In a rather quiet week of football nationwide, it may have actually been the Big 12 that had the most interesting and unexpected outcomes from their four game slate. There are only a few more questions left to be answered this season, and this could indeed be the last week that the rankings see a good deal of change- in the meantime we'll make do with what we have and I'll even throw in a little Thanksgiving cheer by listing something that I'm thankful for for each Big 12 team. Let's do it.
1.) TCU Horned Frogs (9-1, 6-1), previous ranking: #1
Unlike the AP poll, we don't punish the top ranked team in a conference for having a bye week. With a week off to both prepare for the much improved Texas Longhorns on Thanksgiving as well as hopefully having a few key players get the time they need to return to action, I'm really looking forward to seeing what the Frogs can do over the next few weeks. With two of the Frogs bye weeks coming so early in the season, TCU dealt with an incredible grind of seven games straight, with five of those games coming against top 20 (at the time) opposition, and with the other two games being against hated rivals SMU and Texas Tech. Emerging from that grind with the only blemish being a very strange three point loss on the road in Waco is an amazing feat, and goes quite a long way to explaining the letdown game we saw against the Jayhawks. In my opinion, this is the best team in the conference, and I'd take them on a neutral field against any side in the country.
I'm thankful for: This one will be at the end.
Thursday: @ Texas
2.) Kansas State Wildcats (8-2, 6-1), previous ranking: #3
I was torn about moving the Wildcats up in the rankings after a fairly putrid show of trying to run the football against West Virginia on Thursday night, but the decision came down to two factors- The Wildcats won in Morgantown, which Baylor could not, and the Bears struggled quite a bit against a bad Oklahoma State team that was shut down by the Wildcats. In a game where West Virginia sold out to stop the Wildcats from running, Jake Waters continually made the correct decision and moved the chains despite being one dimensional. The biggest key that moved the Wildcats up in the rankings though was their defense, as they showed a great deal more aggression against the West Virginia offense in the first half (before Clint Trickett left the game) than they did against the Frogs when they had to account for Boykin's mobility on every play- if they play Baylor in a similar fashion, I think they'll do quite well.
I'm thankful for: Kansas State is the university that produced coach Patterson, and as a result I'll always have a fondness in my heart for the Wildcats (that they have impeccable taste in school colors is a plus as well.). I'm also thankful for coach Snyder, who may not actually be a wizard, but certainly is one of the greatest coaches in the history of college football. The Big 12 and TCU both are better for their affiliation with Snyder.
Next week: Vs. Kansas
3.) Baylor Bears (9-1, 6-1), previous ranking: #2
The Baylor offense is a funny thing, because even though it can go the length of the field on any given play, it can also simply disappear for lengths of time. The Bears started the game on fire, scoring two touchdowns in less than three minutes, and it looked as though things were quickly going to get out of hand for the Cowboys, but the Bears couldn't keep up the intensity of the attack and OSU simply stuck around. There has to be a particular concern for the Bears about Bryce Petty, who threw two ill-timed interceptions to help the Cowboys hand around and didn't throw another touchdown pass after the first three minutes. Against a true freshman quarterback making his first start, the Bears offense looked surprisingly vulnerable as well, which should be a big concern against a Tech team that can pass effectively if running back DeAndre Washington is given a chance to get going- even more so with Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett visiting the last week of the season.
I'm thankful for: The rivalry. As nasty as it can get between our two fanbases, I love having a team in our conference that can inspire emotions of that level. I don't care if Art Briles retires and the Bears are so bad they lose to Incarnate Word and every other team- I'll still want to be the team that beats them the worst every year. If TCU were to fall back into the dark pit of suck that was the 80s and the Bears were still plugging along at their current level, I'd be irrationally determined that we'd still find a way to beat them. After almost two decades of wandering the desert, it's wonderful to be playing a team that can bring that sort of feeling out of the fanbase, and unite us in utter disdain. I hope you lose every game you play in every sport for all time, Baylor, but I'm very thankful that we get to play you once again.
Next week: Vs. Texas Tech @ Jerryworld
4.) Oklahoma Sooners (7-3, 4-3), previous ranking: #5
A completely dominant performance against a Jayhawk team that has improved by leaps and bounds this season, but was obviously deflated after having the chance for a program defining victory snatched away from them last week. The Sooners found something that worked, and say what you will about Bob Stoops, he knows how to attack a weak point. Kansas got tired of attempting to tackle OU freshman Samaje Perine, and as a result, he set a new NCAA record for rushing yards, just one week after LT's longstanding record had fallen. Another miserable game from quarterback Cody Thomas doesn't even matter at this point- if he can hand the ball off to Perine without fumbling it, nobody will want to play the Sooners the rest of the way. With a week for their ailing skill position talent to get healthy, woe to the Cowboys when Bedlam hits.
