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Saturday hosts an underrated undercard

10/19/2010

No. 16 Oklahoma State and No. 14 Nebraska will hog the headlines during Saturday afternoon. The morning and night will belong to Columbia, Mo., which hosts ESPN's "College GameDay" before the No. 11 Tigers take on top-ranked Oklahoma in the nationally televised nightcap on ABC.

But at 3:30 p.m. ET is a game that might mean more to the respective programs than any of the aforementioned.

Kansas State and Baylor will tangle in Waco, with the winner earning bowl eligibility, something neither has tasted for quite some time.

Baylor's infamous 15-year drought could end. The Wildcats went to bowls in 10 consecutive seasons under former and current coach Bill Snyder, but have seen the postseason just twice since 2002, left at home for the holidays in each of the last three seasons.

Both enter Saturday's game with five wins. And for Kansas State to earn its sixth, it'll have to beat a Baylor team with talent unfamiliar to fans of the Big 12 before coach Art Briles' arrival.

"They’re a bigger, more physical and faster football team on both sides of the ball. Of course, [Baylor quarterback] Robert [Griffin] is as good as there is and just seems to get better and better and can carry a tremendous load coming off the knee surgery," Snyder said. "It’s a collective thing. You’re looking at two interior defensive linemen that average 335 pounds each. They’re locked in there pretty good to defend the run and everybody around them runs well.

"It’s the best Baylor team that I can recall."

It's a Baylor team that knows how close it is to making history, but has plenty more work to do before it spends any more time talking about it.

"We’re just trying hard for wins," Briles said. "and then, shoot, some time at the end of the season, we’ll add ‘em up."

Those two defensive linemen, 355-pound Phil Taylor and 310-pound Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, will be charged with slowing a hungry Daniel Thomas, who hasn't topped 100 yards in his past three games, after rushing for 552 yards in his first three.

Doing so will give the Bears a leg up on achieving what Griffin called the team's "primary goal."

"Everybody knows what comes after five. It’s six. We all know that’s big for this university and this community, but it’s more of a sense of just going out and seizing an opportunity rather than tightening up, because it’s right there and we can grab it," Griffin said. "Everybody’s ready to go out and just seize the moment ahead and make history."

For now, the focus is preparation. But Griffin says the Bears have bowl eligibility very much in the back of their minds.

"I know we’ve all worked hard and we all deserve it," he said. "We’re all going to be the ones who get our names etched in stone as the ones that got Baylor back to a bowl game."