1. He’s a Bear. Set aside for a moment Baylor’s high-powered passing game. The most explosive player on the roster lines up in the backfield. His name is Lache (pronounced “Lake”) Seastrunk, below, and minimizing the damage he inflicts is paramount for a UB defense that gave up two long touchdown runs last week to Ohio State’s Jordan Hall. Seastrunk transferred back home from Chip Kelly’s offensively dynamic Oregon program before 2011 and proceeded to shred the Big 12 last season. He gained 1,012 yards on just 131 attempts and three of his seven TDs covered 68 yards or more. He’s strong (5-foot-10, 210 pounds), exceptionally fast (4.34 in 40), took offensive MVP honors at last year’s Holiday Bowl and was named to multiple preseason All-American teams. He went for 111 yards and two TDs in the opener against Wofford, a solid FCS program.
2. In their defense. Combine a 49-26 Holiday Bowl victory over UCLA with last week’s 69-3 rout of Wofford and Baylor has allowed fewer than 47 points total in consecutive games for the first time since the second and third weeks of 2011. An improved ‘D’ is vital to the Bears’ goal of winning the Big 12 and signs are they’re on the upswing. Wofford’s option-laden offense enabled Baylor to sell out against the run last week and produce 15 tackles for losses. UB won’t be as one-dimensional. Safety Ahmad Dixon is a ferocious hitter and Baylor’s DBs are afforded the luxury of the gamble by an offense that can quickly atone for any coverage mistakes.
3. QB comparison. Baylor’s Bryce Petty, a redshirt junior, served a three-year apprenticeship under Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence. He finally gets his shot this year and there was little to quibble over in his debut: 19 of 24 for 312 yards and two TDs. Petty has the luxury of a ridiculous array of talented and speedy receivers. Tevin Reese, a fleet senior, had five catches for 97 yards in the opener and has averaged at least 17.2 yards a reception every season since his freshman year. But he’s not alone. Nine Bears caught passes last week and three produced TDs. On the Buffalo end, redshirt sophomore Joe Licata was poised and made mostly solid decisions in the 40-20 loss at Ohio State even though the running game struggled. The tight end has become more of a factor in the pass game (seven catches last week), diverting some of the D’s attention from the main man, wideout Alex Neutz (nine catches, 98 yards, 1 TD).
4. Re-establish the run. The Bulls had a tough day on the ground against Ohio State and the sight of Branden Oliver hesitating right from the handoff was a tell-tale sign the O-line wasn’t getting much in the way of push. Surprising, too, is that UB ran right as much as it did given that its strength is left behind veterans Andre Davis and Jasen Carlson. The passing game picked up some of the slack against the Buckeyes but if the Bulls are going to dream big they need to get it going on the ground.
5. Extra points. Baylor’s rise to No. 23 in the AP poll means Bulls will be facing ranked opponents back-to-back for first time in program history. ... Baylor has a 2-0 advantage in the series, the last game a 34-6 victory on Sept. 11, 2010. ... UB has no players from Texas, a state it recruited under former coach Turner Gill. ... Bears left guard Cyril Richardson (6-5, 340) is projected as a likely first-rounder in NFL Draft. ... UB LB Khalil Mack is sure to draw extra attention off exemplary performance at Ohio State. ... Baylor has turned opponents over twice in seven of last eight games.
Outlook: Bears an extremely difficult matchup given speed of offense and their athletes. Bulls will put up points but enough points? Hard to see it. Baylor, 47-31.