Last season it wasn't until week 7 where the power rankings got their first major shakeup- but in the space of the three days that made up the Big 12's first week just about everything we knew about the Big 12 was thrown into question. Let's start the conference survey!
1.) Texas Longhorns (1-0), Previous ranking: #5
That Texas would have a lot of talented players was never in question- even in their down years, the Longhorns have ruled the conference's recruiting rankings. That Sterlin Gilbert's offensive scheme would be sound was also not really in question- it's the Baylor offense after all, we've all seen how effective it can be (outside of bowl games). The question was whether or not the Longhorns would be able to merge those two certainties into an effective offense in just one season and that question was emphatically answered on Sunday. Texas improved enough to make up a 35 point on field difference last year, and even factoring in the home field advantage (generally figured as about three points) Texas beat a team that returned enough to be considered a legitimate top 10 team and playoff threat- and if not for a freak extra point snafu, they may not have needed OT to do it. Now, the downside is that Freshmen quarterbacks will have ups and downs, but Texas' rushing stats, particularly yards-per-carry, show that this is a team that should be considered a Big 12 contender- and with the best resume to date, there's no question who belongs on top of the rankings this week.
Next week: Vs. UTEP Miners (1-0)
2.) West Virginia Mountaineers (1-0), Previous ranking: #4
The Mountaineers welcomed the former Big 12 team whose spot they took, and they beat them badly, only giving up 3 points until two minutes remained in the fourth quarter and the competitive part of the game was long over. The Mountaineers passing game was efficient enough to buoy a strong rushing offense, and even though the big plays were lacking, the Mizzou defense would be in the top 2 in the Big 12, if not a sure bet at #1. While the Mizzou offense isn't going to set the world on fire, the fact that West Virginia allowed the Tigers just three non-garbage time points, a completion rate of less than 50% and held up well against the run is extremely impressive. The Mountaineers will look for a bit more in the big play area this week against the FCS before taking on another Big 12 hopeful in BYU before conference play starts- a 3-0 mark will definitely see the Mountaineers as a top 25 team as conference play begins.
Next week: Vs. Youngstown State Penguins (1-0)
3.) TCU Horned Frogs (1-0), Previous ranking: #1
This may be too high for the Frogs, but honestly, SDSU is the third best team that the Big 12 beat this week- not a great stat for the conference as a whole perhaps, but it's still the fact. The good news is that even with the fairly nightmarish start, the Frogs issues with the run were more a result of SDSU giving looks and keys that were entirely different from what they'd shown last year, and TCU stiffened noticeably against the run in the second half. The Jackrabbit's Jake Wieneke continued to get his yards and do his thing, but honestly... I'd trade any WR TCU has except for Turpin for Wieneke straight up right now. When you have a future NFL receiver, sometimes even if the coverage is great bad things can still happen. Arkansas will have some big tight ends that will be a similar size issue, but honestly we probably won't see another receiver with Wieneke's talent until potentially November. However, TCU's offense answered a lot of questions, and some of the remaining issues are probably more to do with the coordinators not wanting to show off too much in what was supposed to be a simple tune up game. Still, I would have liked to see more tempo early on, because SDSU didn't seem to have any answer for it and it's unlikely that the big Arkansas defensive front will like it any more than they did. The Frogs remain in #3 as a show of good faith for now, next week is the game that will either catapult them back up or signal that we'll need to adjust our expectations a bit- though remember that our opponent wasn't exactly setting the world on fire last week either...
Next week: Vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (1-0).
4.) Kansas Jayhawks (1-0), Previous ranking: #9
Kansas snapped its long winless streak and notched its biggest win since 2010, so even with them playing the worst FCS team of the lot... why not? The Jayhawks did pretty much whatever they wanted on offense and the defense did a solid enough job on defending the pass that the Rams early success running the football withered and died. Sure, once the competition starts getting tougher the losses will start to pile up again thanks in no small part to the scholarship mess that coach Weis left KU with, but the Jayhawks will continue to improve and will probably give more teams in the Big 12 a game than are probably expecting it. (Yes, TCU should always expect a game from KU. No I don't know why either.) Next week is another chance to show how much the team has developed as they host an Ohio team that is coming off a loss, but is traditionally a well coached bowl level team.
