Big 12 Power Rankings Week 8: Every Game Matters

Big 12 Power Rankings Week 8: Every Game Matters

Week 7 wasn’t just a crazy week for all of college football; it was a very telling one for the Big 12 Conference. With Iowa State taking down the conference’s only undefeated team, it might have knocked the Big 12 out of the Playoff, but as the conference says, “Every Game Matters,” and that was proven last weekend.

With players emerging as the future for their respective teams, as well as overall play and coaching providing a more solid snapshot of the identity of each team last weekend, Week 7 certainly set the tone for what could create some interesting scenarios as we focus more on December 1–the Big 12 Championship Game in Dallas.

Without further ado, here’s how the teams stacked up last weekend, and what to look for this weekend.

Disclaimer: These Power Rankings are based off WEEKLY observations of games and performances. These are NOT based off an entire body of work on the season. 

10. Kansas

Kansas was on a bye last weekend, but the Jayhawks didn’t go without their share of drama. It was announced last week that offensive coordinator Doug Meacham was OUT, and that head coach David Beaty would be the primary play-caller from here on out. After spending a couple of seasons with TCU, Meacham was hired by Kansas to overhaul the Jayhawks, but as of Week 7, Kansas had the 107th ranked offense in the nation, averaging just 5.29 yards-per-play.

It’s unknown just what Kansas will look like against Texas Tech this weekend, but with the Red Raiders’ defense improving week-after-week, it’s time for the Jayhawks to step up if Beaty is to have a job at the end of the season.

9. TCU

There were high expectations from TCU this season, both offensively and defensively. Heading into Week 1, the Horned Frogs were ranked No. 16 in the nation. Despite losses against Ohio State and Texas, however, the TCU defense was still in the Top 15 nationally, so there was still a possibility to turn the tide, and hope to rely on a high powered defense to win games. Unfortunately against Texas Tech last Thursday, TCU–which was a touchdown favorite at kickoff–was handed its third loss of the season and its second loss in the Big 12.

TCU allowed 353 total yards of offense against the Red Raiders, which is relatively low for Tech’s standards, however, TCU’s offense had three turnovers, including a critical turnover by QB Shawn Robinson on a scramble with just: 43 left in the 4th quarter. A 17-14 score in the Big 12 proves just how much defenses are stepping up, and if TCU can’t rely on its unit to close games out, and with Oklahoma shuffling its defensive identity around with the firing of Mike Stoops, Saturday could be an interesting game in Fort Worth.

8. West Virginia

West Virginia took a massive tumble this week, and with good reason. The Mountaineers were routed 14-30 against an Iowa State team that continues to repeat history year after year, and throttle teams that don’t take them seriously. As a result, Will Grier was immediately thrown on the fringe in Heisman conversation after throwing for just 100 yards and finishing with -33 rushing yards.

Much of the discussion after the ISU game was that several teams had exposed West Virginia’s flaws throughout the season already, but against the Cyclones, those weaknesses just imploded. Whatever is happening with the synergy between the Mountaineers needs to be corrected, and soon, as the schedule won’t get any easier after the bye week.

7. Oklahoma State

Following its 12-31 loss against Kansas State, Oklahoma State has now dropped three of its four Big 12 games, so far. Much like TCU, the Cowboys were predicted to have a strong showing this season, but since facing Texas Tech in Week 4, they’ve now slid to a point where speculation on social media is running rampant as to whether Mike Gundy will even be in Stillwater next season.

The thing about speculation is that unless it’s from a primary source, nothing can be substantiated, but if the Cowboys want to keep it that way, things have to change for OSU and fast. First, Taylor Cornelius had a quarterback rating of just 40.7 against K-State, having thrown for zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Moreover, the Cowboys had just 15 first downs, 311 total yards of offense, and were just 5-15 on third down conversions. Penalties were also an issue, with 7-70 yards. Thankfully, OSU has a much-needed bye this week, as they prepare to face a Texas team that just might be back.

6. Kansas State

Although Kansas State blew out Oklahoma State 31-12 last weekend, the Wildcats still lack an identity, but the win was a confidence boost at a time when teams really need them. The most interesting part about the Wildcats’ game plan, however, is that in a league where passing is king, it’s almost as if OSU didn’t know how to defend the run game K-State was implementing all afternoon. The Wildcats put-up 291 rushing yards to just 130 in the air, with junior running back Alex Barnes accounting for four rushing touchdowns, and three receptions for 51 yards.

While K-State hasn’t been as effective in the passing game,  these metrics certainly give defensive units on K-State’s schedule a blueprint as to what’s working, so that’s definitely something to look at, especially with the Wildcats taking on Oklahoma after their bye this weekend.

5. Baylor

Baylor found its rhythm in the passing game under quarterback Charlie Brewer. Dare I say, this has been Baylor’s most complete team in the Matt Rhule era, and against Texas, the offense certainly showed flashes of what we should grow to expect from here on out.

