The BCS No. 4 Baylor Bears passed their biggest test of the season two weeks ago and kept the momentum going by winning last week.
Now, the resurgent program will take on an even greater challenge in the No. 10 Oklahoma State Cowboys—the second Sooner State team the Bears will face in three games.
Plenty of star power will be on display between these two sensational teams that are exceeding expectations and battling for Big 12 supremacy. Baylor is atop the conference standings at 6-0, but the Cowboys are at 6-1 and hold a tiebreaker over Texas after dismantling the Longhorns 38-13 this past Saturday.
Let's take a look at the top studs to watch in this battle in Stillwater's Boone Pickens Stadium.
Note: Team statistics are courtesy of NCAA.com unless otherwise indicated.
Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
The Heisman Trophy contender has quarterbacked this relentless Bears attack in almost mistake-free fashion, tossing a whopping 24 touchdowns and just one interception.
An underrated element of Bryce Petty's game is how mobile he is, as he accounted for three touchdowns through the air and two on the ground in beating Texas Tech in Waco 63-34.
Petty hangs mostly in the pocket, though, where he is able to stretch the field vertically off play action and make quick decisions in exploiting matchups in the well-spaced spread offense.
The Cowboys do allow 239.5 passing yards per game but have yielded just 11 passing touchdowns in 10 games and conceded a mere 5.76 yards per attempt.
To date, Petty has thrived no matter what the situation, but the health of one Oklahoma State defensive back will go a long way in determining how feasible that will be for him.
Justin Gilbert/Tyler Patmon, CB, Oklahoma State
With how balanced Baylor is under head coach Art Briles, the Cowboys defense is likely in a situation of picking its poison.
However, the outlook for Oklahoma State could be ominous if top-flight cornerback Justin Gilbert is not able to play in this game.
As reported by John Helsley of NewsOK.com, Gilbert was seen at an Oklahoma State basketball game Tuesday with his left arm in a sling due to a shoulder injury he suffered late in last week's win over Texas.
Gilbert was given high praise by ESPN.com draft expert Todd McShay, per Helsley's colleague Gina Mizell:
Todd McShay calls #OKState CB Justin Gilbert "the best, most consistent cover corner in college football this year...flat-out playmaker."— Gina Mizell (@ginamizell) November 21, 2013
Replacing that type of production is nearly impossible, as Gilbert has six of the Cowboys' 19 interceptions this season.
Patmon will have to try, per Helsley, if Gilbert is unable to go. Gilbert could shut down an entire half of the field if he plays at the level he has been all season.
Unfortunately, all the pressure could rest on Patmon's shoulders, as he'll have the unenviable task of matching up with Antwan Goodley. The junior wideout averages a ridiculous 22.4 yards per catch and has amassed 1075 yards and 11 touchdowns for Baylor.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
While Petty and the passing game rightly garner a lot of the attention, the Bears rushing attack is formidable as well.
That point was driven home by Cowboys safety Zack Craig, as reported by Jake Trotter of ESPN.com: "Everyone talks about their quarterback, but they average 300 yards rushing a game -- I don't think people really realize that. Their passing is great, but their running backs are some of the best in this league...They are, by far, the ultimate offense."
Those dimensions of Baylor's high-octane offense complement each other, but one player who plays an integral part in the success of each facet is Cyril Richardson. The senior is among six semifinalists for the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation's best interior lineman.
Richardson is officially listed at 6'5" and 340 pounds on Baylor's athletic website, which makes his conversion from tackle to guard over the past two seasons all the more impressive.
The good news is that running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin could both return from injury to help spell freshman Shock Linwood, per CSN Houston:
.@CoachArtBriles just said on STL: Lache Seastrunk ran today & there is outside chance he & Glasco Martin will have limited duty vs OSU.— CSN Houston (@CSNHouston) November 18, 2013
For the Bears to perpetually apply the pressure to Oklahoma State's stout defense, though, Richardson will have to step up and deliver his best in the biggest regular-season game of his career.
Clint Chelf, QB, Oklahoma State
It might have been hyperbolic to call Clint Chelf a star-caliber player before last week, but the senior signal-caller stepped up in a big performance against Texas.
Chelf had struggled with accuracy in prior appearances but completed 16 of 22 passes for two touchdowns and ran for 95 yards and two additional scores last week.
Trotter noted just how well Chelf played in relation to his collegiate peers:
Clint Chelf's Adjusted QBR of 97.3 was college football's 2nd-best performance of the weekend.— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) November 17, 2013
That type of running ability will help keep plays alive against Baylor's overlooked defense and could be the X-factor that determines the outcome of this contest.
As a team, Oklahoma State averages 4.5 yards per carry, and the Bears are just ahead of the Cowboys in defending the run at No. 26 in the country.
Thus, the onus will fall on Chelf (8.1 yards per carry) to keep his team in it with his arm and his legs.