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November 18, 2013

In the driver’s seat

NORMAN — Oklahoma State has a chance to emerge from an unexpected shadow this week.

The Cowboys were the preseason pick by Big 12 coaches as the favorite to win the league. But after an early loss at West Virginia, they have taken a bit of a backseat to Baylor’s undefeated run.

Both of the teams are now front and center: Baylor plays Saturday at Oklahoma State.

With six wins in a row, including a decisive victory at Texas on Saturday, the 11th-ranked Cowboys (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) control their fate in the Big 12 race. So do the No. 3 Bears (9-0, 6-0), who are on pace to set major college records with its 686 yards and 61 points a game.

“Once we played so poorly at West Virginia, our message to the plays was each week they have to go out and compete no matter what’s in line,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said Monday on the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “You have to win one to get to the next, and that’s the way that we’ve had to play for a month and a half. So it’s been the same message each week.”

Texas had been the only other team without a loss in Big 12 play before falling 38-13 to the Cowboys.

Baylor, which hasn’t won a game in Stillwater since 1939, has won a school-record 13 games in a row. The Bears are fourth in the BCS standings, though that isn’t something that moves coach Art Briles.

“We’re not looking at it right now because really all that’s week to week. Our job is to go out and win a football game,” Briles said. “It adds a little flavor to the pregame, but once the game starts, it’s all doing your job on the field.”

After the Cowboys, the Bears still have two more games — at TCU, which will treat the rivalry like its bowl game since the Frogs can’t go to one, and home against Texas. The regular season finale could be another potential Big 12 title-deciding game for Baylor — or the Longhorns (7-3, 6-1), if they beat Texas Tech at home on Thanksgiving night.

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