Non-conference play is now in the history books for the Big 12, and while everyone has only played one conference-matchup, each team’s true identity is slowly but surely coming into the clear.
West Virginia and Oklahoma have emerged as the early leaders in the quest to finally get the Big 12 in the College Football Playoff back-to-back seasons, as expected, but Texas and Texas Tech have suddenly attempted to crash the party at the top of the conference standings and perhaps beyond — each winning three straight since Week 1 losses.
And TCU? Well, it’s an uphill battle on several fronts now after the Horned Frogs followed up a 2-0 start with back-to-back losses, albeit one against the No. 4 team in the country. Still, better than the scene in the Sunflower State thus far.
So where does everyone stack up? We decided to run a Big 12 power rankings as we head into the final weekend of September.
1. West Virginia (3-0, 1-0)
Country roads, take me home.
Oklahoma could have easily taken this spot, but the Mountaineers have hardly missed a beat through three games played. Will Grier has been sensational ever since throwing for 429 yards and 5 touchdowns in a 40-10 Week 1 rout of Tennessee, averaging 372.33 pasing yards per game. West Virginia did have a kink in its schedule when Hurricane Florence cancelled the team’s Week 3 visit to North Carolina State, but that doesn’t change the fact that Mountaineers’ have a what is just simply a scary amount of firepower. Watch out, because the ‘Eers won’t be a pushover for anybody in the Big 12 this fall.
2. Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0)
The Sooners’ offense came out of the gate full-throttle, scoring more than 40 points against both Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic Owls and Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins. But the loss of running back Rodney Anderson for the remainder of the season is bound to affect not just Oklahoma’s production on the field, but also the morale in the locker room. And after the near-disaster vs. Army in Week 4 — a game which the Sooners required overtime to emerge victorious after entering as 31-point favorites — an entirely new batch of questions have surfaced on both sides of the ball. If Mike Stoops’ defense proves to be the same liability it was a year ago, more hiccups could be on the way in Norman.
3. Texas (3-1, 1-0)
I hate to over-hype Texas, especially after a second Week 1 flop against Maryland in as many seasons. Nonetheless, a three-game winning streak and back-to-back wins over Top 25 teams aren’t worth nothing. Sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger has thrown and rushed for a touchdown in all three of those victories. The last Longhorns quarterback to do that in three straight games? Colt McCoy. Texas also hadn’t strung together wins against ranked opponents since 2008 before knocking off No. 17 TCU last weekend. I wouldn’t declare Texas “back” just yet, but needless to say, this is the happiest folks have been on the Forty Acres this far into the season in quite some time.
4. TCU (2-2, 0-1)
The Horned Frogs have been far from perfect through 4 games on the season, already facing a pair of self-inflicted losses on the season. Quarterback Shawn Robinson has shown flashes of himself that made him a 4-star recruit out of high school, but 6 turnovers in the last three games will hardly get the job done. On that note, TCU is 0-7 in the turnover battle between its losses to Ohio State and Texas. Nonetheless, the Frogs have endured what is undoubtedly the toughest schedule of any Big 12 team through four games, and have led at least into the third quarter in all of them. Take away a pair of disastrous minutes in the second half, and Gary Patterson & Co. might be sitting at 4-0.
5. Texas Tech (3-1, 1-0)
It seemed like it was just yesterday when Texas Tech got embarrassed by Ole Miss and we were all wondering if the Red Raiders would even win three games in 2018. And yet here we are, Texas Tech riding a three-game winning streak and fresh off an impressive 41-17 victory over a Top 25 Oklahoma State team at Boone Pickens Stadium — a place Tech had not won at since head coach Kliff Kingsbury was the team’s quarterback. Not only that, it was the first time since 2009 that the Red Raiders had defeated any ranked opponent on the road. And with the way freshman quarterback Alan Bowman has been playing, including a record-setting 605 passing-yard performance vs. Houston, Texas Tech may not be going away anytime soon.
And a footnote: West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas all travel to Lubbock this season. Take that as you will.
6. Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1)
The Cowboys gained a lot of believers after their lopsided Week 3 win over No. 24 Boise State, only to lose them vs. Texas Tech last weekend as the Pokes plummeted from No. 15 to completely out of the AP Top 25. Adding salt to the wound, senior wide receiver Jalen McCleskey announced on Monday that he would redshirt the remainder of the season before seeking transfer. Justice Hill may still be one of the top running backs in the Big 12, but with an inability to get the offense going on home turf against a school that hasn’t exactly been known for defense on Saturday, it could be a bumpy path going forward in Stillwater.
7. Iowa State (1-2, 0-1)
The Cyclones’ defense has been sound through three games played, but scoring points has been the challenge for Iowa State. That’s easier said than done, of course, after starting quarterback and sixth-year senior Kyle Kempt was dealt an injury during Iowa State’s 13-3 loss at Iowa on Sept. 8. The Cyclones already lost standout wide receiver Allen Lazard to graduation after the 2017 campaign, and running back David Montgomery — who led the FBS in missed tackles last season — is also at less than 100 percent. An upcoming night game at TCU won’t be of any more help to Matt Campbell & co. in righting the ship.
8. Baylor (3-1, 1-0)
The Bears are far from being back to the team they were circa. 2014, and a week three loss to Duke on home turf is enough to tell you all about that. Nonetheless, Baylor has already tripled its win total from a year ago. Charlie Brewer hasn’t been prolific at quarterback, but he’s been good enough to give the Bears offense some much-needed consistency after the disaster that 2017 was. Of course, Baylor will learn a lot about its true identity when the Bears hit the road for a visit to Oklahoma this Saturday.
9. Kansas State (2-2, 0-1)
So much for Bill Snyder’s wizardry. The Wildcats came that close to taking the L at the hands of FCS opponent South Dakota in Manhattan in Week 1, and things were anything but pretty during K-State’s two Power 5 games played thus far — outscored 66-16 between Mississippi State and West Virginia. Long story short, it could be a very long season in the Little Apple.
10. Kansas (2-2, 0-1)
Hey, the Jayhawks have already won a road game and defeated a non-conference Power 5 opponent this season. Not too shabby, except for the fact that Kansas also lost to FCS-opponent Nicholls State in overtime to begin the season. Sure, a 2-2 record may be a lot to cheer about by the standards in Lawrence, but that doesn’t make the Jayhawks any less than of a pushover they’ve been in recent years.