Final Score: No. 9 Baylor 21, No. 5 Oklahoma State 16

Brief Recap: With the race for the College Football Playoff reaching its conclusion this weekend, Baylor and Oklahoma State started Saturday off with a thriller in the Big 12 Championship. The Cowboys entered the day with a realistic shot to reach the Playoff while the Bears were looking for Dave Aranda’s first Big 12 Championship in just his second season with the program.

Through one half of action, it was all Baylor. The Bears rattled off 21 first-half points behind QB Blake Shapen. He was nearly flawless to start the game and connected on his first 17 pass attempts to open up a 21-3 lead. Oklahoma State would kick a field goal and also get a late defensive stand that led to a missed field goal by Baylor to make it 21-6 heading to the break.

After halftime, it was the Cowboy defense that clamped down on the game. Oklahoma State rattled off 10-unanswered points to start the second half – aided by another missed field goal – to cut the deficit to 21-16 in the 4th quarter. It set up a thrilling end to the game.

Baylor would get the ball back with under 4 minutes left with a chance to ice the game away. Unfortunately for the Bears, Oklahoma State would not go quietly. The Cowboys forced a quick 3-and-out to get the ball back with 3:23 remaining.

That crucial drive turned up all Cowboys with QB Spencer Sanders connecting on some key throws to drive Oklahoma State down the field, and all way inside Baylor’s 5-yard line. That drive came down to an incredible 4th-and-goal that barely resulted in turnover-on-downs and possession going to the Bears.

Key Player: Blake Shapen. Filling in for the injured Gerry Bohanon, Shapen went 23-for-28 passing the ball with 180 yards and 3 touchdowns. Though Shapen was unable to keep his hot streak rolling in the second half, his first-half touchdowns proved enough for the Bears to hang on.

Key Moment: How often does the Big 12 Championship come down to a goal-line series? That’s what happened this time around with Oklahoma State getting a 1st-and-goal from inside the 5-yard line. It eventually came down to a 4th-and-goal with a dramatic race to the pylon. That race was won by a Baylor defender with Oklahoma State coming just inches shy of a go-ahead touchdown.

Key Stat: 4, interceptions thrown by the Cowboys. Baylor’s offense did all its work in the first half, and it was the effort by the Bears defense that wound up being the key for Aranda’s squad. Their takeaways snuffed out some key Cowboy drives and kept the momentum swinging back towards Baylor.

What it means for the Playoff: Who gets spot No. 4 for the Playoff? That is the question on everyone’s minds entering the late afternoon and primetime games. Those results will help clarify the picture, but Notre Dame – at No. 6 with one loss entering the weekend – will be watching in anticipation.