It’s that time again, the time when there are rankings everywhere, advanced statistics aplenty and all of the words on football you could possibly want to read on all corners of the internet! . . . Unless of course, you were interested in answering the only question that really matters. How powerful are the teams in the Big 12 this week? Fret not my friends, all questions will be answered and teams ranked. Power up, my friends, let’s do it.
#1: Oklahoma Sooners (2-0, 0-0. Previous ranking: #2)
One year removed from a non-conference season that put the entire conference on expansion watch, the Sooners went into the home of the #2 team in the nation and absolutely crushed them. While the final score was only 15 points of separation, Oklahoma looked significantly better than the Buckeyes on both sides of the ball in both scheme and execution. That’s quite a feat for a coach’s debut game, but Riley pulled it off with aplomb and almost single handedly Oklahoma changed the whole narrative. Either the Sooners or the team that beats them to win the Big 12 will now be assured that they have a truly quality win when it’s time for playoff selection, and that’s pretty dang powerful.
Next week: Vs Tulane Green Wave
#2: TCU Horned Frogs (2-0, 0-0, Previous ranking: #1)
The Frogs were bumped from their traditional preseason peak of the rankings not because they weren’t impressive, hitting the road in Fayetteville and simply decimating the host Razorbacks, but simply because Ohio State was #2 and will likely be very good this season. The jury is still out on Arkansas, but in any case a win over an SEC team with some name recognition will do wonders for TCU’s reputation and establishes them as a very firm power player early in the season. Plus it gave the Frogs their first win over Arkansas in Fayetteville since 1984, which is pretty dang powerful. That the Frogs did it on the ground and absolutely smothered a powerful Arkansas running game should be setting off alarm bells all over the conference, especially in Stillwater which has traditionally had issues when dealing with conference heavyweights who can run the ball well.
Next week: Vs SMU Mustangs
#3: Oklahoma State Cowboys (2-0, 0-0, Previous ranking: #3)
Mason Rudolph is really, really good. I’m not sure that people really appreciate how good he is, but he is likely the best QB in the conference and should definitely be in the conversation for the nation. As for the rest of the Cowboys roster, it’s still a bit up in the air. The defense was good enough to slow down Tulsa through the air, but gave up a ton of rushing yards and had some special teams miscues as well. Meanwhile, the rushing game was quite good against Tulsa, but had their YPA numbers inflated by a few big busted runs. Against South Alabama the ground game was much less effective and the Cowboys increasingly had to turn to Rudolph to make plays; not the worst situation to be in as he is (again) really good, but it is a matter of concern if the Cowboys aren’t able to get much done on the ground. Pitt will provide an interesting test for the Cowboys, at least defensively.
Next week: @ Pitt Panthers
#4: Kansas State Wildcats (2-0, 0-0, Previous ranking #5)
Here’s where things start to get interesting in the power rankings, as the traditional Bill Snyder non-conference schedule generally means one moderate difficulty level opponent and two absolute jokes to make bowl eligibility as much of a lock as possible heading into conference play. This year the schedule put the delicious cupcake desserts first with the road trip to Vanderbilt this week representing the first real test. So far what we know for sure is that Kansas State is a lot better than both Central Arkansas (a pretty good FCS team) and Charlotte (a bad FBS team that you may not have known is actually an FBS team). Anything else is going to be simply conjecture, but as I was a believer in this year’s Wildcats before I continue to believe in them now. Next week we’ll have a better idea of whether or not they deserve to be ranked above the next team, though.
Next week: @ Vanderbilt Commodores
#5: West Virginia Mountaineers (1-1, 0-0. Previous ranking #4)
The West Virginia/Virginia Tech game was a bit of a hard one for me to take sides in. On the one hand, West Virginia is one of the Big 12 teams that I don’t feel conflicted about cheering for outside of conference play (Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State are also okay), so having them do well is a net gain for the conference. On the other hand, Virginia Tech is coached by former Frog OC Justin Fuente, for whom I wish all the best things in the world. In the end, West Virginia looked very good (particularly in the second half) against what I expect will be a very good Tech team. Florida transfer Will Grier looked very much like the real deal against the Hokies and picked apart East Carolina with a mix of efficiency and explosiveness (Man, how much does Florida wish they still had him right now?). For the moment West Virginia is at #5 due to the neutral field loss, but the Mountaineers are very interesting. A somewhat cruel home/road split that sends them to Fort Worth, Manhattan and Norman will mean that if the Mountaineers do rise in the rankings it will be well deserved.
Next week: Vs Delaware State Hornets
#6: Iowa St. Cyclones (1-1, 0-0. Previous ranking: #7)
So close, but still so far. The Cyclones almost pulled off a fantastic upset of their in-state big brother the Iowa Hawkeyes, building a ten point fourth quarter lead before finally succumbing in overtime. Still, Iowa State held up well against Iowa’s running game and managed to beat down Northern Iowa, who has been a persistent pest even in some of the best Cyclone seasons. Iowa State’s running game has performed decently in both games, but QB Jacob Park has been a bit streaky and has had trouble with some of the shorter routes, relying heavily on Allen Lazard for key downs. Iowa State does again appear to be making progress, but will likely still struggle against the top teams of the conference. Still I think the Cyclones are powerful enough to make a bowl, and watch out for the Cyclones in another two years.
Next week: @ Akron Zips
#7: Texas Tech Red Raiders (1-0, 0-0. Previous ranking: #8)
The Raiders had one of those miserable early season byes last week, but the win that they did acquire was a surprisingly good one for an FCS school. Eastern Washington was the #4 ranked FCS team last year and beat former Tech Coach Mike Leach at Washington State as well, so a dominant win over the Eagles is nothing to sneeze at. In particular the fact that Tech actually showed some defensive competence, with EWU gaining under 100 rushing yards stood out as “Huh.” stats that you wouldn’t have believed last year. Tech’s offense will always be efficient and explosive, so any sort of defensive improvement should be enough to send the Raiders bowling and possibly move them back into their traditional role of Big 12 spoilers. For now though, the jury is still out.
Next week: Vs Arizona State Sun Devils
#8: Texas Longhorns (1-1, 0-0. Previous ranking #6)
Texas football is back! Because every college football team is back and playing again, not because Texas has magically become good at it over night. Tom Herman may end up doing some big things at Texas, but the deficiencies that remain on both sides of the ball will take time and experience if they’re going to grow into the team that everyone seems to think that Texas is supposed to be. Shane Buechele is probably not the right kind of QB for Herman’s ideal offensive style, but then again, Texas’ OL hasn’t really seemed like the right kind of OL for any offensive style. This is... not the best situation to be in heading into a game at USC. This is not a particularly powerful team, but they do get a boost over the following team...
Next week: @ USC Trojans
#9: Kansas Jayhawks (1-1, 0-0. Previous ranking #9)
Don’t let this ranking position distract you from the fact that Kansas beat Texas in football last year. Still the Jayhawks take a hit thanks to our old friend Doug Meacham who maintained a near 2:1 Pass-to-run ratio in Kansas’ deflating loss to Central Michigan. This is despite a 51% completion rating and a 5.2 yards per attempt average, compared to a quite efficient ground game. I feel much better about playing Kansas this year than I have in any of the previous three seasons, honestly.
Next week: @ Ohio Bobcats
#10: Baylor Bears (0-2, 0-0. Previous ranking -)
In 2016 I said that I didn’t think Baylor should be playing football. In 2017 it seems that Baylor finally agrees with me.
Next week: @ Duke Blue Devils