Week 8 shook up these rankings – at least temporarily – due to the high-time preferences of power rankings. That is, these rankings are one part body-of-work, one season part expectations, and one part what happened in your last game. Coaches that exceed expectations, especially recently, are going to be higher in the rankings than coaches who are delivering the expected body of work in an underwhelming fashion. Using that as a rough philosophical guide, here are how the Big 12’s coaches stack up after Week 8.
1. Dave Aranda, Baylor (Last Week: 1)
Baylor won its bye week by virtue of Iowa State knocking Oklahoma State down a peg. At 6-1, 3-1, the Bears are now tied with Oklahoma State, although OSU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Bears are very much a Big 12 Championship game contender and have exceeded expectations far more than any other team this season. The Bears are entering a critical three-week stretch, however, beginning when Texas visits Waco this Saturday. The following week Baylor hits the road for the Revivalry against TCU. Then comes potentially the game of the season for the Bears when the Oklahoma Sooners come to town. For now, however, Aranda is clearly in the driver’s seat for Big 12 Coach of the Year.
2. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State (Last Week: 2)
Typically, a loss to an unranked team would mean a precipitous drop in these rankings, but Oklahoma State didn’t look like a team that had been whooped in losing to Iowa State on the road by three points, and Iowa State is not your typical unranked team. The Cowboys were the team that came out on the short end of the stick in a hell of a game between two teams that could hang with anybody in the nation. Thus, Gundy hangs around at the number 2 spot due to how far his team has already come. His Cowboys are still well-positioned to reach the Big 12 Championship game and have had a far better season so far than most predicted. The Cowboys will be big favorites in every game remaining until Bedlam.
3. Matt Campbell, Iowa State (Last Week: 4)
Iowa State has now won three consecutive games since falling to Baylor in Waco, and the Cyclones put on an exclamation mark on the streak by toppling a Top 10, undefeated conference foe to truly announce themselves as a candidate for the Big 12 Championship game. After a slow start, Campbell has his team firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball. The slow starts are nothing new for Iowa State and remain the biggest knock on Campbell as a coach. We’re well into October now, however, and Campbell has shown once again that he has significant coaching chops.
4. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma (Last Week: 3)
The Sooners remain unbeaten, but Riley’s team got dangerously close to allowing Kansas to deliver one of the biggest upsets in college football history. Not to take anything away from Kansas’ effort, but the fact that KU had a 10-0 lead at halftime is inexcusable. Oklahoma should have had the game well in hand by the end of the 1st quarter. Thus, Riley slides a spot this week. Give Riley all kinds of credit for getting Oklahoma to 8-0 while going through a revolution at quarterback, but a coach has to have his team ready to play every single game at top speed, and the Sooners sleep-walked through the first half in Lawrence.
5. Neal Brown, West Virginia (Last Week: 9)
West Virginia’s season was on life-support after dropping three straight games to open the conference slate. As I’ve said before, it wasn’t just the losses, it was the way West Virginia lost to Texas Tech and Baylor. It seemed as if the team had already packed it in and given up on the season. That all changed in Fort Worth Saturday night as WVU took it to TCU on defense and offense. Not only did the Mountaineers hold TCU’s explosive offense to just 17 points, but their offensive line also put up its best performance of the season. Suddenly, there’s new life in Morgantown, and Brown must be credited for whatever magic he worked over the team’s bye week to get things turned around in the right direction.
6. Lance Leipold, Kansas (Last Week: 10)
I thought Kansas was improving, but there was nothing to really grab on to in order to demonstrate that improvement. That all changed at the most unlikely time in the season. Kansas looked like a real-life football team against Oklahoma. QB Jason Bean played a fantastic game, and even though Oklahoma erased a 10-0 deficit in the second half to win 35-23, the Jayhawks were never out of the game and fought for all four quarters. Kansas is still the worst team in the Big 12, but for this week at least, Leipold deserves a significant bump up in these power rankings.
7. Chris Klieman, Kansas State (Last Week: 8)
After the first five minutes of K-State’s game at Texas Tech, Klieman was firmly in last place in these rankings. The Cats looked dreadful as Tech quickly raced out to 14-0 lead before K-State’s offense even got its hands on the ball. K-State’s self-inflicted wounds throughout the first half made a ninth consecutive conference loss seem inevitable. But early in the second half, Felix Anudike-Uzomah tackled SaRodorick Thompson in Tech’s endzone for a safety to spark the Cats to a second-half shutout of Tech and a one-point triumph. As bad as things seemed and have been for K-State, Klieman has managed to keep the team fighting and believing. There’s a lot that needs to be cleaned up for K-State to play anywhere near its potential, but Klieman deserves credit for keeping the team from sinking into despair when it would have been very easy to do so.
8. Matt Wells, Texas Tech (Last Week: 5)
Wells has the Red Raiders just one win away from bowl eligibility, but their best chance to snag that sixth win melted away in the second half against K-State. After jumping out to a 14-point lead and carrying that same differential into halftime, Wells’ offense was stuffed in the second half when just a field goal would have been enough. It’s a bitter pill for the Red Raider faithful as the schedule is about to blossom carnivorously into something from Little Shop of Horrors with the final four games of Tech’s season coming against the clear-cut four best teams in the league: at Oklahoma, vs Iowa State, vs Oklahoma State, and at Baylor. There is at least a ray of hope, however, particularly in the homestand against the Cowboys as OSU will be tempted to look ahead to Bedlam and Texas Tech always plays the Cowboys tough.
9. Steve Sarkisian, Texas (Last Week: 6)
It’s really harsh to have Sarkisian so low in this week’s ranking, but the Longhorns are coming off two consecutive 4th quarter meltdowns, and while the offense has been fantastic since making the move at quarterback from Hudson Card to Casey Thompson, the defense has been among the very worst in the conference for nearly the entire season. Sark and the Longhorns have two big opportunities to redeem themselves over the next two weeks as they travel to Baylor and Iowa State. Of course, the other side of the redemption coin is that Texas is looking down the barrel of a four-game losing streak unless the defense can improve quickly.
10. Gary Patterson, TCU (Last Week: 7)
At 3-4, 1-3, with three of their remaining five games looking like likely losses and another being a toss-up game at Kansas State, the Horned Frogs are in serious jeopardy of missing a bowl game this season. TCU came into the season with a lot of hype and many expecting the Frogs to compete for a Big 12 championship. The defense, however, has not looked even remotely the part since the season-opening dismantling of FCS Duquesne, and that’s really the kicker. TCU’s offense has been explosive this season and given that Patterson’s name and teams are synonymous with defense, it seems inexcusable for such a good offense to be wasted on such a bad defense. Even the offense looked bad against West Virginia, however, in a game swing game that TCU needed to win. Now, the way the defense has played nearly the entire season, it’s very difficult to imagine the Frogs can do better than 5-7 this season.