Welcome back to the Power Rankings, where perception is reality, win/loss records don't matter and Big 12 expansion is finally dead. It wasn't exactly a week full of upsets, but there were certainly lessons to be learned and Power to be gained- let's check it out.
1.) West Virginia Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0), Previous ranking: #1
West Virginia made a strong move to solidify its place at #1 on the rankings by traveling to the Twilight Zone and absolutely brutalizing Texas Tech in a way that the Raiders haven't experienced since their 2014 trip to TCU. It would have been difficult for West Virginia's first road trip of the season to go any better, as they controlled the ball, did whatever they wanted to the Raiders offensively, smothered and battered Tech's Patrick Mahomes defensively and made a strong argument that their place at the top of the rankings isn't just the result of a weak schedule. The Mountaineers have tough tests ahead the next two weeks, but if they successfully navigate them, they will likely vault into legitimate playoff conversation by mid-to-late November. Of course, the key word is if, particularly with next week's opponent, who has given the Mountaineers all sorts of headaches the past two years.
Next week: Vs. TCU.
2.) Oklahoma Sooners (4-2, 3-0), Previous ranking: #2
On paper, the blueprint for beating Kansas State is simple- play disciplined against the run and force the Cats to sustain a drive, because if they get into third and medium or long, it's going to be very difficult for them. However as simple as it may seem though, you still have to do it- and OU did it, maintaining at least a 10 point buffer for all but 1:50 after their first two drives. OU held KSU to 112 yards rushing, which will almost always result in a win for KSU's opponent, while Baker Mayfield put on a clinic passing the ball that it would take KSU QBs three weeks to match. However, not all of the news out of the weekend is good news, as the Sooners will find themselves without star RB Samaje Perine for 2-3 weeks due to a hamstring injury- as good a complement as Joe Mixon has been running the ball, Perine is by far the scarier of the two. Now it's time to see just how Mayfield holds up in what is sure to be the most hostile road environment (for him specifically) that he'll ever experience.
Next week: @ Texas Tech.
4.) TCU Horned Frogs (4-2, 2-1), Previous ranking: #5
When you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die. In the game of Big 12 football, sometimes not playing is more effective than winning. The Frogs move up as a result of Kansas State's loss/injury situation, as well as just the thought that with a week off, the Frogs coaching staff (whom I count among the nation's best) should have a chance to fix, tweak and come up with new wrinkles to throw at the top (power) ranked Mountaineers and the rivals to come. Also... there's really nobody else to move up.
Next week: @ West Virginia
5.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (4-2, 2-1), Previous ranking: #6
On the one hand, the Cowboys' 18 point win over the Longhorns looks better after Texas handily beat Iowa State. On the other hand, the Cowboys' frantic fourth quarter rally to beat the Cyclones looks worse after Texas handily beat Iowa State. So... call it a push, I guess?
Next week: @ Kansas
6.) Kansas State Wildcats (3-3, 1-2), Previous ranking: #4
The Wildcats got a double dose of bad news, as not only did they receive a sound beating from the Sooners on the road but quarterback Jesse Ertz took a knock to his throwing shoulder and had to come out of the game. While this actually helped the Cat's moribund passing game a bit (backup Joe Huebner actually averaged 6.8 yards an attempt) but it made the KSU running game sputter and die as Huebner is simply not a threat in the running game (a long run of 4 yards). While Ertz should be back against Texas, injuries to a throwing shoulder can tend to linger, and if Kansas State's passing offense gets worse they may be better served just going full flexbone triple option. The defense is still pretty good, though.
Next week: Vs. Texas
7.) Texas Longhorns (3-3, 1-2), Previous ranking: #8
So, I know the question of Charlie Strong being on the hot seat is an interesting one. On the keep side he hasn't had enough time to put his stamp on the program, Mack left him in the lurch, he's making moves with his coordinators... all good points. On the negative side, he hired those coordinators and things don't appear to be getting that much better- and it's Texas, the talent is there if you can develop it. While I'm personally of the opinion that Strong should get another season, there are some things you simply can't do at the head coach at Texas, and waiting until October 16th to pick up your first conference win is definitely in that category. Incidentally, this was the longest period before the Longhorn's first conference win since the 1974 season, back in Royal's waning days- which I include to illustrate that Texas' fanbase is not used to having to be patient when it comes to minor milestones (For the curious, TCU last had to wait until after October 16th for Conference win #1 in 1997 and Baylor's last was a winless conference effort in 2007). Texas did beat Iowa State, overcoming a 3 point deficit at halftime before establishing a comfortable 21 margin by the end, but their running game really didn't get going until late and Buechele was left doing the lion's share of the work- which, since it was against Iowa State, he did. Defensively, the Longhorns did pretty well, but were aided by ISU's QB shuffle and fairly predictable playcalling The Longhorns are pretty deserving of #7 at the moment.
Next week: @ Kansas State Wildcats
8.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-3. 1-2), Previous ranking: #7
Normally playing at home in a very tough road venue is worth about 7 points in the box score- for Tech, that just makes Saturday's result much, much worse. The Raiders are essentially Patrick Mahomes alone on offense and absolutely nobody on defense right now, which is still enough for #8 in the rankings, but probably not enough for bowl eligibility at season's end.
Next week: Vs. Oklahoma Sooners
9.) Iowa St. Cyclones (1-6, 0-4), Previous ranking: #10
Iowa State continues to play well in several phases of the game, but can't pick up a win due to a myriad of factors- being unable to pick up first downs in the second half, being incredibly predictable on offense and continuing to shift between their two quarterbacks with little rhyme, reason or response to the flow of the game. I still think ISU wins a game outside of KU this year, but the coaching staff doesn't have to make it quite so challenging.
Next week: (Finally) Bye.
10.) Kansas Jayhawks (1-5, 0-3), Previous ranking: #9
Once again, as soon as the final whistle blew against TCU, Kansas turned back into... well, Kansas. The Jayhawks defense continues to put in good work and honestly, with any other offense, they might have been in this game. Sadly, they continued to have the Kansas offense opposite them, getting barely over 250 yards, throwing four picks (with a pick 6) and giving Baylor spectacular field position over and over while accomplishing almost nothing positive. One day KU may learn to play another team like they do TCU, but until then, they'll remain #10.
Next week: Vs. Oklahoma State
Agree? Disagree? Disappointed about expansion? Let me know in the comments.