Waco, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - With the Big 12 Conference championship on the line, the No. 5 Baylor Bears welcome the No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats to McLane Stadium on Saturday night.
Heading into Saturday, Kansas State, Baylor and TCU are all tied atop the league standings with a 7-1 conference record. In the unlikely event that TCU losses at home to Iowa State, the survivor of this contest would win the league title outright. Otherwise, without a conference championship game, there will be co-champions, leaving the fate of winners in the hands of the College Football Playoff rankings.
Kansas State has exceeded expectations this season with an outstanding 9-2 record, with its only loss in league competition coming at TCU on Nov. 8, 41-20. Since that setback, the Wildcats have reeled off two straight wins at West Virginia (26-20) and at home against Kansas (51-13) to set up this make- or-break contest.
"We want to win a Big 12 Championship and we have that ahead of us," Kansas State wide receiver Curry Sexton said. "We have struggled with Baylor over the past couple of years...I think we owe them one. It is a tough game and they are a really good football team. We are looking forward to the challenge and going to be (as) ready as possible."
Since losing its only game of the season at West Virginia on Oct. 18 (41-27), Baylor has pieced together a four-game winning streak to move to 10-1 overall, most recently edging out Texas Tech last Saturday, 48-46. The Bears have a lot going for them in this matchup, as they have won 15 in a row at home (the second-longest active streak in the nation) and they are 7-0 against Top-25 teams in the last three seasons.
"Baylor never won a Big 12 Championship until last year so making history is good, but it's about winning football games now," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "(We're) trying to create consistency in a program and trying to prove that we belong with the nation's elite in college football and we can win on a consistent basis and it's not easy to do."
Kansas State has 7-4 lead in the all-time series with Baylor, but the Bears have won two of the last three matchups.
The Wildcats' offense has been extremely effective this season with 36.6 ppg an 428.1 ypg, and they are coming off one of their best performances of the season in a 51-point, 505-yard effort over Kansas last week.
Jake Waters was nothing short of outstanding in the KU win, completing 21- of-27 passes for 294 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He's completing just shy of 65 percent of his passes this season for 2,863 yards with 18 touchdowns and five picks, and he's thrown for at least 200 yards in every game. The quarterback is also a potent rushing threat with 440 yards and eight scores.
Waters is fortunate enough to have one of the nation's best receiving duos on his side in Tyler Lockett (79 receptions, 1,193 yards, eight TDs) and Sexton (67 receptions, 940 yards, five TDs). The two combined for 18 catches, 260 yards and three scores last week.
The backfield workload is split evenly between Charles Jones (111 carries, 476 yards) and DeMarcus Robinson (101 carries, 410 yards), with Jones getting the call in the red zone and cashing in with 12 touchdowns.
Defensively, Kansas State has done a great job keeping the potent Big 12 offenses down, as it yields just 20.3 ppg and 341.0 ypg.
Jonathan Truman is one of the league's best tacklers with 101 stops. Dante Barnett (65 tackles), Randall Evans (55 tackles) and Morgan Burns (46 tackles) all have three interceptions, while Ryan Mueller has 7.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks.
Under Briles, the Baylor offense has become the nation's most lethal, as it ranks first in the FBS in both scoring (49.8 ppg) and yardage (581.1 ypg), and with a 48-point showing last week, it has put up 40 or more points in all but two games this season.
Bryce Petty was in the midst of a great game last week (18-of-25, 210 yards, two TDs) before getting knocked out in the third quarter with a head injury, but after passing all the concussion tests, he is expected to play on Saturday.
"He was feeling pretty good (at practice early in the week)," Briles said of his quarterback. "He actually felt pretty good at the end of the game the other day."
Petty is completing just 59.3 percent of his passes this season but he has thrown for 289.3 ypg, accounted for 29 touchdowns and tossed just five interceptions. In the unlikely event that Petty doesn't play, the call will go to Seth Russell (804 passing yards, 11 total TDs, INT).
Petty has an arsenal of receiving weapons to rely on, as Corey Coleman, KD Cannon, Antwan Goodley and Jay Lee all have at least 539 yards and five touchdowns to their credit. Coleman (53 receptions, 928 yards, 10 TDs in just eight games) and Cannon (47 receptions, 800 yards, six TDs) are the stars of the unit.
The potent rushing attack picks up more than 240 yards per outing, with Shock Linwood earning the majority of the work with 1,135 yards and 15 touchdowns on 222 carries.
Baylor's defense had a major hiccup last week in giving up 46 points and 712 yards to Texas Tech, but the unit has still performed well this season in allowing only 23.9 ppg and 364.5 ypg, while forcing 23 turnovers.
The Bears' top defensive playmakers are Bryce Hager (89 tackles, 9.0 TFL, sack, INT, two FF), Orion Stewart (64 tackles, four INT), Shawn Oakman (17.5 TFL, 9.0 sacks, three FF) and Xavian Howard (39 tackles, three INTs, 14 passes defended).