At the halfway point of conference play the Big 12 is starting to see the separation between the true conference contenders, the multitude of flawed (but still dangerous) bowl contenders and the cellar dwellers who await the dark times known as "Basketball season". Let's survey the full season view of each of our teams now that everyone has passed the six game mark.
1.) West Virginia Mountaineers (6-0, 3-0), Previous ranking: #1
West Virginia continues its reign as the king of Power Mountain this week after exhibiting domination in all three phases of the game against TCU. QB Skyler Howard was patient and consistent, mixing in short and mid range shots to move down the field, even in the face of dynamic pressure from the Frogs D-line, but the stars of the game were on the defensive end for the Mountaineers as they repeatedly stifled the Frogs stubborn downfield strikes and ensured that when plays did break through the air, that they were handled quickly (TCU had one gain of 20+ yards all day). Looking in the rearview mirror WVU's win over Missouri wasn't anything too special, but the BYU win looks better as the Cougars have a respectable 4-4 record against a frighteningly difficult schedule and holding Tech to 17 points looks as good as anything anyone in the conference has done so far. If they stay healthy and the defense keeps the effort up, this is the conference's top team.
Next week: @ Oklahoma State
2.) Oklahoma Sooners (5-2, 4-0), Previous ranking: #2
The Sooners remain an interesting case, and are the number one argument that the Big 12 is kind of dreadful this year. On the one hand, they've picked up more conference wins than anyone else, won on the road in Fort Worth and Lubbock and handled their business against Texas and KSU. On the other hand, the loss to Houston beatdown from Ohio State that looked forgivable early on? Much less so now as Ohio State was offensively stifled and eventually upset on the road last week and Houston has now lost twice, not only to schematic nightmare Navy, but also to SM freaking U. By 22 (Which is only one point less than OU managed in total against the Cougars). OU's offense was put in some bad positions in those early losses, admittedly, and has come on in a big way since then- while the OU defense has been exposed repeatedly and little brother Mike Stoops is squarely in the crosshairs of the fanbase after giving up an almost unfathomable 734 passing yards in a regulation game, managing to acquire one sack in 88 passing attempts and forcing only two punts against Texas Tech. Baker Mayfield is the perfect quarterback for the OU offense, when Perine and Mixon are healthy they combine into possibly the best backfield in college football. And they lost to a team that lost to SMU. Big 12 football, what even are you?
Next week: Vs. Kansas
3.) Patrick Mahomes (52-88 passing, 12 rushes for 85 yards, 7 total TDs), Previous ranking: N/A
Man, Patrick Mahomes is scary as heck and almost beat the conference's #2 power team singlehandedly. That's a lot of power for one man.
Next week: Vs. TCU defense (Oh no)
4.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (4-2, 2-1), Previous ranking: #5
As I said last week, in some games the winning move is not to play, and this week OSU ended up with the winning ticket to rest and get to look good in comparison. The Cowboys losses don't look quite as bad, as CMU has been at least an above average MAC team and their road loss was a strange affair where they came up empty in multiple attempts inside the ten yard line, and they have a win over a Pitt team that has looked pretty darn good so far. It's definitely possible to talk yourself into OSU as a Big 12 title contender, or at the least, a threat to upset one of the top two teams. They still will struggle to run the ball, but the defense is above average for the conference and combined with their passing game, they'll be tough. This week we'll find out how tough.
Next week: Vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
5.) Kansas State Wildcats (4-3, 2-2), Previous ranking: #6
Sometimes it's better to be consistent than explosive. Kansas State proved that this week by beating Texas and providing perhaps the biggest indictment of Charlie Strong possible as the generally aerially incompetent Wildcats completed 74% of their passes. Combining that sort of efficient passing with a consistent ground game and a solid defense has been KSU's recipe for success for all of Snyder's second stint at coach, and that is why he coaches in a stadium named after him, while Charlie Strong is likely going to be fired at season's end. If you're looking to talk yourself out of Kansas State, that loss to Stanford that looked fine in week 1 doesn't look as good with the Cardinal sitting in fourth place in the Pac-12 South, and the QB play is going to continue to be an adventure- but knowing that to do on both sides of the ball is a definite win for the wildcats, especially in contrast with the next team on the list.
