Oklahoma-Baylor Preview

The Associated Press

(AP) -- - Baylor was the laughing stock of the Big 12, stuck at the bottom of the league when coach Art Briles arrived six years ago.

What the No. 5 Bears are doing now is quite a reversal.

With their fast-paced offense that leads the nation at 63.9 points and 718.4 total yards per game, the Bears are outscoring opponents by an average margin of 48. They scored 69 in their season opener and have reached 70 points four times since.

Next up is arguably the most-anticipated game ever at Baylor, Thursday night at home against a No. 12 Oklahoma team that revamped its defense during the offseason because of matchups just like this one.

Baylor (7-0, 4-0) is the Big 12's only undefeated team and, with its highest ranking in 60 years, the only one in the top 10.

"I certainly think that people view us as a legitimate threat," Briles said. "Whether we're viewed as the perennial program that this is one that you better watch out for all the time, I don't know. Time will tell on that. But I do think now that we've earned enough respect where when people look at us, they're thinking that's a tough out."

While the Bears have a school-record 11-game winning streak, there is still a long way to go for a possible Big 12 title and BCS shot. They still have to play the rest of the teams in the top half of the league standings - Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas - and Thursday night's game presents a major challenge.

"From a realistic standpoint, we just feel like this season is just getting started," Briles said. "I know we've played seven games, but we're ready and willing and anxious to get into the grind time, get into where we're fighting and scraping for every single thing that's out there, and that's the way we've always approached the game."

The Sooners (7-1, 4-1) were hurt by spread offenses run by West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M during the final stretch of 2012, so they switched to an alignment with three defensive linemen and five defensive backs.

It's worked well for most of the season, as the Sooners rank 10th in the FBS in total defense, allowing 314.3 yards per game.

But Baylor and its eye-popping offensive numbers will present the most difficult challenge so far this season for the Sooners.

Oklahoma did get a bit of a preview of what it might see Thursday in its last game, a 38-30 win over Texas Tech and its high-powered offense Oct. 26.

"We did it for most of the teams we see in our league," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of the change in defensive schemes.

"We just saw it with Tech and Baylor is also a part of that, you know, on and on. We felt it gave us more versatility. It played to our strengths better and it put more speed on the field. Hopefully, it will continue to help us."

Oklahoma is 21-1 all-time against Baylor, but the one loss was memorable, as then-Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III made a huge impression in the Heisman Trophy race on his way toward winning that honor in 2011.

The Bears' offensive juggernaut has continued with Bryce Petty, who is fourth nationally with 350.4 passing yards per game.

Stoops said the Bears like to spread defenses out with Petty and their speedy wide receivers, then attack in the middle of the field with running back Lache Seastrunk, who has rushed for 869 yards and 11 touchdowns. That combination limits the number of things an opposing defense can do, Stoops said.

"You can only do so much, in that ... when they line two guys up all the way out there," he said, pointing one way, "and all the way out there," pointing the other way, "you've got to go out and cover them, so there's only so many left.

"At the end of the day, there's only so much you can do. You have to be able to play. You've got to be able to cover them out there and you've got to be able to stop the run game with what's left in here."

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said if the Sooners are to win, they must keep the Baylor offense off the field.

"If we play 90-100 snaps (on defense), it's not good," he said. "You can't win a game, I don't believe, playing Baylor if we have to play 90-100 snaps. That's not a game that you want to be in. You hope your offense can control the football and you can control the tempo of the game.

"If they are running in those numbers, it means they have the ball and they are running very efficiently and that's going to stress your defense more than the D-line. It's going to stress your players covering those guys for 100 snaps. Covering them for 100 snaps is virtually impossible."

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