I'm thankful for: 2005. Up to that year, there had always been talk that the Frogs would be the first BCS buster (first in LT's monster season and again in 2003), but despite beating a few AQ teams in non-conference play, there were no scalps that made people take notice- Vanderbilt, Arizona and Northwestern, while still being better scalps than anyone Baylor will play in the non-conference schedule (SHOTS FIRED) aren't the sort of teams that just anyone knows. Oklahoma was different. The fact that TCU was the first team in Texas to beat Bob Stoops in Norman, and shut down Heisman runner up Adrian Peterson to do it was something that resonated throughout the nation, and even though we ended up squandering a lot of that goodwill the following week, it was a game that made people talk about TCU anytime big time football was being discussed- and I think that some of the respect that TCU continues to be given in the polls nowadays, even coming off a 4-8 season last year, can be directly traced back to the impact of TCU shocking OU in Norman. I'm also thankful that Bob Stoops is firmly entrenched there, and as such, has never allowed Patterson to consider whether or not he'd enjoy coaching north of the Red River.
Next week: Bye.
5.) Texas Longhorns (6-5, 5-3), previous ranking: #4
The Longhorns slide in the bye week due mainly to the insane performance of Samaje Perine, but don't let that deceive you- this is a dangerous Texas team that is starting to play with a lot of confidence. Were I the AD at Texas A&M, I'd want no part of this Texas squad either- the growth the Horns have shown in one season under Charlie Strong is incredible, and I think even the most jaded Texas fan will be pleased with a bowl bid after the way the season started. Still, if the running game can be stopped, things can go quite pear shaped for the Longhorns, so this Thursday's matchup should be a very interesting one.
I'm thankful for: I'm thankful for Texas' profound sense of worth, which made them think that having their own television network was a great idea and led to a home in the Big 12 for TCU. Yes, the Horns and Aggies were responsible for the demise of the SWC in the first place, but it's a new day and we're back in the big leagues- and like it or not, Texas made the decision to let us in. I'm less thankful for Texas' grab for a Thanksgiving home game every year- if you want to continue the tradition you had with A&M by playing on Thanksgiving, great, but pick one team to play against every year. Right now you're the biggest impediment from TCU playing either of our real Big 12 rivals during rivalry week, so either go all in with an annual TCU Thanksgiving game or find another dinner guest.
Thursday: Vs. TCU
6.) West Virginia Mountaineers (6-5, 4-4), previous ranking: #6
Man did Clint Trickett have a bad day, or what? Less than 50% completions, less than 5 yards per attempt and two interceptions, but still the Mountaineers defense kept them in the game and let true Freshman Skyler Howard do a lot of good things. At this point in the season is it safe to say that West Virginia is just a very different team at home than they are on the road? At home the Mountaineers played the top 4 teams in the power rankings, beat one of them by double figures and lost to the other three by a combined 19 points. On the road they had to kick a field goal to escape Texas Tech and got steamrolled by Texas. Either 7-5 or 6-6 likely sees Holgorsen return next year, but with the home slate flipping, it will be a tough road to hoe for the Mountaineers.
I'm thankful for: Even though he may not be the most popular man in Morgantown anymore, I'm thankful to West Virginia for producing one of my favorite coaches in sports, Rich Rodriguez. A spread pioneer, Rich Rodriguez's offense was actually the one I coveted this offseason before the season started and I saw the light of Meacham and Cumbie, as it struck me as a perfect fit for both our personnel and the conference. I'm also thankful for them beating Baylor this year, and helping make this such an interesting football season.
Next week: @ Iowa State (Riot Bowl!)
7.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-6, 3-5), previous ranking: #8
Hooray for quality losses! Starting a true freshman at quarterback, the Cowboys weathered an early storm in Waco and managed to hang in there rather admirably, and may have shown enough chinks in the Baylor armor for Texas Tech and Kansas State to be able to exploit. Can young Mason Rudolph rally the troops for a rare win in Norman? If Trevor Knight isn't playing (and maybe even if he is) the one thing that you can tell for sure is that OSU will have a lot more confidence in their quarterback than the Sooners do. The rebuild for a promising 2015 starts now for the Cowboys, with only two questions remaining- can the Cowboys earn those precious extra bowl practices for their young team, and whether they do or not- will coach Gundy be in Stillwater or Gainesville come kickoff?
