In our 2017 version of the Big 12 power rankings, we have averaged out the rankings of our main contributors at Heartland College Sports. These will be done on a weekly basis and released every Monday morning. A friendly reminder before trolling: Power Rankings can swing drastically week to week and are not simply a ranking based on what we think the best teams are in the conference, but rather based on the games that have been played to date.
This was another busy week for the Big 12 conference, but with just a couple weeks left in the regular season, everything is beginning to crystalize.
1. Oklahoma Sooners (Last week: T-1)
It’s now Oklahoma’s conference to lose, as the Sooners are the last and only hope for the Big 12 to reach the College Football Playoff this season. Rodney Anderson is becoming a star, Baker Mayfield’s gap to win the Heisman Trophy continues to grow, and the defense made strides from last week’s game against Oklahoma State. With Notre Dame finally knocked out of the Playoff picture, if OU takes care of business and wins out, they will be back in the College Football Playoff for the second time in the past three years.
2. Oklahoma State Cowboys (Last week: 2)
It didn’t get off to a great start and the game was far from clean, but the Pokes went up to Ames and got the win they needed over the Cyclones to stay in contention for the Big 12 championship game. Justice Hill ripped off 134 yards at a 5.4 ypc clip, which was even more impressive considering the defense he was going up against. A.J. Green’s somewhat controversial interception, which was ultimately the correct call, sealed the win for the Cowboys. In what was small solace compared to the week prior, the defense won the game for the Cowboys. Also, I’m guessing if you asked the folks in Norman, they want no part of a rematch with the Pokes in a Big 12 championship game.
3. TCU Horned Frogs (Last week: T-1)
It was an all around very tough night for the Horned Frogs. Not only did they knock themselves out of College Football Playoff contention, they lost top running back Darius Anderson for the remainder of the regular season. TCU does not have the offense to find itself in a double-digit hole against a team like OU and dig its way out. It’s not going to happen. But TCU is still in the best position for a rematch in the Big 12 championship game. Kenny Hill does not and should not need to put this team on his back. Continue to let the running game lead the way with Kyle Hicks handling more of the workload, with Sewo Olonilua and Kennedy Snell finding more reps.
4. West Virginia Mountaineers (Last week: 4)
The Mountaineers were the most hotly debated team of the week. WVU ranged from as high as three to as low as five (there wasn’t much else to debate this week). WVU has turned things around, picking up two-straight wins and find themselves tied for second place in the Big 12 standings with Oklahoma State and TCU. Granted they don’t hold tiebreakers over either team, but the Mountaineers are quietly putting together another solid season. Saturday’s game against K-State ends up looking like a solid road win, but four turnovers won’t make Dana Holgorsen happy. WVU can still make the Big 12 championship if they win out (UT, OU) and OSU (KSU, KU) and TCU (Texas Tech, Baylor) each lose at least one more game. Unlikely, but ya gotta believe!
5. Iowa State Cyclones (Last week: 5)
The Cyclones have trended back to the middle of the pack, down from their high of the No. 1 spot a couple weeks ago. Zeb Noland performed admirably for Kyle Kempt at quarterback. But the fade routes deep in OSU territory at the end of regulation was putting the freshman in a tough spot. In fact, criticizing those play calls was probably the only good analysis Tommy Tuberville had in his three hours and 45 minutes on the air. Iowa State had to win that game and then beat Baylor and K-State to reach the Big 12 championship game. Now they need a miracle to end up in AT&T Stadium. But damn, there is nothing for this group to be ashamed of. What a gritty team.
6. Texas Longhorns (Last week: 6)
A win over Kansas? Ho-hum. Interestingly enough, Texas was outscored over the final three quarters 20-14. You can say they took it easy and/or went conservative, but that’s notable. How about this for a tee shirt? Kansas beat Texas… in football… over the final 3 quarters. Too long? Probably. Tom Herman will take the three interceptions, two by Antwuan Davis, but coach still doesn’t think this team has played a compete game yet this season, noting afterwards they still need to improve in all three facets. A good place to start would be the Swiss cheese offensive line.
7. Kansas State Wildcats (Last week: 7)
The Wildcats remain fighting for bowl eligibility after their loss to West Virginia on Saturday. Skylar Thompson played quarterback and looked very shaky at times, finishing 13/26 for 159 yards and two interceptions, along with 18 carries for 53 rushing yards. Interestingly, Dalvin Warmack has become the go-to running back, getting a season-high 14 carries for 96 yards. Alex Barnes was quiet, with just three rushes on the day. But the Wildcats still gave up nearly 500 yards of total offense and had three times as many penalty yards as the Mountaineers. It’s not the season for Bill Snyder and the boys in Manhattan.
8. Texas Tech Red Raiders (Last week: 8)
Kliff Kingsbury can breath a sigh of relief… for now? The Red Raiders picked up the 38-24 win over Baylor that was essentially a must-win for Kingsbury to even be considered to come back to Lubbock for next season. The team forced four turnovers, but was still outgained by over 100 yards. But the four-game losing streak is now in the rearview mirror and the Red Raiders need to split one of their final two games against TCU and Texas to end up in a bowl game for the third time in five seasons under Kliff Kingsbury. That extra month of practice would be enormous for his young players as well.
9. Baylor Bears (Last week: 9)
The Bears arguably played better than Texas Tech, but their costly turnovers came at inopportune times. Charlie Brewer continues to look like the quarterback of the future in Waco. And here’s a nugget for Baylor fans to hang their hats on: 516 of Baylor’s 523 yards (98.7%) against Texas Tech were attributed to freshmen and sophomores. If nothing else, Matt Rhule is wisely getting the underclassmen as much playing time as possible, in hopes that this experience pays off in 2018 and beyond.
10. Kansas Jayhawks (Last week: 10)
The Kansas beat Texas in football memes are officially a thing of the past. KU hung in there against UT and did plenty to cover the 33-point spread. But a loss is a loss and considering they end the season with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks are starring down at a 1-12 season, ending on a 12-game losing streak. David Beaty’s optimism has been contagious during his time in Lawrence. If he can keep it going after this season, I’ll be impressed.