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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 14

Two of the three conference championship contenders thrived and one struggled, but how did the last Power Rankings before regular season's end shake out?

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A very enjoyable week of football passed last week, as the Big 12 got an early jump on things and then had a few very interesting games thrown in to just about cement the final places of a few teams in the rankings.  We have just one week of games left in the regular season, and here's how the teams of the Big 12 rank as of now.

1.) TCU Horned Frogs (10-1, 7-1), previous ranking: #1

TCU not only beat the Longhorns in Austin for the second time in a row, they did so in historic fashion- a 38 point margin of victory that surpassed the 1933 team's 30-0 win in Austin for the largest ever win by a TCU team and biggest home defeat overall for the horns since 1997  (And I called it).  What was most impressive about the win over Texas was the reemergence of the TCU defense, who after finally having a week off, appeared to be clicking on all cylinders for the first time since Oklahoma State, making us remember just how good this defense can be.  That's a pretty big deal, and it means that TCU controls its own destiny for being the most powerful team in the conference at the end of the regular season!  And maybe some other stuff too, you know, little things like Big 12 championships and likely playoff spots.  
Next week: Vs. Iowa State

2.) Kansas State Wildcats (9-2, 7-1), previous ranking: #2

The Wildcats enjoyed an easy romp over the rival Kansas Jayhawks, settling things early and letting thoughts slip ahead to next week's co-Big 12 Championship test against the Baylor Bears.  This will be KSU's first visit to Waco since that fateful game that knocked Colin Klein out of the Heisman race and Kansas State out of the BCS championship game, and not only are the Wildcats in position to knock Baylor out of playoff contention, they'll win at least a share of the Big 12 championship with a win over the Bears.  After their humbling loss to TCU, Kansas State is playing some of their best football of the season, and is looking plenty powerful ahead of the showdown- don't be too shocked if the Big 12's co-champions are all in purple at week's end.
Next week: @ Baylor

3.) Baylor Bears (10-1, 7-1), previous ranking: #3

It looked like the Bears were going to be rolling up plenty of style points against Tech, as the Raiders moved the ball well, but just couldn't seem to stop shooting themselves in the foot on offense enough to make a game of it.  Then, with about two minutes left in the third quarter, Baylor started to fall apart of defense, repeatedly giving up huge plays through the air and strong runs on the ground, while their offense sputtered thanks in part to a concussion suffered by Bryce Petty.  It's not a powerful look for the Bears this week, and with both Baylor and Petty himself announcing that Petty would play in the game it could get a lot less powerful in a hurry if Petty sustains a serious injury.  Perhaps the Bears will hire a PR firm to help them get a leg up in these rankings as well?  In all seriousness, it may be time to start worrying a bit about the Baylor defense.
Next week: Vs. Kansas State

4.) Oklahoma Sooners (8-3, 5-3), previous ranking: #4

The Sooners took the week off after absolutely decimating Kansas in advance of the Bedlam game, but Trevor Knight's health has still not improved to the point where he can play, which puts the Sooners in a very vulnerable situation- backup quarterback Cody Thomas has looked absolutely dreadful so far in his action, so if the Sooners find themselves in position where they have to throw this week, things may become dicey.  Fortunately, Oklahoma has Samaje Perine in the backfield- and with that, the odds of needing to throw against the Cowboys aren't as bad as you'd think.
Next week: Vs. Oklahoma State

5.) West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5, 5-4), previous ranking: #6

There's actually a lot of backup quarterback interest going on in the conference right now, as West Virginia debuted Skyler Howard on the road against Iowa State, and the backup quarterback did a great impression of Clint Trickett's good points, while avoiding the turnovers that have plagued the previous starter, resulting in a win for West Virginia in the Riot Bowl.  The Mountaineers end the season with a winning record, a definite improvement over last year's 4-8 and enough to keep Dana Holgorsen off the hot seat- but the Mountaineers are going to need some more consistent production away from Morgantown if they're going to improve their record (and power ranking) next year.
Next week: Regular season over.

