Week 3 of the Big 12 football season was rough for the conference, as four of the nine teams that played last week lost, including three non-conference games. The cream continues to rise to the top, but there's a whole lot of churning left to do before we have much separation between the top four schools.
1.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-0)
Previous Ranking: #2
The Red Raiders have the best win in the conference, if not the best team. The Raiders defense performed at a high level, repeatedly sticking to and breaking up Trevone Boykin's pass attempts while also limiting him as a runner. There were questions about how Tech would handle a big offensive line, and at least in pass protection they did well. The big issue for the Raiders going forward will be how to keep the offense going when the running game stalls (7 yards rushing in the second half) and how to be more robust against the run, as TCU was able to run the ball quite effectively when they decided to try it.
2.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-0)
Previous Ranking: #1
The Cowboys almost drop from the top spot through no fault of their own, but Mississippi State has looked bad since the Cowboys beat them, giving Auburn their first SEC scalp in two years. The Cowboys annihilated and ran up the score on Lamar, which is all they really could do, but the defense still looks really good. To me they're still the team to beat, even if they have fallen to #2.
3.) Oklahoma Sooners (3-0)
Previous Ranking: #3
Be ready for OU to jump to the head of the class, as suddenly that dreadful OU passing attack from the first two weeks looks lethal with the giant Blake Bell finally taking the starting job. OU's defense remains impressive and the running game was hardly less effective with the Belldozer behind center (well behind center in most cases, but still behind him). OU will hit the road for the first time this season to take on Notre Dame in front of a frenzied Irish fanbase, and if the offense impresses against Notre Dame's huge front line this team could be exactly what you expect an OU team under Bob Stoops to be- Big 12 champs who get massacred in a bowl game.
4.) Baylor Bears (2-0)
Previous Ranking: #4
The Bears did nothing, and move nowhere. If only it were always this easy.
A HUGE GAP
5.) West Virginia Mountaineers (2-1)
Previous Ranking: #9
The Mountaineers shoot up the rankings by actually winning impressively against a bad Georgia State team. West Virginia has looked better with every week that's passed after a near-catastrophe against the William & Mary Tribe, and given the rest of the Big 12 it's no longer that hard to see where bowl eligibility may come from- the other teams look dreadful too!
6.) TCU Horned Frogs (1-2)
Previous Ranking: #5
The Frogs only fall one spot, despite me wanting to move them all the way to the basement. In the end, TCU has played one excellent team in a neutral site and one good team on the road and came up just short both times. They haven't lost to an FCS team or a Conference USA squad or been embarrassed in back to back weeks by an iffy BYU offense and a good Ole Miss one. Again, there's not a lot of separation, but for the moment TCU still could turn out to be a riser- if they lose to SMU, say hello to #9 at best, guys.
7.) Kansas State Wildcats (2-1)
Previous Ranking: #8
The Wildcats, like West Virginia, pummeled a very bad FBS team and move up. The downside is that the loss to North Dakota State still stings, as no matter how good they may be, they're still an FCS team. K-State can stake their claim to the #5 spot when conference play opens, but given how bad their passing offense is they're lucky that their next opponent is...
8.) Texas Longhorns
Previous Ranking: #7
The Longhorns continue the long slide down the power rankings after resigning themselves to their fates when things didn't go their way after halftime. I maintain what I said in the Weekend Warzone about Texas being fragile, rather than soft, but it doesn't make a whole lot of difference if someone takes a sledgehammer to you. Kansas State is going to make Texas stop the run consistently to win, and that's the thing that Texas has struggled to do even in their win over New Mexico State.
9.) Kansas Jayhawks
Previous Ranking: #6
The Jayhawks tumble back down toward the basement as Rice handed them a thorough defeat on Saturday. Jake Heaps looks like a slightly more talented Dayne Crist, not the second coming of Todd Reesing, throwing two dreadful interceptions including a pick 6. The biggest concern for the Jayhawks has to be that the generally light Rice defensive front was able to contain the KU running game fairly effectively. As the Jayhawks could do little but run last year, having a blueprint to stop it will only make things more difficult for KU to break its long Big 12 winless streak. At least they still get to play...
10.) Iowa State Cyclones (0-3)
Previous ranking: #10
Good try, good effort Cyclones, but with a loss to an FCS school on the books as well as no wins I can't move you up despite a fairly okay performance against Iowa. New Cyclone quarterback Sam Richardson has a habit of throwing interceptions at the worst moments, which will only continue to hurt ISU as they move toward conference play. At least they get one more shot at their hated I'll-play-you-three-times-in-two-seasons rivals, the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes before the conference season begins- it looks like it's going to be a long one.