So to say last Wednesday's piece had a mixed reaction is a bit of an understatement- on one end of the spectrum I received an email from a fellow Frog saying that he'd lost respect for me for "getting political" and will never read another piece of mine again, which is never particularly nice to hear. On the other hand, I had a Baylor fan contact me to tell me that I "pretty much nailed it" and drew a comparison between Dan Jenkins and myself- which (however tangential) is one of the nicer things it's possible for any writer to read. Still, it's important for me to write what I'm feeling at the time- that's how I've always done it, and that's how I'll continue to do it in the future too. Usually it's analysis or silly takes, but if the occasional opinion piece turns you off, don't worry- it won't hurt my feelings if you skip onto other content on our beloved Frogblog. With that out of the way, let's get into the nitty gritty of another two weeks of "What the Heck" in this conference of craziness.
1.) Oklahoma Sooners (7-2, 6-0), Previous ranking: #2
Despite looking more like a dumpster fire than a playoff favorite through their first three games, six games through conference play Oklahoma finds itself in the same position it has in 9 of Stoops' previous 17 seasons- looking down on the rest of the Big 12 conference from above. That the Sooners are two thirds of the way through their conference slate and are in full control of their destiny is the good news- the bad news is that the Sooners star RBs are banged up, with Joe Mixon missing last week's game and Samaje Perine having missed the last three, and the schedule is toughening considerably in their last three weeks. Of particular concern is how the Sooner defense is going to hold up against some of the conference's top offenses, considering they gave up 46, 40 and 59 points to the three conference opponents they've played with real offensive firepower. Still, this is the Big 12 and there are no great teams, so at the moment the Sooners are top of the trash heap.
Next week: Vs. Baylor
2.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-2, 5-1), Previous ranking: #4
The Cowboys put together an impressive double, thumping formerly undefeated West Virginia by 17, collecting picks and forcing fumbles that set OSU up with excellent field position that they capitalized on each time. Against the Wildcats the Cowboys found themselves in a hole again, but QB Mason Rudolph bailed them out yet again with an amazing performance in the clutch to keep the Cowboys too in control of their own destiny. Of concern for the Cowboys is the same issue as their big brothers above, though- the next three weeks have an OSU defense that has been up and down this season up against three of the conference's top five scoring offenses- with the other two being their own and... the team that they already lost to. Whether OSU is good enough to hang onto a top spot and set up a battle for the conference title in the Bedlam game is yet to be seen, but the passing offense is one of the nation's most powerful- and a bit of luck never hurt anyone either.
Next week: Vs. Texas Tech
3.) West Virginia Mountaineers (7-1, 4-1), Previous ranking: #1
Honestly, looking at the game film I'm still not convinced that the Mountaineers aren't the best team in the conference. The defense is legit, the offense is balanced and consistent, but the playoffs are almost certainly a pipe dream since WVU went to Stillwater and... Take it, Daniel Powter! The good news is the worst part of the schedule is over and the Mountaineers are still in a good position to take the conference- the two toughest remaining games are at home and one of the two now suddenly seems much more vulnerable than they did two weeks ago. The bad news is that any conference championship talk now comes with an added necessity- an OSU loss. Not exactly what Mountaineer fans had in mind two weeks ago when they had visions of their first outright conference championship since 2005, but this is the reality of life in the Big 12- no one is ever safe, and no one is as good (or bad) as you might think.
Next week: @ Texas
4.) Texas Longhorns (5-4, 3-3), Previous ranking: #7
The Longhorns have certainly come on in a big way in the past two weeks, notching big wins in consecutive weeks to make a bowl bid again a very real possibility for the Horns, as well as likely keeping Coach Strong in Austin at least until the end of the season. The Longhorns made a mad comeback late against the #8 team in the nation to pull off one of the season's most satisfying upsets the first week, then traveled to Lubbock's twilight zone and emerged on the winning side in a weird contest (it's Tech, so it has to be weird) . In both wins the recipe for victory was the same, though. On the defensive side, go hard after the quarterback, sack him when you can and contain him when you can't. On the offensive side it was even simpler: Give the ball to D'Onta Foreman a whole lot. Foreman carried the ball 65 times over the course of the two games and racked up an absolutely insane total of 591 yards with 5 touchdowns- which would have been 6 if not for a goal line fumble against the Raiders that was returned the other way for a Texas Tech defensive touchdown- I told you it was a weird game. It's taken time, but the Longhorns do seem to have hit on a winning formula, as the bruising running game has taken a good deal of pressure off of Shane Buechele, who simply hasn't been the revelation that the Horns were hoping for as the season has dragged on. With three games to go, the Longhorns likely need to win at least two of the three in order for coach Strong to be smiling on the sidelines in Austin for another year, but two of three will be quite challenging as they play a very complete West Virginia team and the conference's most bipolar squad- who is just behind them in the rankings.
