries since transferring to Texas Tech. It's also a big if if he keeps up this torrid pace on the ground.

Shough, at 6-foot-5-inches and 230 pounds, has 38 rushing attempts through the first two games of the season. Texas Tech's running back room has combined for 24. That's a ton of hits the running backs should be taking that are instead put on the surgically repaired shoulder of the quarterback, and that's before taking into account the four sacks. Facing a fourth and two in the fourth quarter, the Red Raiders decided to run a quarterback draw with Shough, who took a massive shot at the line of scrimmage and failed to convert. 

The dependence on Shough's legs in the Wyoming game made sense when Texas Tech couldn't run the ball, but Tahj Brooks had six carries for 66 yards against Oregon. Hindsight is always 20/20, but the 5-foot-10-inch, 230-pound Brooks thrives in short-yardage situations and seems a better fit to run up the middle against a top-15 team than the quarterback. Brooks was in line to see an increase in touches with the departure of backfield mate SaRodorick Thompson, but instead, it feels like Shough has taken on all of Thompson's workload.

Shough will still be an asset in the ground game, but shifting toward a more balanced attack with Brooks could do wonders for the QB's health and energy levels.

Baylor appeared to have one of the most lethal backfields heading into 2023 when they paired Oklahoma State transfer Dominic Richardson with reigning Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year Richard Reese. The returns have yet to show. The Bears' offensive line debut against Texas State was anemic, as Shapen ran for his life and the running backs averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. To their credit, the offensive line performed much better against Utah, but with so many new faces, it's hard to tell which unit fans will see week to week.

Senior Gavin Byers was the only guy with starting experience at Baylor coming into the season, but he switched from right tackle to left guard. BYU transfer Clark Barrington is still adjusting to the center position after spending most of his career at left guard. Right guard Kaden Sieracki just made his second career start on Saturday, as did left tackle Alvin Ebosele. Still adjusting to the new offensive line, Reese has managed just 2.5 yards per carry, while Richardson has more than doubled him with 30 rushing attempts.

A Guantlet vs. a Stroll

Joey McGuire said at Big 12 Media Days he liked the depth he had on the front seven better than last season, even considering the loss of first-round NFL Draft pick Tyree Wilson. Tech is set in the interior with Tony Bradford Jr. and Jaylon Hutchings, but they've managed a meager three sacks for 11 yards in two games. The staff was high on 6-foot-6-inch senior Myles Cole, but he's been quiet with two tackles. Outside linebacker Steve Linton is another guy who should come off the edge more as the season wears on, but he's got one tackle for loss in two games.

Tech's most significant issue thus far hasn't been a lack of pressure but discipline in pass rushing lanes. Oregon quarterback Bo Nix scrambled out of the pocket for 46 rushing yards, and the week before, Wyoming's Andrew Peasley gained 68 on the ground.

The good news is that Tech has a "get-right" game against FCS Tarleton on Saturday before a nice ramp-up into Big 12 conference play with West Virginia, selected last in the preseason media poll, and then Houston, which looks vulnerable after a loss in double overtime to Rice. West Virginia gave up three sacks in its season-opening loss to No.7 Penn State, and Houston's offensive line is currently giving up seven tackles for loss a game.

Baylor's defensive line responded admirably in its game against Utah after getting manhandled by Texas State. TJ Franklin and Gabe Hall were a constant presence in Utah's backfield, and the Bears racked up six total tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

“(I’m) Impressed with how we came out," Aranda said on Monday. "Impressed with the physicality we played with, the speed that we played with, the confidence that we played with. A lot of that was at issue and in question after our first game.”

But after what should be a cakewalk against Long Island in Week 3, Baylor faces a Texas team that gave up zero sacks to No. 3 Alabama. Then, they face UCF and dual-threat quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, who should be back from a lower leg injury he suffered this past week against Boise State. They cap off the first half of their season with a game against Texas Tech.

If Baylor doesn't make some significant changes, they could potentially be 1–4 when they host the Red Raiders.

This article is available to our Digital Subscribers.
Click "Subscribe Now" to see a list of subscription offers.
Already a Subscriber? Sign In to access this content.

Sign In
Don't Miss Any Exclusive Coverage!

We've been the Bible of Texas football fans for 64 years. By joining the DCTF family you'll gain access to all of our exclusive content and have our magazines mailed to you!