No. 9 Oklahoma State looks to avenge last season's painful loss to Baylor in the Big 12 title game when the Cowboys visit the No. 16 Bears on Saturday afternoon at Waco, Texas.
Oklahoma State (3-0) is coming off a bye and playing its Big 12 opener while Baylor (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) posted a 31-24 road victory at Iowa State last week.
Last season, the Cowboys won the regular-season matchup with the Bears but fell short 21-16 in the conference championship game when a possible College Football Playoff spot was on the line. Then-No. 5 Oklahoma State had first-and-goal at the Baylor 2-yard line with 1:19 remaining but the Bears stopped all four plays, including the final one just short of the goal-line.
The play of Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders will be observed closely.
Sanders threw 12 interceptions last season and seven came in the two games against Baylor. In the title game, he was picked off four times and didn't throw a touchdown.
Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said the pass protection will need to be better this time.
"I went back and looked at that, four of the seven (Sanders interceptions), I think four of them he was being hit when he let go of the ball," Gundy said. "And then one he threw off his back foot on a crossing route, overthrew a guy and hit the safety in the stomach. So, we certainly want to be more protective with the ball against them.
"And I'm not really concerned about it based on the number of turnovers that he had. He was being hit when he threw the ball."
Sanders has played well this season with 916 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception, and is just 173 yards away from becoming the fifth Oklahoma State quarterback to pass for 8,000 career yards.
His play has helped the Cowboys lead the nation in scoring offense (51.7 points per game) and rank eighth in total offense (511.3 yards per game).
"He's playing pretty good," Gundy said. "When we protect him a little bit and rush the ball some, he's a pretty good football player. He's got good skill. He understands what we're trying to accomplish. We've talked about this a number of times, but he's had a lot of experience now. Things come to him much easier than they did a couple of years ago."
Baylor coach Dave Aranda has taken note of Sanders, saying "offensively, (Oklahoma State's) quarterback really stands out. Really playing fast, looks faster, playing confident."
The Bears are looking for their 10th consecutive home win behind an offense that ranks 22nd in scoring (40.5) and 23rd in points allowed (16.8).
Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen passed for season highs of 238 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Iowa State. He has thrown for 773 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception this season.
Shapen completed 19 of 26 passes against the Cyclones, marking the second time this season that he has completed more than 70 percent of his passes.
"If we can get things like this that we can build off, for sure we'll do it," Aranda said. "And then try to take the next step, because there's a whole lot to it."
Shapen was 23-of-28 passing for 180 yards and three touchdowns in the title game win over the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State leads the series 22-19.
--Field Level Media