Next week: Vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
5.) TCU Horned Frogs (5-4, 3-3), Previous ranking: #6
This is the team that I've seen the most this year, followed all the reports, done the scouting for, it's my favorite team. And yet, despite doing all I can to be an informed analyst, I have absolutely zero idea of what to expect from TCU in any given week. One week the Frogs are getting stomped in every phase of the game by West Virginia, then they're holding the #1 passing offense in the country to almost 300 yards less than their average... only to lose, because their offense fails to take advantage of arguably the worst defense in any P5 conference by far. Then the next week, the offense went on the road to one of the conference leaders and simply exploded, as the Frogs played well enough to beat just about any team, exhibiting creative playcalls a varied running game, an efficient passing game and a swarming defense. You could make just as strong a case for the Frogs to be #8 as you could to make them #3, which is infuriating- but after this last weekend's incredibly satisfying result, as well as the greater potential to be a better team, the great unknown team outranks the conference's ultimate stable outfit for at least this week.
Next week: Vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys
6.) Kansas State Wildcats (5-4, 3-3), Previous ranking: #5
In stark contrast to the Frogs... Kansas State. The Wildcats remain the exact same team that they've been every week-a solid-to quite good (but fairly vanilla) rushing attack combined with the 116th ranked passing attack in the FBS- just below the Triple Option running Air Force Falcons, and a full 60 places below the next lowest ranked Big 12 passing attack. The defense is still good and creates turnovers in the secondary, including another pick 6 against the Cowboys, but simply couldn't hold on to a 9 point lead in the fourth quarter- which has been something of a common occurrence for the Cats in their losses this year. So is it better to be a team with high peaks and low valleys, or a team that is consistently on a plane between the highs and lows of the other? Right now both teams have the same record, but TCU has the better win and the worse loss of the two which puts them in front (also the improved defensive effort helps). Still, KSU has a much easier path to a bowl game because they have 5 wins and haven't played Kansas yet, so at least one of these two teams will come into the season finale with bowl eligibility already clinched.
Next week: Bye
8.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-5, 2-4), Previous ranking: #8
The Raiders were forced to improvise over the last two weeks, as both the Horned Frogs and the Longhorns went hard after Tech's Patrick Mahomes, sacking him repeatedly, hitting him often and attempting to limit his rushing opportunities to make him put the ball into the hands of other Raiders to win the game. Against TCU the Raiders were able to accomplish this, due in part to a standout performance from freshman running back Da'Leon Ward and part from an absolutely pathetic performance from the TCU offense- especially given Tech's defensive limitations which remained on display in both games, but were simply ignored in favor of low percentage deep ball attempts. Texas on the other hand readily identified that Tech is still just as miserable as ever at defending the run and ran at the Raiders just under 50 times to great effect, with only a fluke fumble keeping Tech within striking distance in the second half. The Raiders have a very difficult path to a bowl game, even with the upset of TCU, and it's absolutely baffling that their defense has managed to avoid improvement even nine games into the season- it may honestly be time to consider (yet another) change at the defensive coordinator position for the Raiders, because if things don't improve there on every (or any) level, it'll be Kingsbury himself who may be in danger of being replaced.
Next week: @ Oklahoma State Cowboys
9.) Iowa State Cyclones (1-8, 0-6), Previous ranking: #9
Is probably closer to being good than you may think.
10.) Kansas Jayhawks (1-8, 0-6), Previous ranking: #10
Is probably not as close to being good as you may think.
Agree? Disagree? Think 1800 words of Power Rankings aren't enough and demand giant wordblocks about ISU and KU as well? Let me know in the comments.