STILLWATER — Based purely on perception, Baylor's offense is actually quite deceiving.
Yes, the Bears' spread-it-out passing game offers plenty of speed, finesse and razzle dazzle. But their ground game is powerful, behind huge-but-agile offensive lineman Cyril Richardson and several options at running back that can both elude and break through tackles. They rush for 300 yards and pass for 300 yards a game.
In other words, Baylor is racking up its staggering numbers — more than 61 points and nearly 685 yards per game — because the attack is balanced and versatile.
Which means 10th-ranked Oklahoma State will need to counter with balanced and versatile defenders to pull off an upset of the No. 4 Bears Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium in a game with Big 12 and national title implications.
Which is where a guy like Lyndell Johnson can come in handy.
Johnson, a junior safety, is not a starter but plays in a multitude of sub packages. At 6-3 and 215 pounds, Johnson's speed, length and athleticism make him a rangy playmaker all over the field against both the run and pass.
“If you have a man, you have to keep your eyes on that man,” Johnson said. “A big play can happen on any play, so you have to focus on doing your job."
A former outside linebacker, Johnson has tallied 40 tackles (four for loss), two pass breakups and two fumble recoveries so far this season. He's also got two sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble in his career. And he's particularly come on in recent weeks, with 23 tackles, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup in OSU's last three games while occasionally seeing an increased role while starter Shamiel Gary was out with an injury.
But it will take way more than one Cowboy to tame Baylor's high-powered offense. Here are some others who will be in the crosshairs Saturday:
CALVIN BARNETT, DEFENSIVE TACKLE
The cog in the middle of the Cowboy defense will often be matched up against Richardson.
This will be a pretty simple, but crucial, strength vs. strength battle in the trenches. Barnett will try to plug the Baylor run game and help OSU get pressure up the middle. Richardson will try to knock him out of the way. Both players are also quite athletic for their 300-pound size.