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Lache Seastrunk, Baylor rushing attack can quiet the doubters

Skepticism has been the one constant at Baylor under head coach Art Briles. Skepticism that a long-time high school coach could make his offense work in the Big 12, that the Bears could replace Robert Griffin III, that they could ever truly compete for the conference championship.

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The Bears can erase that latest bit of doubt Thursday night against Oklahoma, which has taken 21 of the last 22 meetings against Baylor. The lone exception was in RGIII's Heisman Trophy-winning season, and even that result required a last-second touchdown.

But Thursday, Baylor will take the field as a significant favorite over the Sooners, although the questions remain: How will the Bears' passing offense fare against an Oklahoma secondary that shut it down last season?

It is an intriguing query, but one that might be rendered irrelevant by running back Lache Seastrunk. Seastrunk had 91 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries in last season's meeting, and Baylor finished with 252 yards on the ground against a more experienced Sooners front than the one that will take the field at tarp-less Floyd Casey Stadium.

Since losing outside linebacker Corey Nelson to a torn pectoral muscle, the Sooners have allowed 255 rushing yards to rival Texas and 185 to a one-dimensional Kansas team. Even pass-happy Texas Tech averaged a solid 4.4 yards per carry, once sacks were taken out of the equation.

Left tackle Spencer Drango and left guard Cyril Richardson have formed one of the best partnerships in the FBS, helping Baylor average 6.3 yards per attempt. Seastrunk (869 yards, 11 touchdowns) is averaging 9.1 yards per carry, benefitting from the favorable matchups the Bears' spread offense creates.

"Their alignments are crazy," Sooners cornerback Aaron Colvin told the Oklahoman. "You look on film and you see how they're lined up and spaced throughout the field and there's just so much room.

"It's a great scheme, and they have the athletes for it. They try to put athletes in space and let them make plays. ... You can't really describe their alignments, you just have to see it on film."

That puts Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops in a bind. Try to bring help from the secondary, and quarterback Bryce Petty is more than capable of connecting on the deep ball and exploiting one-on-one coverage, as he did with touchdown passes of 93, 72 and 54 yards in Baylor's closest win at Kansas State. Drop into a conservative shell, and Seastrunk will do damage, possessing the speed to turn any carry into a long touchdown.

The pressure will be on linebackers Frank Shannon and Dominique Alexander, a true freshman thrust into the starting lineup to replace Nelson, to tackle well, with the hope that linemen Geneo Grissom, Jordan Wade, Chuka Ndulue and Charles Tapper (team-high six tackles for loss with 4.5 sacks) can generate enough pressure.

It is an approach that worked well for the Wildcats and still resulted in a 10-point loss.

There might be an inkling of uncertainty still surrounding Baylor, but it pales in comparison to the question the Sooners and the rest of the Big 12 are facing: Can anyone slow down this offense?

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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