Besides playing each other once a year, Baylor and Kansas State appear to also be connected in the astrological sense.
Baylor kick-started its remarkable 12-game win streak last year with a 52-24 upset over top-ranked K-State. The Bears won their next three games, including the Holiday Bowl over UCLA, and were considered one of the hottest teams in the country by year's end.
The same could be said about Kansas State this year following the Wildcats' 49-26 win over Texas Tech. Bill Snyder's team, which began the season with a loss to North Dakota State, has now won three in a row and is one win away from bowl eligibility.
Name a team in the Big 12 that wants to play the Snydercats now.
Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State—the three teams that have separated themselves in the Big 12 title race—all have one thing in common: They all played Kansas State early. The average margin of victory in those three games was eight points. So even when K-State was playing below average, it still came within striking distance of the conference's best.
The 'Cats were the most improved team in the conference at the halfway point in the season, and that improvement continues after thumping the Red Raiders on the road.
K-State ran for 291 yards and five touchdowns against Tech (which has had poor run defense over the past few weeks). KSU didn't even attempt a pass in the first quarter (that wasn't negated by a penalty) and was still up 14-10.
Put another way:
From Week 1 to Week 11, K-State has transformed into a completely different team—in the sense that it looks more like its old, successful self. The Wildcats are running the ball with far more success, and the young, inexperienced defense that couldn't get off the field against North Dakota State is doing a better job of lowering third-down conversion percentages (66th nationally vs. 103rd nationally a month ago) and forcing turnovers.
Incidentally, K-State's run really began with the 35-25 loss to Baylor in October. That's when the Wildcats ran for 327 yards against a Bears defense that has been statistically stout the entire season. Baylor's 35 points in that game stand as a season low, and the 10-point differential remains the closest game the Bears have played in all season.
The narrative on Baylor all season is that it hadn't been tested prior to Thursday's game against Oklahoma. The more K-State keeps winning, the more that narrative gets debunked.
Two of Kansas State's final three games—against TCU and Oklahoma—are at home. After the Sooners' offensive debacle against Baylor on Thursday, that Nov. 23 trip to Manhattan looks even more interesting.
Depending on how things play out in the coming weeks, Kansas State could be favored against OU.
The Wildcats may not be in a position to win a conference title in 2013, but in the final stretch of the season, few Big 12 teams should be feared more than Kansas State.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All stats courtesy of the NCAA. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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