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2021 Big 12 Power Rankings - Week 5

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The Cowboys remain on top, but how much longer does that last?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Baylor at Oklahoma State Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The nice thing about the early season, for this feature anyway, is that one game can really shake things up. And that was definitely true this weekend, with big winners and losers, some surprise finishes, some teams with lots of work to do, and a couple of teams that just need to play a conference game already. Let’s do this.

1. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys remain unbeaten, and did so this time against a Baylor team that gave them everything they could handle late before ultimately pulling away for the victory (wow...that sounds familiar). Beating a ranked team will keep you in the top spot for now, but there are lurkers ready to usurp the top spot when the Cowboys eventually stumble. Next up for the Pokes is a bye week, followed by their first conference road game, as they will head south to take on the Longhorns in Austin on October 16th.

2. Cincinnati Bearcats

The game against Notre Dame lived up to the hype, and the Bearcats avoided the upset to take down then-#9 Notre Dame in South Bend (no, I’m not kidding, the Bearcats were ranked #7 headed into that game and favored by two points on the road). With the win, Cincy has firmly planted themselves in the discussion for the College Football playoff and look poised to run away with the AAC crown. So why only second on this list? The Bearcats have yet to play a conference game. That will change this weekend as the welcome in Temple to start their AAC slate. Their first Big 12* game (and opportunity for the official top spot) comes a week later when the Golden Knights come to town.

3. BYU Cougars

The only reason BYU moves down this week is because the Bearcats vaulted them. That said, BYU’s early schedule may be loaded with names, but it’s not exactly been a difficult road, as the Cougars furthest trip from home was their season opener in Las Vegas against Arizona. Every other game has come in the state of Utah, including this past weekend’s win over Utah State in Logan. Regardless, a win is a win and BYU is now 5-0 on the season. Still no travel this week as Boise State comes to town.

4. Oklahoma Sooners

It must be nice to be blessed by the Big 12 refs football gods, because the Sooners keep squeaking by to victory this season. OU has yet to win a “real game” by more than a touchdown all season, and this past weekend was no exception. Though, just like with BYU, the only reason the Sooners move down this week is because they got vaulted by a legit Cincinnati team. Next up for the Sooners is the Red River Shootout Rivalry game, and it will be interesting to see which “conference darling” the Big 12 refs football gods choose to favor this weekend.

5. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Another weekend, another blowout victory for the Chanticleers. Just one game this season has been decided by fewer than 27 points (lolku), and that was Coastal’s lone trip away from Conway, SC when they beat Buffalo on their home turf. They’ll get their opportunity to make it two road wins this weekend, as they head west to face Arkansas State in Jonesboro, AR.

6. Texas Longhorns

The Longhorns have to feel almost as #blessed as the Sooners, after also being on the receiving end of some Big 12 refs magic good luck. They get to move up here by the benefit of remaining undefeated in Big 12 play, but that’s not likely to be true for much longer, as the Longhorns head to Dallas to face off with OU. Texas sure is #blessed by the schedule makers, and won’t leave the state of Texas for a game until Nov. 6th, when they head all the way north to Ames, and will play just three games outside the state all season.

7. Baylor Bears

The Bears definitely have some things to clean up, but they still look like a dangerous team. They’ll have an opportunity to get back on the right track this weekend, as they welcome West Virginia to Waco for what will be their fourth conference game of the season (the Bears have managed to play one more Big 12 game than everyone else). After that, a very interesting showdown with BYU, also in Waco.

8. Kansas State Wildcats

Moving up after a loss? It can happen. The Wildcats look like a different team with Skylar Thompson back behind center, though the defense still struggled against a previously anemic Sooners offense. A couple bounces go the right way (like not into the kickers heel cleat allegedly) and K-State is celebrating a third straight victory over OU. But a loss is a loss, and the Wildcats are 0-2 on the Big 12 slate (and against the state of Oklahoma). The Cats get a much-needed bye week this week, before welcoming Iowa State back to Manhattan.

9. Houston Cougars

Houston moved down not because of anything they did (or didn’t) do. Their strength of schedule just isn’t enough to keep them above a team playing Top 25 teams to the wire. That said, Houston did something that Oklahoma State and Ohio State we unable to do: dominate Tulsa from kickoff to final whistle. The Cougars were up 28-3 at halftime before cruising to a 45-10 victory. Next up is a trip to New Orleans for a game against Tulane, who is looking less dangerous as the season goes along.

10. Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State bounced back from their loss to Baylor with a dominating blowout of KU. And that’s actually a big deal, because even last year the Cyclones gave up 22 to the beleaguered Jayhawks, and have long had trouble putting away KU with any kind of authority. Just like their next foe, the Cyclones have a bye week this week.

11. Texas Tech Red Raiders

After the Texas game, it looked like the Red Raiders defense was irrecoverably destroyed. Well, apparently no one told them (or WVU) that, and they bounced back with a 23-20 win over the Mountaineers this past weekend — on the road in Morgantown, no less. Tech is still on the edge of being garbage, but at least the ‘Eers still have a pulse. Next up is Homecoming for Tech, and TCU will be on hand looking to right their own ship.

12. TCU Horned Frogs

Speaking of the Frogs, they were the beneficiaries of the other set of Big 12 ref shenanigans football weirdness this past weekend, falling in a close one to the Longhorns. It was a rare win for UT in this series, as when TCU joined the Big 12, they quickly stole the “We Own Texas” mantle from K-State (and have been playing keep-away with it every since). Seriously, the win on Saturday was Texas’ first win at TCU since 2013, and just the third since the Frogs joined the Big 12. No rest for the weary, the Frogs next two are on the road.

13. West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers are starting to fall into the trouble zone. They’ve got that nice win over Virginia Tech, and they played close with both Maryland and Oklahoma, but they are just 2-3 and fell this past weekend to a mediocre Texas Tech team. Alarm bells aught to be flashing in Morgantown. They’ve got an interesting stretch coming up, with two road games sandwiching a bye week. Both games are winnable, but the ‘Eers are going to need to get some things figured out.

14. UCF Golden Knights

Gus Malzahn is not having a great start to his time in Orlando. They started the season 2-0, including the season opener against Boise State, but have faltered in both trips away from home. Losing 42-35 to Louisville a couple weeks ago wasn’t terribly concerning, but losing to Navy 34-30 this past weekend (the Midshipmen’s first win of the season) is much more troubling. And their schedule doesn’t lighten up, with East Carolina on deck for next weekend, followed by a trip to Cincinnati, a visit by Memphis, and a trip to Temple. It’s very possible the Knights could be 2-6 by Halloween.

15. Kansas Jayhawks

It bears repeating, about the best thing we can say about KU right now is that they will not have another win-less season. Getting smoked by Iowa State in Ames isn’t exactly surprising, but the Hawks have fared better against Iowa State recently with worse teams. The KU defense has yet to give up fewer than 45 points to FBS competition, and have scored a combined 14 points in Big 12 play. At least KU can’t lose this week, but teams have lost the BYE before, so it’s not impossible, just improbable they pick up an L this week. After the bye week is a visit from Texas Tech, which as things stand right now might be their best shot at a Big 12 game until the Mountaineers visit to close out the season in late November.