(Forgive this post being a day late, a freak storm knocked out the electricity statewide where I live in Australia.)
Mercifully the Big 12's non-conference schedule is over, and it actually ended on a pretty decent note- no non-conference losses, a road win and a win over a Big 12 expansion candidate- No wins against the other P5 conferences, but certainly better than it has been. Conference play also had its first big showdown of the season and we answered some questions (and raised some new ones) about two presumed preseason contenders. Let's get into it!
1.) West Virginia Mountaineers (3-0, 0-0), Previous ranking: #1
West Virginia maintains its hold on the top spot after closing its non-conference schedule without a blemish and with two wins over P5 level competition (depending on which conference you ask about BYU, that is), but the bloom is starting to fall from the rose a bit. After two fairly encouraging defensive performances to start the season, the Mountaineers were shredded on the ground by the Cougars to the tune of 7 yards per carry, with dual threat Cougar QB Taysom Hill doing the bulk of the damage. The plus side for the Mountaineers is that they actually defended the other half of Hill's "Dual threat" title quite well, holding him below 300 yards passing and collecting three interceptions to help seal the win. On offense the Mountaineers enjoyed a very efficient day from QB and Fort Worth native Skyler Howard who completed over 75% of his 40 passes, with Shelton Gibson putting up mansome numbers at WR. Right now West Virginia still has the best resume of everyone in the Big 12, but they'll be facing a tough test next week as Kansas State comes to town- and they just so happen to know a thing or two about running quarterbacks.
Next Week: Vs. Kansas State Wildcats
2.) TCU Horned Frogs (3-1, 1-0), previous ranking: #3
If we were just ranking the TCU team that shows up in the second half of games, they'd be an easy #1. Sadly, despite all of my suggestions to the NCAA, the first half still counts just as much as the second- and that means that TCU's slow starts continue to be a concern. What is becoming less of a concern, though, is the play of Kenny Hill, who completed almost 70% of his passes for 10 YPA despite suffering an incredibly frustrating string of drops that repeatedly killed the momentum of early TCU drives. The Frog Co-OCs again kept things fairly simple, with the one trick play that they pulled out having fairly disastrous results, but despite that the Frogs rolled up about 600 yards of offense, which should bode well for when Big 12 play starts getting more competitive this week. On the defensive side the Frogs pummeled the ponies, allowing less than 3 yards per carry, penetrating into the backfield with regularity and not allowing a lot of yards after the catch, even against SMU's tall receiving group and most importantly, allowed 3 points on the opening drive and 0 in every drive that followed. Now let's see if second half TCU can turn up a bit early the rest of the season- and this week would be a good time to start.
Next week: Vs. Oklahoma Sooners
4.) Kansas State Wildcats (2-1, 0-0), Previous ranking: #5
The Wildcats move up partially thanks to putting up an impressive first half, partially courtesy of their loss to Stanford looking better with each passing week but mostly because their quarterback play actually looking decent this weekend. KSU QB Jesse Ertz completed over 80% of his passes and ripped off three big runs, which should have Cats fans feeling more optimistic in their offensive prospects this season. Defensively, Missouri State isn't a very good offensive team, but KSU still shut them down quite comprehensively. Next week the Wildcats will either make a firm claim on one of the top three spots or possibly slip back down into the bottom half of the rankings.
Next week: @ West Virginia Mountaineers
5.) Texas Longhorns (2-1, 0-0), Previous ranking: #4
Inactivity hurts the Longhorns this week, as both their signature win over Notre Dame and their loss to Cal look a good bit worse after Saturday's games. The Golden Bears dropped to 2-2 on the season with wins over Texas and Hawaii, while Notre Dame dropped to 1-3 after losing a home game to a Duke team that has looked fairly shabby so far. The bye week will give the Longhorns a chance to hopefully shore up some of the holes in the pass defense before their trip to Stillwater, but right now consider the Longhorns lucky to still be in the #5 spot.
Next week: @ Oklahoma State Cowboys
6.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-1, 0-0), Previous ranking: #6
The Raiders did nothing and hold steady this week, thanks in part to the loss to Arizona State looking a bit better now. That defense though... can it even hold the Big 12's worst offense below 30? Let's find out.
Next week: Vs. Kansas Jayhawks
7.) Oklahoma Sooners (1-2, 0-0), Previous ranking: #7
The Sooners took a much needed week off before starting their Big 12 title defense, giving Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon time to reintroduce themselves to the coaching staff to let them know that they're actually on the team. If the Sooners lose for the third time in four games though, will Coach Stoops have to do the unthinkable and actually axe his own brother from the coaching staff?
Next week: @ TCU Horned Frogs
8.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (2-2, 0-1), Previous ranking: #2
The Cowboys came at the bears with both guns blazing on Saturday, but ended up with far more holes in their own feet than in their opponent, repeatedly blowing opportunities to seize momentum and the game with a missed field goal, red zone turnovers and absolutely baffling coaching decisions. It's somewhat surprising that a coaching staff that invented a formation to send receivers downfield from generally ineligible positions could struggle with something as important and universal as a hurry up offense, but Saturday showed that the Cowboys still struggle with the basics. The Cowboys only RB that can actually run was responsible for both of their red zone fumbles, OSU QB was the only consistent offensive weapon and he didn't manage a single touchdown pass, and yet OSU still had very good chances to win this game. I still don't really understand how, but... there you have it. On the plus side, the Cowboys defense did an excellent job against the Baylor run game and was solid against the pass... apart from double moves, which absolutely shredded the Cowboys and accounted for a large chunk of Baylor's total yards and points. There's no time to be too down about this loss however, as the Cowboys will try to move back into the top half of the conference as they host the Longhorns on Saturday.
Next week: Vs. Texas Longhorns
9.) Iowa State Cyclones (1-3, 0-1), Previous ranking: #9
The Cyclones finally got a glimpse of the potential of what they could be under coach Campbell in a satisfying rout of the San Jose State Spartans. ISU's new 4-2-5 defense did it's best classic TCU imitation, getting after the quarterback for four sacks and matching that performance with four picks. Offensively, the Cyclones were efficient and didn't turn the ball over, which is worlds of difference from their previous performances to date. Sure, SJSU comes with a bit of a disclaimer, but their biggest blowout win against a non-Kansas opponent since a 34 point 2011 victory over Texas Tech has to feel pretty good. The Cyclones may continue to grow into the scheme and in confidence as the season goes on, but in the meantime it's enough to simply enjoy a long awaited win without looking forward to the likely unfortunate events of next week.
Next week: Vs. Baylor Bears
10.) Kansas Jayhawks (1-2, 0-0), Previous ranking: #8
The Jayhawks get bumped down to the #9 spot thanks to their only win being against a miserable FCS team, but at least this week's game will give them a chance to get the offense back on track. Fly on, you crazy birds, you!
Next week: @ Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Huh, it feels a little shorter than most weeks. Maybe it's the power outage playing tricks on me? Eh, I'm sure whatever it was couldn't have been that important.
Agree? Disagree? Want to offer handy tips of what to do in an extended power outage? Let me know in the comments.