STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) – The Big 12 Conference championship will be at stake when No. 3 Baylor visits No. 11 Oklahoma State on Saturday.
The Bears (9-0, 6-0 Big 12), powered by the nation’s most dynamic offense, will try to claim the school’s first Big 12 title and first non-shared conference championship since winning the old Southwest Conference back in 1980. They’re also maintaining hopes of landing a spot in the BCS national championship contest.
For Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1), having the opportunity to contend for the Big 12 title seemed improbable after a 30-21 loss at West Virginia on Sept. 28. But the Cowboys, after changing their quarterback and primary running back, have won six straight, including last week’s 38-13 rout over then-No. 23 Texas.
Now each school will play its biggest game of the season in the national spotlight.
“Stuff doesn’t always work out for you, and you’ve got to be able to play through the adversity,” said Oklahoma State offensive lineman Parker Graham. “What happened with us against West Virginia, we could have gone down and lost a couple more games, but we decided as a team to push ourselves through it and that’s what’s gotten us here.”
Baylor will face TCU and Texas after this weekend.
“We’ve got to play real clean and we’ve got to be real sharp with our focus,” said Bears coach Art Briles, whose squad attempts to snap a 10-game losing streak in Stillwater. “I think we’re going in there without question a more mature football team than any other time.”
Five things to watch on Saturday:
OUT IN FRONT: Baylor has scored first in seven of its nine games and has outscored opponents in the first quarter by a combined margin of 191-40. Overall, the Bears have trailed for just 17:11 combined all season, including the season-high 10:58 during last week’s 63-34 win over Texas Tech.
CHELF IN CHARGE: Cowboys QB Clint Chelf has improved every game since replacing J.W. Walsh on Oct. 19, with his best performance coming last week at Texas when he completed 16 of 22 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 95 yards and two scores on just 10 carries. “If Clint needs to throw the ball or run the ball, we have confidence that he can do both,” said WR Charlie Moore.
UNSUNG HEROES: The overwhelming success of Baylor’s offense has overshadowed just how impressive its defense has played this year, ranking seventh in the country in allowing 17.4 points per game and fourth in average yards per play (4.22). “The biggest concern for us is their defense,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “They’ve got several guys who can play in the NFL, in our opinion.”
RETURN TO SENDER: Oklahoma State senior CB Justin Gilbert is a threat whenever he gets his hands on the ball, having returned two of his conference-leading six interceptions for touchdowns this season, as well as a 100-yard kickoff return. To win, the Cowboys will probably need at least one non-offensive touchdown.
DEPTH CHARGE: Baylor has relied upon its strong depth after losing injured RB Lache Seastrunk, who ranks second in the nation with 8.7 yards per carry and leads the Big 12 with 11 rushing touchdowns, and WR Tevin Reese, who leads the nation with 25 yards per catch. In larger roles last week against Texas Tech, freshman Shock Linwood rushed for 187 yards and a touchdown, and junior Levi Norwood had seven receptions for 156 yards and two scores.
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