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K-State can get payback in return to Waco

Jonathan Truman won’t call it revenge.

Wouldn’t expect the linebacker to, really. Bill Snyder’s kids don’t talk that way.

But Truman, Tyler Lockett, Ryan Mueller and so many Kansas State seniors were there in Waco two years ago. They played minor roles back then. Mostly, they had to watch.

They watched Baylor shock the world, blowing out the Wildcats on the same week they had ascended to No. 1 in the BCS rankings.

"It was a strange, strange trip," Truman said of the 52-24 loss in 2012. "Obviously the outcome wasn’t what we wanted or what we expected. Going back this time around, we’re not going to take anything for granted."

This time around, No. 9 Kansas State gets a chance for payback. This team can ruin everything for No. 6 Baylor on Saturday night and take home a Big 12 championship trophy as its reward.

With stakes this high, there is no better opportunity to make up for that last trip to Baylor, the night when Heisman favorite Collin Klein and his 10-0 Wildcats marched into Floyd Casey Stadium and were treated to a butt-kicking.

"We kind of relaxed a little bit and let the pressure get to us," Truman said.

When Baylor coach Art Briles reflects on that game, he sees a great example of why going undefeated is so difficult in college football today.

"When you ride up there at a certain level for so long and every week there’s people shooting at you, as Kansas State was that year, it’s hard to dodge for 12 weeks," Briles said. "It’s just hard to do. I think they got caught in the situation to where it’s late in the season, it’s winding down, and it’s hard to maintain that level that long."

The Bears, on the other hand, were 4-5 entering the game. They had nothing to lose. They achieved their program’s true turning point that night.

Starting with the stunner on Nov. 17, 2012, Baylor has won 25 of its past 28 games. Only Florida State and Alabama have a better record since.

Tomorrow night, Baylor has everything to lose. A Big 12 title. A potential College Football Playoff berth. The first 'L' in McLane Stadium history. National TV game. "College GameDay" in town. Now that’s some pressure.

When becomes a dangerous word this week. The word can get thrown around liberally when arguing about Baylor’s uncertain playoff hopes.

You know: When Baylor beats Kansas State, will they move up?

For weeks, this game has been circled and counted on as the one that finally pushes Briles’ squad into the final four, the only game that can fortify their profile and sway committee members.

When the Bears knock off K-State, the logic goes, they will finally be deserving of a jump ahead of TCU.

The occasional absence of if and the rest of the national discussion is perfectly OK with Snyder’s team. Rarely does a No. 9 ranked team get to rightfully adopt the under-the-radar, disrespected sleeper role.

"We don’t mind it. We’re used to it, really," Truman said. "We’re looked at a lot as the underdogs, and we embrace that. We don’t need all the attention. We do what we do on Saturdays."

The Wildcats’ leading tackler is sticking to the respectful company line this week when asked about getting retribution for losses to Baylor in 2012 and again in 2013, a 35-25 game in Manhattan. Stay with preparation, focus on execution, all that good stuff.

"It is a great challenge," Snyder said. "We’ve faced quite a few of them, but it’s a big challenge, sure."

What he is modestly hinting at: K-State should be uniquely prepared for the moment. They have already played on the road at TCU, Oklahoma and West Virginia. They held then-No. 5 Auburn’s high-flying offense to 20 points in a near-upset. They are not going to make this easy for Baylor.

The stage is bigger this time. So are the ramifications.

"It’s do or die at this point," Truman said. "It does have that sense of a true championship game."

The world will be watching Baylor closely. Better watch out for Kansas State, too.