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Preview: #11 Utah at Baylor

The eleventh-ranked Utah Utes travel to Waco, Texas to take on the Baylor Bears.

Broadcast Information:

  • Kickoff 12:00 pm Eastern Time on ESPN.

  • Bob Wischusen and Robert Griffin III will be on the call.

  • Radio: Baylor - Baylor Bears Network (; Utah - ESPN 700

Baylor Line
Baylor Line Courtesy of Rockin'Rita @Flickr

What's At Stake?

For Baylor, they will be looking to bounce back in a big way after an embarrassing upset at the hands of Texas State in week 1. Baylor was favored by 27.5 and lost 42-31. The Bears will also be testing out a new quarterback. Blake Shapen suffered an MCL injury and is expected to miss the next 2-3 weeks. Mississippi State transfer Sawyer Robertson will get a chance to show his skills at the quarterback position against a feisty Utah defense. The Bears will also be looking for an improved defensive performance after giving up nearly 450 yards and 42 points to a Texas State team they dominated in 2022.

For Utah, they are looking to build on their week 1 victory over Florida. The Utes go on the road for the first time this year. Early road trips have not been kind to Utah of late. They are 1-3 on the road in September in their last two seasons. Given Baylor's poor performance in week 1, I am sure Kyle Wittingham will be stressing to his team that this is a trap game for them. Utah exacted revenge on Florida in the opener and now goes on the road against a team with a caged-animal mentality. That is not usually a good recipe for college players. Baylor will almost certainly look much better this week and Utah will need to be ready for it if they hope to stay in the playoff discussion throughout the season.

Key Players:

For Utah, quarterbacks Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson are who I am interested in watching. Barnes appears to be the starter until Cam Rising is back. He was serviceable in the opener, although the offense was stagnant in the second half as the Utes just sat on their lead. However, Nate Johnson looked impressive in a small package of plays that were on display against Florida. Johnson's athleticism is undeniable and I expect a similar, if not larger, role for him in the game against Baylor.

For Baylor, Sawyer Robertson will be making his first start in place of Blake Shapen. A new quarterback is always a key player. Running Back Richard Reese is also a player worth watching. Reese led Baylor in rushing as a freshman and was named to the preseason watch lists for both the Maxwell and Doak Walker awards. In the loss to Texas State, he had just seven carries for 14 yards. Dominic Richardson was Baylor's leading rusher, with 16 carries for 79 yards. I am curious if this was just a blip or a sign that Reese is in for a sophomore slump.

Key Matchups:

  • Utah's rush defense against Baylor's rushing attack. Dave Aranda already wants to run the ball even when playing with a full deck of cards. Given Baylor is starting a new quarterback, who has some ability to run, they will likely try to test Utah's rushing defense. A tactic that did not work out for Florida (13 yards on 21 carries - 0.6 ypc). The Bears struggled on the ground against Texas State, 3.4 yards per carry on 32 attempts, and will need to improve considerably to have success against a thus-far stout Utah defense.

  • Baylor's secondary against Utah's passing game. Baylor gave up 298 yards through the air on 22 completions against Texas State, good for 13.5 yards per completion. Utah threw for only 165 against Florida, but they were also up 24-3 early in the 3rd quarter and were content to slow the game down. Utah is not projected to be one of the more explosive passing offenses in the country, so there could be some opportunity for Baylor's defense to squeeze Utah's passing game to make the Utes more one-dimensional.

Prediction Utah:

This is the classic neither team will look as good/bad as they did in week 1, scenario. I predict that Baylor puts a good scare into Utah, but is unable to pull off the upset. I like Utah to win with a late score to improve to 2-0 on the season. Utah 20 - Baylor 17.


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