On the weekend with the most unexpected results nationally this season, it was a weekend of fairly straightforward results for the Big 12- but that doesn't mean that the Power Rankings are straightforward. No, the Power Rankings take it all into account, so let's get going!
1.) Oklahoma Sooners (8-2, 7-0), Previous ranking: #1
After a very rough start in nonconference play, the Sooners are just two games away from being the first team since the 2009 Texas Longhorns to actually complete Big 12 conference play without a loss. The offense is clicking at full power for the first time this season, as Baker Mayfield is fully healthy, Perine and Mixon are bringing the thunder and lightning, and the playcalls are consistently good. For OU to win their last two games, however, the defense must continue to improve- their efforts on the weekend were decent, but still allowed a few big busted plays that could come back to bite them if they play against a team that has its head in the game, rather than on a hashtag. OU remains number one, and even in position for possibly playoff discussion if there's another calamitous weekend elsewhere in college football, but they'll have to bring their best to stay on top of the heap, as the current #3 and #2 are their two last opponents.
Next week: @ West Virginia
2.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-2, 5-1), Previous ranking: #2
The Cowboys had to survive a shootout against the Raiders, but maintain their grip on #2 thanks to their decisive win over West Virginia. The Cowboys power comes primarily from QB Mason Rudolph, who has been putting up insane numbers both at home and on the road, despite not being the dual threat that most of the dangerous QBs in the Big 12 are. In fact, OSU's entire offense barely registers as "dual threat", as excepting their performance against the defensively deficient Red Raiders, the Cowboys have struggled mightily to get consistent ground production this season, which has led to numerous deficits that Rudolph has had to bail them out of with his arm. Again, it's a testament to Rudolph that so far this season he's been able to dig them out of those holes consistently, but against a team like TCU that loves to bring creative pressure, it would be nice to be able to count on creating manageable second and third downs on the ground. The Cowboys defense has also run fairly hot and cold from a production standpoint, but again, a lot of the issues have come when they've been forced to remain on the field for long periods by either the Cowboys running game sputtering or the passing game scoring a little too quickly- and you can bet that TCU co-OC Sonny Cumbie was watching his old boss Kliff Kingsbury give OSU's defense all they could handle, and will draw from the same well.
Next week: @ TCU
3.) West Virginia Mountaineers (8-1, 5-1), Previous ranking: #3
If I promise that I'm not just copying and pasting from last weeks rankings, you'll believe me, right? The Mountaineers remain at #3 this week after a masterful exhibition of "Bend-but-don't-break" defense down in Austin. West Virginia game up over 500 yards of total offense and QB Skyler Howard helped the Longhorns out with three interceptions, but it simply didn't matter as the Longhorns were repeatedly held out of the end zone, finishing with a season low 20 points. Offensively the Mountaineers did just enough to win, but there were numerous red flags as the ground game sputtered a bit after a promising start to the game and QB Skyler Howard continued to look very ordinary on the road with those three aforementioned interceptions to compare to just one touchdown pass. The Mountaineers are still in with a good shot of being the Big 12 champion at season's end by winning out, their only remaining road game is at Iowa State, but if Howard's road troubles come home with him this week then expect the grumbling about coach Holgorsen to pick up again in 2017.
Next week: Vs. Oklahoma
4.) TCU Horned Frogs (5-4, 3-3), Previous ranking: #5
The Frogs get the traditional inactivity bounce off the bye week but, as this one follows their best performance of the season so far, it seems a bit more justifiable than the usual one. With a week to get healthy and prepare for the Cowboys, TCU will be looking to knock off ranked teams in back to back weeks and achieve the bowl eligibility that looked like an impossible dream prior to the blowout by the Brazos. None of TCU's remaining three games will be easy by any stretch, but TCU looks to have found its form on defense and offensively the "Give Kyle Hicks the Ball" movement has seemingly reinvigorated the playcalling as well as the performance. It still seems very strange to me that we're only hosting OSU for the second time in Big 12 play this year, though- damn Aggies.
