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Baylor might get reality check vs. Oklahoma State

Baylor safety OriStewart celebrates defensive stop second quarter Saturday’s victory over Texas Tech. | Louis DeLuca/AP

Baylor safety Orion Stewart celebrates a defensive stop in the second quarter of Saturday’s victory over Texas Tech. | Louis DeLuca/AP

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Alabama leads all the polls, but Baylor, ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press poll, has gained more positive perception points than any program in America this season.

Over the last several weeks, the Bears (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) have gone from underrated to rock stars. Art Briles’ contract was extended through 2023, locking up one of the most admired coaches in the game. A spectacular new stadium is set to open next season, enabling Briles and his staff to recruit on even ground with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma.

But maybe the Bears have become a tad overrated?

We’ll find out on Saturday when they visit No. 11 Oklahoma State (7  p.m., Ch. 7) in a game that will go a long way toward deciding the Big 12 race.

The Cowboys (9-1, 6-1) have won six straight and are coming off their most impressive performance of the season, a 38-13 victory at Texas. And yet they’re not only underdogs on their home turf against Baylor, they’re 10-point underdogs — a surprisingly large spread considering how well Mike Gundy’s program performs at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Oklahoma State has lost once in Stillwater since 2010 and hasn’t been beaten by more than 10 points there since Texas did it on Halloween in 2009. You shouldn’t be at all surprised if No. 3 goes down.

Weekend Wednesdays

By now, if you’re a Northern Illinois football player, you can forget about having any sort of normal flow to your weeks. Once again, the No. 20 Huskies (10-0, 6-0 Mid-American Conference) will play on hump day — and it’s the second straight serious threat to their perfect record and hopes of reaching a BCS game.

Quarterback Jordan Lynch and his teammates were pushed well into the fourth quarter by Ball State last week in DeKalb, and a game at Toledo (7 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN2) will be even harder to win. The MAC West rival Rockets are 7-3 overall but 5-1 in league play, so this one’s essentially for a spot in the MAC title game. Wouldn’t it be something if a team as terrific as NIU didn’t even get that far?

Heavy duty

Sorry, but I just don’t see Missouri pulling off this bid for the Southeastern Conference East title. The No. 8 Tigers (9-1, 5-1) are legitimately as good as anybody in the East, but South Carolina is in the clubhouse with a 6-2 league mark, and the Gamecocks’ win against Mizzou gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker. It’s probably too tall an order for the Tigers to win out on Saturday at No. 24 Mississippi (6:45 p.m., ESPN) and a week later at home against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M.

Speaking of Johnny Football

No. 9 Texas A&M at No. 18 LSU (2:30 p.m., Ch. 2) is a must-win where Manziel’s Heisman-repeat hopes are concerned. His worst game in 2012 was a 24-19 loss to the Tigers in which he threw for three interceptions and no touchdowns, was sacked three times and had no running lanes. The Aggies (8-2, 4-2 SEC) are ahead of LSU (7-3, 3-3) in the West again, but maybe not for long.

Somebody’s gotta win

Illinois coach Tim Beckman needs a win even more than Purdue’s Darrell Hazell does. Both teams are 0-6 in league play, but the Illini veterans are on a 20-game Big Ten losing streak. The Illini have no shot at a bowl, but their game in West Lafayette (11 a.m., BTN) is a very big deal for the program.

‘‘I want to win this game so bad,’’ senior linebacker Jonathan Brown said. ‘‘I want a win not just for me but for all the guys who are left on this team for next year. We need it.’’

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg



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