CONNOR COOK and the Michigan State Spartans want to have a different role in the playoff talk next season.

With their big comeback finish in the Cotton Bowl yesterday in Arlington, Texas, the No. 7 Spartans could be set up as a viable championship contender next season, after their only losses this season were to playoff teams.

Michigan State scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat playoff-snubbed and No. 4 Baylor, 42-41, in the highest-scoring Cotton Bowl ever.

"For us to win in such an emotional and dramatic fashion like you just saw out there, really just I think with all the guys coming back, all the juniors, really just makes us feel good and brings us closer together," said Cook, who threw a 10-yard TD pass to Keith Mumphery with 17 seconds left.

Michigan State (11-2), which won the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champions last season, has won four consecutive bowl games after trailing in each of them at halftime. The Spartans' only two losses this season were to Pac-12 winner Oregon and Big Ten champion Ohio State.

Down 41-21 going into the fourth quarter, Michigan State got the winning touchdown after Marcus Rush blocked Chris Callahan's 43-yard field goal attempt with 1:05 left.

"It's just sort of crazy," coach Mark Dantonio said. "I really probably can't put it into words. We just kept pace. We didn't panic."

When two-time Big 12 champ Baylor got the ball back for one last try, Bryce Petty was sacked on consecutive plays before Riley Bullough's clinching interception.

That was quite a final defensive stand under coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who after 11 seasons and two schools with Dantonio is leaving the Spartans to take over as head coach at Pittsburgh. Narduzzi will be about 20 miles away today to watch the Panthers play Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl on the TCU campus.

The Cotton Bowl was the lead-in game to the two national semifinals that Baylor (11-2) hoped to be part of instead - though that doesn't matter now.

"We've played a lot of really good games over the last seven seasons. Won a lot of really good games. And this is one of the tougher non-wins that I've ever experienced," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "It's got nothing to do with the big picture. The small picture right now is letting a game get away from us today."

Petty completed 36 of 51 passes for a Cotton Bowl-record 550 yards and three touchdowns, two to speedy freshman KD Cannon and the other to 390-pound backup guard LaQuan McGowan in the third quarter for a 41-21 lead. Baylor had 583 total yards, even with minus-20 yards rushing.

Jeremy Langford ran for 162 yards and three touchdowns for the Spartans. Cook was 24-of-42 passing for 314 yards and two touchdowns with two picks.

In other bowl games

* At Tampa, Melvin Gordon rushed for an Outback Bowl-record 251 and three touchdowns and Rafael Gaglianone kicked a 25-yard field goal in overtime to give No. 17 Wisconsin (11-3) a 34-31 victory over No. 19 Auburn (8-5).

Gordon scored on runs of 25, 53 and 6 yards, bouncing back from a subpar performance in the Big Ten championship game to threaten Barry Sanders' FBS single-season rushing record.

The Badgers star finished with 2,587 yards in 14 games - second most in FBS history. Sanders gained 2,628 in 11 games in 1988, when the NCAA did not include bowl results in a player's statistics.

* At Orlando, Marcus Murphy ran for 159 yards, Russell Hansbrough added 114 yards and a touchdown and No. 16 Missouri beat Minnesota, 33-17, in the Citrus Bowl.

Missouri (11-3) won its third straight bowl game to reach 11 victories for the fourth time in school history.