WACO, Texas – Fifth-ranked Baylor is in the same position as a year ago, with its home finale being a de facto Big 12 championship game.
The defending champion Bears have even more at stake this time.
Baylor (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, No. 6 CFP) can make a strong case for inclusion in the new four-team national playoff with a win Saturday night over ninth-ranked Kansas State (9-2, 7-1, No. 9 CFP), which is also trying to win another Big 12 title.
"Everything is motivating at this point. Our team put itself in a position to win another Big 12 championship. That is big in itself," said Bears receiver Corey Coleman, who has touchdown catches in a nation-best eight consecutive games. "Then you add in the situation with the playoffs, and it makes this week pretty big. ... There's a lot on the line, and it's up to us not to let that be bigger than the game itself."
Kansas State is going for its second Big 12 title in three seasons, but had to share the 2012 championship because of a miserable night its last visit to Waco two years ago. The Wildcats were 10-0 and ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings before a 52-24 loss.
The Bears and Wildcats will know by kickoff if they are playing to share or win the conference title outright. Fourth-ranked TCU (10-1, 7-1, No. 3 CFP) can claim its share with a win earlier Saturday against last-place Iowa State (2-9, 0-8).
On a bone-chilling first Saturday in December last year, Baylor claimed its first Big 12 title outright with a 30-7 win over Texas, after Oklahoma State lost at home to Oklahoma earlier in the day.
"There's a lot of parallels and a lot of differences," coach Art Briles said. "We're a different football team of course, and Kansas State is different than Texas was, but the scenario is certainly the same."
Coach Bill Snyder's team has mostly been in the Big 12 background this year because of the ongoing national debate about private schools TCU and Baylor, even with K-State having the same chance to win a Big 12 title.
"That is not something I think about. Certainly our players do and that is certainly viable. I don't address it that way," Snyder said. "I am the same old, same old, one day at a time. ... Other than the fact that we are capable of anything, I do not place any limitations on our football team today and certainly did not however many months ago when we got started."
Here are a few things to know for the second matchup of Top 10 teams in Waco this season, after the only previous one came in 1956:
PETTY'S PROGRESS: Bears quarterback Bryce Petty was a full participant in practice by the end of the week after getting knocked out of a 48-46 win over Texas Tech last Saturday with a concussion. But Baylor officials said he was still progressing through the concussion protocol. His status for K-State was still undetermined.
FORMER BOSS: Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett once served in that role on Bill Snyder's staff at Kansas State (1999-2001). "I don't like playing him," Bennett said. "But obviously my allegiance and loyalty is to Baylor. One of the things that I think attracts us to each other is we're such fierce competitors."
GRAM PERFORMANCE: Matthew McCrane, Kansas State's primary kicker the past eight games, has 77 points to easily pass Martin Gramatica's freshman scoring record of 54 points set 20 years ago. McCrane has made 14 of 15 field goals, but would rather be kicking a lot of extra points. "I am not too happy that I am kicking this many field goals," McCrane said. "We need to put it in, especially when we are in the red zone."
BEARS AT HOME: Baylor has won 15 consecutive home games, one behind Alabama for the longest active streak. The Bears have won all five games in their new stadium on the banks of the Brazos River, and 24 of their last 25 games in Waco since 2011.
BETTER WEATHER: For the Big 12 finale at Baylor last December, the temperature at kickoff for the day game was 24 degrees with wind and misty conditions making it feel much colder. The forecast for Saturday night is for cloudy skies with temperatures in the 50s.