STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ A year ago, Baylor climbed out of its perennial last-place spot in the Big 12 Conference South Division and eliminated Oklahoma State from postseason contention. The Cowboys have a chance to return the favor on Saturday.
The Bears (4-6, 3-3 Big 12), having their best football season since Big 12 play began in 1996, must score a second straight win against the Cowboys (5-4, 2-3) to keep their hopes alive for their first bowl game in 12 years.
``We are looking at it as if it were playoffs. If we lose one game, we cannot reach our goal for the season,'' Baylor wide receiver Trent Shelton said. ``As seniors, we told the team on Sunday that if we lose this next game, the game with Oklahoma really means nothing. As seniors we have to play like every down is our last one.''
Oklahoma State enters the game needing only one win in its final three games to become bowl eligible for the fourth time in five seasons. But with a trip to Texas Tech _ where the Cowboys haven't won since 1944 _ and a home game against No. 17 Oklahoma to close the season, this may be Oklahoma State's best chance to get back to the postseason.
``In previous years you could probably say that, but at Baylor they've stepped it up,'' Oklahoma State defensive tackle Xavier Lawson-Kennedy said. ``It's going to be a great game.''
With a 44-34 win at home last year, Baylor ended a nine-game losing streak in the series and ensured for the first time it wouldn't finish last in the Big 12 South.
The Cowboys once again find themselves looking up at the Bears, who are a half-game ahead in the standings.
``Baylor's definitely a lot better team than they've been in the past,'' Oklahoma State safety Donovan Woods said. ``Their coach is doing a great job of recruiting good players and they're believing in the system that he's implementing. They're not a bad team. They've beat some quality teams.
``We know that they're a challenging opponent for us. We won't take them lightly.''
It was a dreadful game by Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid last season that put the Bears in position for the win. Reid threw a pair of interceptions to help Baylor grab a 28-0 lead and he was replaced by backup Al Pena before halftime.
Reid has bounced back this season to become the 10th-rated passer in the country and lead the Cowboys within one win of a return to the postseason.
``It's still a top goal on our list. We've still got three games to get us to a bowl game,'' Reid said. ``We're in good position where we want to be at and looking to go forward.''
For Baylor, it'll be the second start for quarterback Blake Szymanski, the replacement for injured starter Shawn Bell, who'd thrown for the second-most yards in the Big 12. Szymanski threw for 196 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more scores in Baylor's 55-21 loss to Texas Tech last week.
``I don't know how much more you put on him than last week,'' Baylor offensive coordinator Lee Hays said. ``As a play-caller, you feel a little bit more comfortable putting him in some situations where he has to do something smart as far as getting rid of the ball. I don't think we'll change much.''