Against a Texas team without its starting quarterback, perhaps Baylor took advantage of UT’s more limited playbook–especially on defense, where UT was shutout of the end zone the entire second half. The only score that came out of the second half was in the third quarter on a two-yard touchdown run by Jalen Hurd. But the bigger storyline here was that Brewer connected on 20 of 39 passes, throwing for 240 yards and a touchdown. While that might not seem like “Big 12 numbers,” it’s a step in the right direction and indicates that Brewer has Baylor’s offense trending upwards. Baylor has a bye this weekend but will head to Morgantown on Thursday, Oct. 25 to play the No. 13 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers.

4. Iowa State

Iowa State is another team that appears to be trending upward in terms of quarterbacking, and with that talent lying at the talented hands of freshman Brock Purdy, the Cyclones should be in business for a few years. Ames is always a tough venue to play in, and perhaps the Mountaineers got ahead of themselves and forgot just how hard Iowa State plays, but in WVU’s biggest test of the season, the Cyclones throttled the Mountaineers and continues its streak of holding teams well below their usual level of productivity.

Purdy finished the day at 18-25 for 254 yards, three touchdowns, and a single interception. The Cyclones also finished the day with 244 yards rushing, which is a pretty incredible number, especially when you consider how the ISU defense held Will Grier to just 100 passing yards, a single touchdown, and a 16.6 QBR, and limited WVU to just 52 yards in the ground. It could have been worse for the Mountaineers, but with the win, it gives the Cyclones a week to dial as they host Texas Tech after the bye.

3. Texas Tech

Texas Tech really turned a corner this season, defensively. And although the Red Raiders are still allowing chunks of yardage, the red zone stands, forced field goals, and ball-hawking are really making a difference in close games, as was the case in Tech’s 17-14 victory on the road at TCU on Thursday. Tech still ranks at the bottom of the conference in total defense, but Adrian Frye leads the Big 12 in passes defended at 13, and in interceptions at 4. The list also features Demarcus Fields at No. 7 and Douglas Coleman III at No. 18. Tech is also No. 20 in the nation in third-down defensive stops, so with quarterback Alan Bowman still recovering from a partially collapsed lung, the defense has been coming up big.

Quarterback Jett Duffey made some huge plays in the win, including a 62-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Deion High in the third quarter to give Texas Tech the lead, and on a 38-yard keeper for a go-ahead score in the 4th quarter. With TCU driving late in the 4th, TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson had a costly interception while trying to scramble, which Adrian Frye was able to come up with to ice the game.

Texas Tech faces Kansas this week, and with Iowa State the week after, I have a feeling head coach Kliff Kingsbury will be testing some new packages on the Jayhawks in preparation.

2. Oklahoma

The Sooners were on a bye last weekend, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as Big 12 interim journeyman Ruffin McNeill took over duties for Mike Stoops, who was relieved following OU’s loss against Texas in the Red River Showdown. With the Sooners’ defense being the biggest cause of concern over the years, it had many wondering why it took them so long to make a change at defensive coordinator, and it makes you wonder what we can expect from the Sooners moving forward.

In any event, with the way things are going, OU is still stacked and at this point, whoever ends up in Dallas on December 1 is anyone’s guess. But with the Sooners facing a TCU team that can’t seem to cauterize the bleeding this season, it’s time for Kyler Murray to go back to work.

1. Texas

Texas, once again, finds itself at the top of my Power Rankings because they’re undefeated in Big 12 play. Numbers don’t lie, and if you think this team is going to take a vacation now that they’re in the Top 10 for two consecutive weeks, you’re wrong, but maintaining momentum could be a challenge. For starters, starting quarterback, Sam Ehlinger left the game in the first quarter with blood visible on his hand. When he returned to the field, he set his helmet down, picked up a headset, and Shane Buechele finished the game.

Buechele finished the day 20-34 for 184 yards, with a touchdown and an interception in UT’s 23-17 victory over Baylor. The issue here, is that Ehlinger is a true dual-threat quarterback, known for extending plays on the ground and making up for a significant chunk of rushing yards. Ehlinger was diagnosed with a first-degree shoulder sprain, but head coach Tom Herman says he could be throwing by the end of the week.

The Longhorns have a bye this week before going on the road at Oklahoma State on the 27th, which should give Ehlinger ample time to recover, but the bigger concern for UT might be in the kicking game. Since his thrilling game-winning field goal against Oklahoma, Cameron Dicker’s production has decreased, and he finished the day 3/5 on field goals against Baylor. With how close that game was, and with how close several games have been in the Big 12 this season, that’s something the Longhorns have to work on.

Want More? Check out: Unafraid Show’s College Football Top 10 Rankings Week 8: Big Shake-Ups

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