|Jerome Miron / USA Today Sports|
|Baylor left guard Cyril Richardson has helped the Bears average 300 rushing yards per game this season.|
It is going to be bone-chilling cold Saturday night in Stillwater, Okla., with temperatures in the 30s and gusts of 10-20 miles per hour when Baylor and Oklahoma State kick off their critical Big 12 Conference game. Not exactly favorable conditions for the Bears' high-powered spread offense, right?
For those who haven't really seen the Bears and focus only on the eye-popping statistics quarterback Bryce Petty and his wide receivers have put up this season, there is a whole other side that starts up front, specifically with redshirt senior left guard Cyril Richardson.
"Our offensive line started out as the strength of our football team, and I think that's held true throughout these four months," Baylor head coach Art Briles said.
Behind Richardson, a hulking presence at 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, Baylor is rushing for 300 yards per game and averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Even with veteran running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin held out because of injury last week against Texas Tech, the Bears still rolled up 340 yards on the ground, with redshirt freshmen Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin each rushing for 100 yards.
Richardson is at the heart of that success, opening massive holes to allow those backs free release into the second level. "He doesn't have a ton to prove; he kind of is what he is," an AFC scout told NFL Media reporter Albert Breer.
However, an AFC college scouting director called Richardson "so overrated," presumably because of concerns about his athleticism and the favorable matchups the Baylor scheme creates.
How Richardson fares against Cowboys defensive tackle Calvin Barnett (6-2, 300), who has seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and five hurries this season, could quiet those doubts, as could his blitz recognition when Oklahoma State sends linebacker Caleb Lavey. Lavey is tied for third on the team with 2.5 tackles for loss.
What could complicate matters is the absence of starting left tackle Spencer Drango because of back surgery. Drango and Richardson have formed one of the finest pairings in college football, but presumably the Cowboys would be more interested in challenging Drango's replacement rather than testing Richardson. That could mean more twists, stunts and overload looks from the right side of the OSU defense, which would test Richardson's footwork and ability to diagnose.
But when things get tough, be it because of the weather or circumstances of the game, expect Baylor to go right up the middle behind Richardson, turning its best road-grader into a snowplow.
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.