6.) Texas Longhorns (6-6, 5-4), previous ranking: #5

If we were talking defensive power rankings, the Longhorns wouldn't just be in the top half of the conference, but there'd be a lively debate about if they deserved to be #1.  Factor in the Longhorn's offense, though, and you have a team that had to struggle to make a bowl game.  All of the momentum that Texas had coming into the TCU game disappeared like the ball from Tyrone Swoopes' hand (into the hands of a Frog), leaving the Longhorns looking a lot more like the team that got run over by BYU than the team that steamrolled West Virginia.  It's been an interesting debut season for coach Charlie Strong, and next year may not be much easier- there's a lot of talent on the defense to be replaced, and Tyrone Swoopes has a lot of growing up to do to be an effective college quarterback.  Fortunately, the most important goal of this season was met- the Longhorns will make a bowl and get the extra practices needed to help a young offense develop for next year- and they're likely to be renewing an old rivalry with either Texas A&M or Arkansas this season, which is always a good way to spend an afternoon.
Next week: Regular season over.

7.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-8, 2-7), previous ranking: #8

The Raider's power ranking spot was the most in flux over the course of the week, as there were considerations for dropping Tech down to 9 until about two minutes left in the third quarter, at which point the issue was "Where in the top 5 will I rank Tech if they pull this off?".  In the end, Tech came up two points short, and that's good enough to land them two spots out of the conference's top 5.  Quarterback Patrick Mahomes did a lot of good things (when he wasn't costing Tech scoring chances early) and DeAndre Washington laid a strong case to be one of the all Big 12 running backs this year.  If only Tech had been as interested in the first three quarters as they were in the fourth, this couldn't been a huge upset.  If Davis Webb gets healthy, at this point I tell him that he's in direct competition with Mahomes from here on out- Mahomes adds a degree of versatility and excitement to what was becoming a predictable offense with Webb at the helm, and he's not too bad of a passer either.  Meanwhile, the Tech defense is still awful- Tech has had a new defensive coordinator in each of the last 5 seasons,so it's vitally important for Kliff Kingsbury to get this hire right if the Raiders are going to rise in power.
Season over.

8.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-6, 3-5), previous ranking: #7

The Cowboys too are coming off a bye and, much like West Virginia and Oklahoma, are working with a backup quarterback at the moment- however, unlike OU's Cody Thomas, Mason Rudolph has already shown a good deal of competence- and on the road to boot.  This Bedlam game actually has the makings of a very interesting one, as we may end up seeing the future of this rivalry a bit early- but don't bet on the Cowboys, because that rushing defense is still pretty bad.
Next week: @ Oklahoma

9.) Kansas Jayhawks (3-9, 1-8), previous ranking: #9

Despite a brief uptick shortly after naming Clint Bowen interim head coach, Kasnas has quickly slid back down to being "Same old Kansas", which makes it increasingly unlikely that coach Bowen will be retained.  With some interesting names hitting the market (Nebraska's Bo Pelini, Memphis' Justin Fuente) it will be very interesting to see what sort of coach Kansas is actually looking for.  In my mind, I'm thinking that a school like Kansas could benefit a great deal from getting an offense that will be unique and hard to prepare for, something like the Georgia Tech of the midwest.  How powerful can Kansas get with a new coach?  We've got a long wait ahead of us before we know for sure.
Season over.

10.) Iowa State Cyclones (2-9, 0-9), previous ranking: #10

The Cyclones got an early jump on West Virginia on senior day, but ended up thoroughly overwhelmed by the Mountaineers by halftime, driving them to their ninth straight Big 12 loss.  The normally pesky Cyclones have been a lot more complacent in their defeats this year, and with #1 TCU as the only team left on the schedule, it's likely to be a good deal worse before the relief of the offseason.  ISU AD Jamie Pollard has repeatedly assured everyone that Paul Rhoads will be safe in Ames for another year, but right now the Cyclones are the furthest thing from Power in the Big 12.
Next week: @ TCU.

Agree?  Disagree?  Think Texas should be ahead of West Virginia because of the head to head (Hi Baylor fans!)?  Let me know in the comments.