I’m going to try a new Sunday feature here, because I think it will be fun and a good way to help us all keep track of what’s happening in the Big 12 each week.
Obviously it’s still early yet, and not every team has played two games yet (TCU and ISU both with a Week 2 bye? sheesh), but I think I’ve seen enough that I can slot the ten teams of the Big 12 into some sort of logical order.
So it’s pretty clear that the Oklahoma Sooners are the best team in the conference, yet again. Lincoln Riley looks like he’ got another College Football Playoff contender brewing in Norman — Jalen Hurts looks like he’s going to be the next Heisman winner at OU, and the defense, which kept them from doing more the last two seasons, is starting to looked improved. But they still have to face the gauntlet of the Big 12, though it’s going to take a strong effort to knock them off their perch.
Mike Gundy has things rolling again in Stillwater, and the Oklahoma State Cowboys have the “best” win in the conference in the early going, with their week one victory over Oregon State in Corvallis to hang their hat on. Sophomore QB Spencer Sanders looks legit, and Gundy almost always has a good offense, but the Cowboys will still need to work on defense, especially if they want to have a shot in Bedlam to end the season.
This was a coin flip for me, so I slotted the two teams from central Texas together. The Baylor Bears have looked impressive in their two blowout wins, and Matt Rhule has that program trending back in the right direction in his third season. They will be a tough out for any conference team. The Texas Longhorns had the best week two opponent, but took a home loss to LSU. They keep their grade high because it was still a non-conference loss, and LSU looks right now like a legit Top 10 team (I think they finally found a QB in Baton Rouge). I feel like we say this every year, but if Texas can play up to it’s talent level they could win every game, but they often try to win games on talent alone and that just won’t fly against most Power 5 schools.
This really isn’t a homer pick. The Kansas State Wildcats looked impressive in their week one win over Nicholls State, and turned what easily could have been a let-down/trap game against Bowling Green into an even more impressive rout. It’s still early, but there is clearly talent at the top of the Wildcats depth chart, and Chris Klieman and his staff have now shown they know how to win ball games regardless of level. A big test awaits next week, but for now the Wildcats are closer to #3 on this list than #6.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders are undefeated to start the season, and new coach Matt Wells seems to have found a least some version of defense out in west Texas. I don’t want to dig deeply, but I wonder when the last time any Red Raider team only allowed 13 points in their first two games, regardless of opponent; and their week one win was a against a Top 20 FCS school, a team that could easily be a tripping hazard to weaker P5 teams. The early returns in Lubbock are promising.
TCU gets a downgrade here due to lack of action this week. But the TCU Horned Frogs handled Arkansas-Pine Bluff fairly well in their opener, so they get the nod here at #7. The Horned Frogs have a very tough test next week, though, as they head to West Lafayette, IN to take on a Purdue squad that lost a close one in Reno, NV in week one but exorcised some demons against Vanderbilt in week two.
8. Iowa State
The Iowa State Cyclones also get a downgrade here due to lack of action this week. And they are notch below TCU because the Cyclones needed three overtimes in Ames to take down Northern Iowa (#12 FCS). Matt Campbell (dang, there are a lot of “Matt”’s in this conference now...) will likely get things heading the right way again, but they will have to figure it out in a hurry with the big Cy-Hawk rivalry game next weekend in Ames.
Yes, that number is correct. We’re the Big 12, we have 12 spots, might as well use them all. The West Virginia Mountaineers started the season with a decent enough win over the #2 FCS team James Madison in Morgantown but absolutely soiled themselves against Missouri in Columbia. Dana Holgorsen left the cupboard pretty bare in Morgantown, and new coach Neal Brown has his work cut out for him in Morgantown. Things don’t get any easier for the ‘Eers either, with NC State visiting next weekend.
We should just name this spot after the Kansas Jayhawks. They’ve held a firm grip on last place for the past decade, and after an embarrassing loss at home to Coastal Carolina (who had never beaten a Power 5 team before), it’s clear that Les Miles still has a LOT of work to do in Lawrence. At least the Jayhawks already have a win this season, taking down struggling FCS opponent Indiana State in week one, so they can guarantee they won’t be winless in 2019, but with a decent Boston College team on the schedule for next week, there may only be one more win possible on the Jayhawks schedule in 2019: the week four match-up with West Virginia in Lawrence.