Next week: Vs. Ohio Bobcats (0-1).
How do you separate two teams that beat the pants off almost identical FCS teams in almost identical fashion? Texas Tech beat Stephen F Austin by 52 points, while OSU beat SE Louisiana by 54 points- just two points of difference. So how do you determine who played the stronger team- well, both teams posted 4-7 records, so no help there. Both were members of the same conference, so there's not much of a strength of schedule difference. They did play each other last year, and Stephen F. Austin won the game... by one point. So with a theoretical one point of strength difference between their opponents and just two points of difference in the actual score, I'm going to call it a push and both teams can be #5 this week. Next week should create some separation as they play two very different teams and Tech will be on the road for their game- until then, don't shove you two!
Next week: OSU- Vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (1-0), Texas Tech- @ Arizona State Sun Devils (1-0)
7.) Kansas State Wildcats (0-1), Previous ranking: #7
You know, margin of victory wise, KSU/Stanford was pretty much right on the money of what I expected- I just expected the scores on both sides of the scoreboard to be higher. KSU's defense is a bit ahead of schedule from where I thought they'd be, and they honestly did a decent job of containing the should-be defending Heisman Trophy winner. That said... the offense is the same as last year, a decent zone running game that gets enveloped because they can't stretch the field and can't complete a high percentage of passes (below 50% in this one). If the Wildcats are going to continue to be a bowl team that will simply have to change, because right now I look at the schedule and I see 4-8 and an inglorious end to the last chapter of Bill Snyder's glorious career.
Next week: Vs. Florida Atlantic Owls.
8.) Oklahoma Sooners (0-1), Previous ranking: #2
Ouch. The Sooners are probably a better team than Kansas State, but two factors set the Sooners spiraling into the eighth spot- that KSU played a true road game instead of a neutral site (which was honestly 60-40 to the Sooners) and that I think that Stanford is better than Houston. This was a bad loss for the Sooners, and honestly, when you look at the box score you don't even see how they could have lost at first glance. Baker Mayfield completed 72% of his passes for almost ten yards per attempt and no picks? Mixon and Perine both averaged over 5 YPC? Houston's QB Greg Ward carried the ball 18 times for a net total of 1 yard, part of a combined rushing effort that was under 100 total yards for the Cougars? Just looking at that bit of the box score, you'd be predicting a 14-ish point OU win- Until you go deeper into the stats and see that Mixon and Perine actually only carried the ball six times each- a combined total which was less than Baker Mayfield's carry total, which resulted in a total of -1 yard rushing. Throw in a ten point swing as a missed OU field goal was returned for a touchdown and OU's numerous incredibly boneheaded penalties on defense and you end up with the margin we actually got- a ten point loss that felt more like 20, and was only ten because OU scored with two minutes left. I'm sure that Stoops will bounce back from this one and somehow OU will contend/ruin the rest of the contender's days, but this loss hurts both the Sooners and the Big 12 in a big way. And no, Houston should still not get invited to the Big 12.
Next week: Vs. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (1-0)
9.) Iowa State Cyclones (0-1), Previous ranking: #8
Well here we are again. It's always such a pleasure. Remember when UNI killed the Cyclones twice? Oh how the Hawkeyes laughed. But ISU isn't laughing. Under the circumstances, #9 seems shockingly nice.
Maybe Matt Campbell will turn things around, and I do think he's a good hire- but starting seemingly every other year with an FCS loss has to stop sooner rather than later if Iowa State is ever going to be anything more than the Iowa State they've seemingly always been.
Next week: @ Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0)
10.) Baylor Bears (1-0), Previous ranking: #10
The Bears were looking like a good candidate to join the logjam at #5 this week, and they beat a (you guessed it) 4-7 team from the Southland conference. You know I'm not one to avoid looking to stretch a joke, but then Baylor reminded me that they didn't do nearly enough to purge their coaching staff. That display is about as weak as it gets, which is in direct defiance of what these rankings stand for. Baylor Delenda Est, then, now and forever.
Next week: Vs. SMU Mustangs (1-0)