Next week: Vs. Oklahoma State
5.) Kansas State Wildcats (5-4, 3-3), Previous ranking: #6
The Wildcats passing game continues to let them down, as Jesse Ertz failed to complete a single pass this week, and... Oh, they had a bye? All right, maybe I do have a mad-lib style KSU Power Rankings post where the only things that need to be filled in are the opponent, the score and whether they won or lost*. This week the Wildcats did neither, as they didn't play, so my plans were foiled once more. Still the Wildcats defense is good, the running game is solid and the passing game is about as effective as a 7 year old microwave burrito found at the back of the freezer is appetizing. Somehow, that is enough to be almost a lock to be bowl eligible and in the top half of the Big 12 Power Rankings. 2016, man.
Next week: @ The Unrankables
6.) Texas Longhorns (5-5, 3-4), Previous ranking: #4
The Longhorns drop after dropping a golden opportunity to secure bowl eligibility as well as job stability for Charlie Strong with another win over a top 25 opponent. Instead Texas finds itself in that dangerous middle ground that has played into their program's instability these past few years- 7-5 would represent real progress, as well as getting coach Strong over the TCU hump that he has failed to come within even 35 points of in his first two seasons, and would likely secure him another season in that peculiar shade of orange that Austinites favor. 5-7 would mean not only the first three game losing streak to the Frogs since 1938, but would include a loss to arguably the P5's worst football team, the Kansas Jayhawks, and would result in Tom Herman being in Austin before December is out. 6-6 is the land of uncertainty- sure the Horns would be bowling again, a step up from last season, but the expectations in Austin are much higher than that, and Coach Strong's challenges in rebuilding the roster start to be overlooked. I don't know what would happen in that situation, but it will be interesting to keep an eye on as the Longhorns head into the final two weeks of their season.
Next week: @ Kansas
7.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-6, 2-5), Previous ranking: #8
The Raiders move up this week despite another loss, due mainly to the fact that both the coaches and players have not written the season off completely and are still doing their damnedest to try and win every game to gain bowl eligibility. The efforts remain close to paying off, as the Raiders almost pulled off their first win over the Cowboys since Mike Leach was fired, and first win in Stillwater since Les Miles was coaching at OSU. Those dreams went awry thanks to a bad hold that led to a missed extra point, but the fight that was displayed by both the offense and the defense is enough to make one believe that this team is capable of taking two consecutive conference wins and reaching bowl eligibility, which is something I really didn't see coming for the Raiders after they fell to 3-4. Patrick Mahomes remains the conference's most dangerous man, but now the Texas Tech braintrust is starting to use that fact to open up more opportunities for the rest of the offense (and cut down on the number of hits Mahomes takes in the process). The defense... remains Texas Tech's defense, but at least they look like they're trying.
Next week: @ Iowa State
9.) Iowa State Cyclones (2-8, 1-6), Previous ranking: #9
Progress! For once the Cyclones were on the right side of a come from behind win this season, scoring 15 straight points to secure their first (and likely only) Big 12 conference win of the season. The 15 unanswered points has to be particularly satisfying for a Cyclone team that gave up 17 straight points to both Baylor and Oklahoma State to lose fourth quarter leads, but it is a bit concerning that the Cyclones were in a ten point hole against the Jayhawks in the first place- and yes, ISU did their two quarterback shuffle again, but to an exaggerated degree as Joel Lanning attempted only four passes and Jacob Park only carried the ball once. Still, the Cyclones did just enough on offense to squeak by, and their defense held up fairly well, giving up just one play of over 30 yards and forcing two turnovers. The defense has a lot of work ahead of them if they're going to get win #3 this year, though, as Texas Tech and West Virginia will both head to Ames, and ISU will have to score to keep up with one and struggle to score at all against the other. I hope no one told Matt Campbell that it was going to be easy.
Next week: Vs Texas Tech
10.) Kansas Jayhawks (1-9, 0-7), Previous ranking: #10
Once again, Kansas gets a little bit better, but it doesn't stop the number in the L column from growing ever larger. David Beaty is still on the right track, putting in some nice offensive wrinkles, but there simply isn't the talent or depth to compete week in and week out yet. The silver lining for Jayhawks fans is that their defensive strengths actually play pretty decently against the hated Wildcats' limited offense, but that still likely won't be enough for KU to actually win a Big 12 game. Also the Jayhawks are currently the only Big 12 team to have lost a basketball game! When it rains, it pours I guess.
Next week: Vs. Texas
*I don't actually have a prewritten KSU Power Rankings post, I just write very similar things every week, without any time saving measures. Maybe I should look into setting it up though.
Agree? Disagree? Think this piece works better on a Wednesday? Let me know in the comments.