It's not a place I have particular affection for, but two games into the Big 12's season ending gauntlet, the state of Oklahoma is sitting pretty in the rankings. Let's get to it!
1.) Oklahoma Sooners (9-1, 6-1). previous ranking #2
The Sooners leap up over their in-state brethren as a result of having their huge win come on the road in a stadium where no visiting team had emerged victorious before, which in my mind is more impressive than the Cowboys holding serve at home, even against a better team. The key to the Sooners resurgence since their loss to Texas is that their lines are dominating on both sides of the ball, so for any team to knock them out of the top spot, they're going to have to be able to hang with Oklahoma in the trenches- and those sorts of teams may not play OU until the playoffs.
Saturday: Vs. TCU
2.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-0, 7-0), previous ranking: #1
This years Cowboys team didn't look particularly powerful on the road in Ames, but with the late rally to escape with a road win, they looked like something else- a team of destiny. OSU has been quite fortunate this year in its road contests to escape unscathed, but they've looked pretty darn fierce at home- and they won't leave home again this season. If the Cowboys can beat the Bears in Stillwater again, next week's Bedlam game could give the Cowboys the Big 12 championship, and likely a playoff spot as well. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good- but OSU happens to be both, so I'm happy to listen to any argument to putting them back at first.
Saturday: Vs. Baylor
3.) TCU Horned Frogs (9-1, 6-1), previous ranking: #4
The injury ravaged Horned Frogs returned home to have a light sparring contest with the Jayhawks, and, without either of their All-America offensive players, essentially challenged themselves to win a fight with both hands tied behind their back. At the end of the game, TCU had successfully headbutted Kansas to death, but as can be expected, they didn't come out of it looking pretty. Still, the Frogs should have the nation's best player returning to action this week against the Sooners, which could be enough to help them climb back up in the rankings. If Boykin can will the tattered remains of this TCU team to wins in their last two outings, he deserves every award in the nation.
Saturday: @ Oklahoma Sooners
4.) West Virginia Mountaineers (5-4, 2-4), previous ranking: #5
The Mountaineers, through hook, crook and a few fortunate breaks in the turnover department, thumped the Longhorns in Morgantown and could end the season on a 5 game winning streak. It's taken a long time for West Virginia fans to have things to feel good about, but with a stout defense and a quality running game, at least it seems likely that Dana Holgorsen's job will be secure for another year- though whether or not that's a good thing depends on what Mountaineer you ask.
Saturday: @ Kansas
5.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-5, 3-5), previous ranking: #6
The Raiders pop up a spot in the rankings thanks to finally clinching bowl eligibility in their fourth shot. The Raiders passing game is effective, but its best effect this season has been opening up running lanes for DeAndre Washington, who is my pick for 1st team all Big 12 at running back. On defense, the Raiders finally stopped someone who everyone in the stadium knew was going to run the ball- but they committed so many resources to stopping the ground game that their secondary got picked on a bit, even by K-State's woeful passing game. Next on the list for the Raiders to show that they've been growing this season is to get a win on the road in Austin- something that the Raiders never accomplished even in Mike Leach's glory days. This year's Tech team isn't as good as some of those Pirate led teams, but neither is this Mack Brown's Texas team...
Next week: Bye
6.) Iowa St. Cyclones (3-7, 2-5), previous ranking: #7
Here's a prediction that I'm confident in- Iowa State will make at least one of its last two opponents miss a bowl game (or at least, knock them onto the APR bubble since this season seems destined to have 5-7 bowl reps) as the Cyclones are clicking on both sides of the ball, despite their youth at skill positions. One has to wonder what the 'Clones might have accomplished this season if they'd made changes at quarterback or offensive coordinator at the beginning of the season instead of when a bowl game was already nearly an impossible dream, as they took Oklahoma State down to the wire. Farmaggeddon and the Riot Bowl are ahead (Iowa State has the best rivalry names) and Iowa State is in a great position to ruin things for both of them, particularly if West Virginia coughs one away against the Jayhawks this week.
Next week: @ Kansas State
7.) Texas Longhorns (4-6, 3-4). previous ranking: #8
Some teams are better than their records indicate, and the more I watch Texas, the more I see a team that is just plain unfortunate most of the time. Texas outgained West Virginia on both the ground and through the air, was far better on third down, and even punted better than the Mountaineers, yet found themselves on the butt end of a butt-kicking as a result of losing three fumbles, one of which was taken straight into the end zone. This is the story of Texas' season, as, TCU, Notre Dame and Iowa State excepted (That's a weird collection of teams), the Horns have been strong contenders in every game they've played. If Charlie Strong sticks around (And he will, people don't leave Texas for Miami), this team could be a darkhorse for next year's Big 12 title. For now, though, it may well be better to be lucky than good.
Next week: Bye.
8.) Kansas State Wildcats (3-6, 0-6), previous ranking: #9
The Wildcats continue to prove to be a very different team at home than they are on the road, falling to Tech and allowing the Raiders to outrush them by over 2:1. Given K-State's simplistic playbook, that's never going to be a game that the Wildcats can win, and as a result the Cats find themselves on the cusp of elimination from bowl contention with games against Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia all being must wins if KSU is going to get to .500 and a bowl game. At the moment, I think that 1-2 is much more likely, despite getting both Tech and WVU at home.
Next week: Vs. Iowa State Cyclones
9.) Kansas Jayhawks (0-10, 0-7), previous ranking: #10
The Jayhawks rise from the basement thanks to another startlingly close game against the TCU Horned Frogs, coming up just short of their first win as a result. Kansas still has two opportunities at home to attempt to escape a winless season, with their game against Kansas State being of particular interest if Iowa State removes the hopes of a bowl game this week.
Next week: Bye
10.) Baylor Bears (8-1, 6-1), previous ranking: #3
The Bears were whipped on both sides of the ball in Norman, and for the second game in a row their running game was relatively stifled. With their illusion of invincibility finally shattered by losing their home winning streak, and two tough road games still looming ahead, Baylor could be looking at its first three game losing streak since 2012.
Next Week: @ Oklahoma State Cowboys
Agree? Disagree? Think Baylor should be #12? Let me know in the comments.