The first game of the meatgrinder that is the last four weeks of the Big 12 is in the books, and as a result we have our first big shakeup in the rankings in quite a while. Let's get right into it!
1.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-0, 6-0), previous ranking: #2
The Cowboys did exactly what they're going to need to do to win the conference- take care of business at home. Although the Cowboys had issues on the ground again, Mason Rudolph picked apart the thin TCU secondary whenever he found time, and it ended in the end zone. On the other side, the Cowboys took advantage of TCU's injuries at wide receiver to get aggressive with TCU's receivers, jumping routes and forcing Boykin into a rare bad game. The combination of offense, defense and special teams that Oklahoma State brings to the table puts them on top and will make them very hard to dislodge- after all, what could happen to a highly ranked Oklahoma State team when their only road trip left is to Ames... right?
Saturday: @ Iowa State
2.) Oklahoma Sooners (8-1, 5-1), previous ranking: #4
Oklahoma continues its "How in the world did we lose to Texas" tour with a win over Iowa State that trashed... that very same Texas team last week. Football is weird. Most impressive to me (and the reason why Oklahoma makes the jump over injured Baylor) is that the Cyclones looked like they were making a push to get back into the game in the second quarter, only for the Sooners to stomp the throat in the third quarter and continue the pressure in the fourth to turn the game into a laugher by the end. The Sooners will have to earn their jump in the ranking this week, though- to stay #2 and alive in the Big 12 race, they're going to have to do what no visiting team has done yet- beat Baylor in their new digs.
Saturday: @ Baylor
3.) Baylor Bears (8-0, 5-0), previous ranking: #3
It was an interesting week for the Bears, as though Jarrett Stidham was about as good as you could reasonably expect him to be, Baylor still almost got beaten on the road by a one dimensional Kansas State team. Baylor surprisingly had a tough time getting the ground game going against the Wildcats, which may be where the biggest dropoff from Seth Russell on offense will be, and were repeatedly gashed by K-state on the ground, even though the cats ran only a small handful of effective plays. In the end, it was a win, but not a powerful one, and Baylor gets passed up as a result- for a week, at least.
Saturday: Vs. Oklahoma Sooners
4.) TCU Horned Frogs (8-1, 5-1), previous ranking: #1
How the mighty have been placed repeatedly on the "Physically Unable to Play" list. The Frogs had their worst game of the season against a team that was simply too strong to allow another of Boykin's magical road comebacks, and the wide receiver corps' devastating injuries continued with the nation's top receiver Josh Doctson going down with an injury that may keep him out for an extended period (and may unjustifiably keep him from winning College Football's top receiver award). The good news for the Frogs is that it's still all there to play for if they can get healthy and someone picks up a win against Oklahoma State- Boykin had a bad game the same week as Leonard Fournette had a worse one, so that's still on the table too- they just need to get healthy and maybe get the cornerbacks to line up one step further back.
Saturday: Vs. Kansas
5.) West Virginia Mountaineers (4-4, 1-4), previous ranking: #7
The Mountaineers defense stepped up, and despite another lackluster performance from quarterback Skyler Howard, the Mountaineers scored a big win over Texas Tech thanks to a great tandem rushing performance , with both Wendell Smallwood and Russell Shell ripping off over 100 yards on the ground. We'll continue finding out how good West Virginia is, as all of their losses are to teams that are currently 8-1 or better, but right now they're the best bet in the conference's also-rans to get bowl eligible with games against the rest of the Big 12's under .500 crew still ahead.
Saturday: Vs. Texas
6.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-5, 2-5), previous ranking: #5
It comes down to this for the weary Red Raiders, the Big 12's only team that's yet to have a bye- Stop the run, or lose out on a bowl bid. The Raiders couldn't hit the big play against the Mountaineers (just one pass over 30 yards) and the offense lacked the consistency needed to push West Virginia down the field, and couldn't get off the field on defense, and as a result, there was nothing they could do. Tech has two games remaining against teams below them in the rankings, but Texas and Kansas State are the two most run heavy offenses in the conference, which has proven to be Tech's Achilles heel for the past... decade. All in all, it means that to get Bowl eligible, Tech is going to have to show some solid improvement on the defensive side of the ball from last season, which is about how it should be.
Saturday: Vs. Kansas State
7.) Iowa St. Cyclones (3-6, 2-4), previous ranking: #6
The Cyclones continued to show improvement with the switch to Joel Lanning under center, but the ISU running game was stalled in Norman in a big way, and State just isn't built to have to throw the ball 50 times in a game. The Cyclones are in a very interesting place in the Big 12 at the moment, as their tough non-conference schedule means that unless they pull an upset of a very good OSU team, bowling is an impossibility- however, with games still ahead against Kansas State and West Virginia, ISU could still have a big say in determining if the Big 12 has 5 bowl eligible teams or as many as 7. After the Cowboy game people aren't going to be talking much about ISU, but the selection committee may have a look at how many bowl teams a conference produces as proof of schedule strength- meaning Iowa State could very well be in the position of Kingmaker for the Big 12's big 4.
Saturday: Vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys
8.) Texas Longhorns (4-5, 3-3), previous ranking: #8
The Longhorns were a bit cruel in this one, letting Kansas rally just enough offense to start hopes that they could be in this one, before stampeding over the Jayhawks to the tune of 299 yards on the ground, combined with their most effective day passing of the season to add another 299 yards of offense. The young Texas defense is getting better and more aggressive in forcing takeaways, which is a big boost to an offense that is still far too simple. It's a tough road to bowl eligibility for the Longhorns, as they have to win two of their three remaining games, including road dates to West Virginia and Baylor as well as a home game against Texas Tech. The likely lack of a bowl game shouldn't be too disheartening to Longhorn fans though, as Charlie Strong has consistently improved a very young team- he's going to have to do some work to find an offensive coordinator this offseason, though.
Saturday: @ West Virginia Mountaineers
9.) Kansas State Wildcats (3-5, 0-5), previous ranking: #9
I wanted to give KSU a boost this week for Joe Huebner alone, but honestly, Kansas State is one of two Big 12 teams without a conference win, and despite a spirited effort against Baylor, that may not change until the Thanksgiving week game against the Jayhawks. Kansas State's defense is getting more effective, but it simply can't pass the ball on people, meaning that if a defense can stop Kansas State's five or so running plays, the Wildcats simply don't have enough tricks in the bag to overcome it. Next year KSU may be dangerous again, but this year they're a car wreck.
Saturday: @ Texas Tech Red Raiders
10.) Kansas Jayhawks (0-9, 0-6), previous ranking: #10
Imagine TCU's injury issues, but on a much less talented team that only had 60 scholarship players to begin with. That's Kansas. It's going to get uglier.
Saturday: Vs. TCU Horned Frogs.
Agree? Disagree? Think Doctson will be healthy on Saturday? Let me know in the comments.