I'm thankful for: OSU annihilating Baylor last year when the Bears were sure that they were a national championship contender was very sweet, but what I'm most thankful for from the Cowboys is how respectful their fanbase has been to us since we joined the Big 12. Although the Cowboys haven't been alone in welcoming us to the conference with open arms, it was Oklahoma State who seemed the happiest to have us specifically, rather than simply being relieved that the conference wasn't going to fold (like Kansas, KSU and ISU). Perhaps that's unique to me, but when I was writing about the Big 12 invitation, the first email of congratulations I got was from an OSU fan. Thanks Cowboys.
Next week: Bye.
8.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-7, 2-6), previous ranking: #9
It may have taken 11 games, but Kliff Kingsbury finally seems to have figured out how to make the offense at Texas Tech go this year- let running back DeAndre Washington set things up, and suddenly the passes that Patrick Mahomes throws are a lot more successful. The Tech defense is still a sieve, giving up 569 yards to an Iowa State offense that nobody will mistake for Baylor anytime soon, but the end result was still a win- and it coming on the road when the Raiders could have easily quit is sure to give the Raiders a little hope heading to Arlington to take on Baylor. The Bears have the superior defense (That's actually featured heavily in "Things I never thought I'd write 2012 edition"), but if Tech can run the ball effectively, Baylor's road woes and looking ahead may make a game of it.
I'm thankful for: The memories. Yes, a lot of my memories of playing Texas Tech over the years kind of suck, but the fact is that games against the Raiders had quite an impact in my young sports life. Losing to them was heartbreaking, beating them was cathartic, and not playing them was miserable. Baylor may be the more historic, hateful and mutual rivalry, but it was the early games against Texas Tech that really taught me what a rivalry was.
And I'm also thankful that they no longer employ Sonny Cumbie. Thanks Raiders.
Next week: Vs. Baylor @ Jerryworld
9.) Kansas Jayhawks (3-8, 1-7), previous ranking: #7
It shouldn't be surprising that, after an emotional collapse against TCU, Kansas would have a hard time regrouping to give OU a game in Norman, but the Jayhawks had been playing with heart these past few weeks since Weis was fired, and it looked like that heart didn't make the trip with the team this week. I still think Kansas may have the right answer for their long term future on their sidelines right now, but seeing that heart return enough to keep things close against the Wildcats might go a long way to helping convince others that they've got the right idea.
I'm thankful for: The biggest win in TCU basketball history, naturally. Of course it's also nice that we've beaten the Jayhawks every time we've played as conference members in football, but that basketball win was magic. Let's do it again soon, KU!
10.) Iowa St. Cyclones (2-8, 0-7), previous ranking: #10
Well, at least the Cyclones haven't quit under coach Paul Rhoads yet. That's... all I've got. ISU is bad.
I'm thankful for: Wide Right and Natty Light. It sucks covering a team that's not very good, but the Cyclones SBNation site not only keeps up the news and discussion, they do it in a consistently funny way that makes them a ton of fun to check in on even in the dead season. All of the Big 12 teams have pretty nice SBNation presences, so we're quite lucky in that regard, but ISU has mastered the sense of humor that only comes with the truly long suffering fan. They're the funniest guys in the conference (present company excluded, of course).
Next week: Vs. West Virginia
Finally, I'm thankful to TCU for a huge number of things- It's been a gathering point for my family, a source of pride and frustration growing up, a constant in my ever evolving life. I'm thankful to former AD Eric Hyman for hiring first Franchione and then Patterson to set TCU on the road to mattering. I'm thankful to both of the aforementioned coaches for believing that TCU could be something special- and of course, I'm thankful for Franchione leaving and Patterson staying. Most of all though, I'm thankful to TCU for not only giving me something I cared enough about to write about, but for giving me a chance at creating a platform where people would actually read what I write and even care enough to comment or recommend it to others to read. So when it gets right down to it, I'm most thankful for you guys and gals who make every football season many times more fun. Y'all are the best.
Agree with the rankings? Disagree vehemently? Want to share something you're thankful for? As always, let us know in the comments!