Next week: FARMAGEDDON (@ Iowa State)
6.) TCU Horned Frogs (4-3, 2-2), Previous ranking: #4
To say the former preseason favorite Frogs have disappointed this season is clear, but frustratingly there is little rhyme or reason to determining what exactly is wrong with TCU. One week their offense is tearing it up but the defense is getting gashed on the ground, the next the offense is stalling itself out with drops and turnovers and leaving the defense out to dry. The Frogs have looked like world beaters and push overs this season, occasionally even in the same game, which makes them incredibly frustrating to both watch and also compare to the rest of the league. They lost at home to Arkansas, a loss that doesn't look nearly as good now as Arkansas is 1-3 in the SEC and is fresh off of a 53 point loss, but easily handled their business on the road against SMU, who crushed Houston this week. The only certainty for the Frogs at this point is that they will never make it easy for themselves- and we can only hope that they'll find enough consistency to win two more games- though only one will be against a team below them in the current rankings.
Next week: Vs. Texas Tech
7.) Texas Longhorns (3-4, 1-3), Previous ranking: #7
It all looked so good for the Longhorns after week 1. They'd defeated a top ten team, they looked like they'd figured out a two QB system that worked and the defense looked like it would be a maneater by midseason. Well, here we are at midseason and Texas is below .500, Charlie Strong is almost fired, their defensive coordinator is already fired and the offense is all right but can't keep up with elite offenses (or even outscore Kansas State). If only we knew how bad Notre Dame was we might have seen the Longhorns managing just an OT win as more of a warning sign than a sign that the Longhorns are "back" once more.
Next week: Vs. The Road Not Traveled (If you believe the reports that Art Briles was prepared to accept the UT job if they offered it to him, instead of making him interview for it)
8.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-4, 1-3), Previous ranking: #8
Why is their quarterback up at #3 by himself, while Tech finds itself in spot #8? Because Mahomes on his own is capable of putting up over 800 total yards, while the rest of Tech is bad enough to still lose a game in which Mahomes does all of that. Tech's "Defense" gave up 545 yards passing and 7 touchdowns while not collecting a single interception or sacks. Throw in the fact that Tech still can't run the ball particularly well (apart from the aforementioned #3 on the list) and you have a team that will go exactly as far as Patrick Mahomes can drag them... which is perhaps a 50-50 chance at a bowl bid.
Next week: Vs. TCU Horned Frogs.
9.) Iowa St. Cyclones (1-6, 0-4), Previous ranking: #9
Iowa State didn't play last week, but still likely managed to swap their quarterbacks and upset their momentum in the Bye week. The good news is that the Cyclones have made it through the road heavy part of their schedule and will spend four of their 5 remaining games at home, including a date with the team immediately above them in the rankings and a road game with the team immediately below them. The bad news is that the Cyclones still have games against the top two teams in these rankings, which makes it all but certain that ISU will not be heading back to the postseason this year. In the big picture, ISU's losses aren't too bad in hindsight, only one loss to a team without a winning record, but there sure are a lot of them (and there will be at least two more before the season ends). The Cyclones have a coach to build around, but they are only just laying the foundation for success now- there's a whole lot of building left.
Next week: Vs. Kansas State Wildcats
10.) Kansas Jayhawks (1-6, 0-4), Previous ranking: #10
Much like every year, KU will go into the offseason without a bowl bid and with only a memory of the day where they almost beat TCU again. Kansas' defense is okay, but the offense is bad and the Jayhawks are much closer to 0-7 than they are to 3-4. Perhaps one day they'll surprise someone with another near win... but it's not likely to be this week.
Next week: @ Oklahoma Sooners.
Agree? Disagree? Amused that Houston lost again (and to SMU of all teams)? Let me know in the comments.