Trevor Knight

1. No. 10 TCU

The Horned Frogs are rising quickly. They started off this season near the bottom of most Big 12 standing projections, but, aside from a complete fourth quarter meltdown against Baylor, they have been the most dominant team. They beat Oklahoma, they should have beaten Baylor and they crushed Oklahoma State. They are scoring at a ridiculous pace — 45.2 points per game — behind the arm of junior receiver-turned-quarterback Trevone Boykin. He’s thrown 14 touchdowns against just three picks, while adding over 57 yards per game on the ground.

2. No. 11 Kansas State

The Wildcats currently sit atop the Big 12 standings with a 3-0 conference record. Head coach Bill Snyder is making a case to be coach of the year, as he has his team outplaying more talented teams yet again. They were lucky to escape Oklahoma with a win Saturday, but with senior quarterback Jake Waters’ rapid improvement and a solid defense, Kansas State will be able to compete with anyone. When will we stop underrating Kansas State?

3. No. 17 Oklahoma

The Sooners should have beaten Kansas State at home Saturday. Michael Hunnicutt, their typically outstanding kicker, missed two “easy” field goals and had an extra point blocked, as they went on to lose by one. The real worry isn’t Hunnicutt, however — it’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight. He’s completing just 59 percent of his passes while throwing six picks. He had his best game of the season against the Wildcats, but can he keep it up?

4. No. 12 Baylor

For the third straight week, the Bears looked less than stellar. They are still the highest scoring team in the country, but their defense is a major liability. After allowing less than 13 points per game in the first five contests, many thought this defense had figured things out. But then TCU put up 58 points, and West Virginia tallied 41 in the upset. Their remaining schedule isn’t easy, either, as they still face Kansas State and Oklahoma.

5. No. 22 West Virginia

The Mountaineers proved they should be taken seriously, as they are now in the top 25. They are 6-1 on the season and have a great offense. Redshirt senior quarterback Clint Trickett is a serious candidate for the Big 12 Player of the Year award, averaging over 360 yards per game to complement his 15 touchdowns. Oh, and he is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes.

6. Oklahoma State

TCU put the Cowboys in their place in a blowout win last weekend. The Cowboys have the toughest remaining schedule in the Big 12, as they will face No. 22 West Virginia, No. 12 Baylor and No. 17 Oklahoma on the road in their final four games. It may be a rough end to the season for head coach Mike Gundy and his Pokes.

7. Texas

For the second week in a row, the Longhorn offense, led by the emergence of sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, has looked like the real deal. Texas outplayed Oklahoma and hung on to beat Iowa State. Texas isn’t going to scare anyone, but they aren’t road kill either. But, sitting at just 3-4, they will need to win three of their final five contests to be bowl eligible. With TCU and Kansas State still on the schedule, that won’t be an easy task.

8. Iowa State

Once again, the Cyclones hung around with a better team, but once again, they lost. Redshirt junior quarterback Sam Richardson is playing well at quarterback, but their defense isn’t good enough to compete in a Big 12 loaded with offensive juggernauts.

9. Texas Tech

The Red Raider defense gets worse and worse each week. They allowed 21 points and 363 yards to Kansas, which might have been their worst performance of the year. After a hot start, their offense has begun to falter, and David Webb’s stock continues to plummet.

10. Kansas

The Jayhawks aren’t going to get a Big 12 win this year. At this point, all they can do is count down the days until basketball season.

Stock Up: Tyrone Swoopes

He wasn’t perfect, but Swoopes finally looked like he belonged as the starting quarterback as he outplayed Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight in the Red River Rivalry. He was terrible against Baylor at home and admitted to being nervous. That wasn’t a good sign heading into arguably Texas’ most nerve racking game of the season at the Cotton Bowl. The nerves were obvious as he threw a pick-six early on, but he bounced back very nicely, leading Texas to the end zone on the very next possession to keep the game close. And when Oklahoma went up, 31-13, Swoopes played his best football, nearly leading Texas to a come-from-behind victory. He also scampered for 50 yards and a touchdown, and that number doesn’t include the 73-yarder that got called back.

Stock Down: Marcus Johnson

The drops are starting to add up. Johnson’s numbers weren’t that bad: seven catches for 93 yards. But, dig a little deeper, and you can see he hurt Texas with some costly drops. The junior receiver was supposed to be the top deep threat for Texas this year but has fallen behind seniors Jaxon Shipley and John Harris on Swoopes’ go-to list. Even when he finally had a big catch and seemed to break free with a clear path to the end zone, Johnson kept checking over his shoulder and ran diagonally, allowing Oklahoma defenders to catch him before he could score.

Stock Up: John Harris

What a turnaround for Harris from last year. He seems to be the only receiver capable of finding the end zone, having scored six touchdowns for the Longhorns already. No other Texas receiver has a single touchdown as junior tight end M.J. McFarland is the only other player to catch a touchdown this season. After four years in the shadows, Harris is making his final year on the 40 Acres worthwhile.

Stock Up: Duke Thomas

This guy is brimming with confidence right now. After a really rough start to the year, which saw other teams pick on him, Thomas has completely turned his game around. The Sooners only completed six passes to receivers, and four of those were to junior Sterling Shepard, who was being covered by the other corner, senior Quandre Diggs. Thomas was dominant against Kansas three weeks ago and hasn’t slowed down. 

1) Baylor

The Bears somehow escaped a matchup with TCU unscathed, but it wasn’t pretty. So much for their defense being much improved; the Horned Frogs burned Baylor for 58 points. Baylor’s struggles against TCU proved it won’t coast to a Big 12 title and that Oklahoma isn’t the only team that can challenge it. But Bryce Petty is still really good — he had 510 passing yards and six touchdowns — and Baylor is still the favorite to represent the conference in the playoff.

2) TCU

The Horned Frogs’ fourth-quarter meltdown prevented them from taking a commanding lead in the Big 12. However, after stunning Oklahoma and nearly knocking off Baylor, TCU showed it is for real. The Horned Frogs are balanced on offense, and their defense has been making big plays. They simply ran out of gas against Baylor.

3) Oklahoma

Sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight has not been good this year. He is completing just 55 percent of his passes and has thrown just one more touchdown than interceptions. Once again, he struggled en route to a victory against Texas. The Sooners have relied on their defense and run game so far, which, fortunately for head coach Bob Stoops, have been solid.

4) Kansas State

The Wildcats haven’t faced any of the Big 12 powers yet, but they are playing steady football. They have quietly worked their way up to No. 14 in the nation, thanks in large part to a surprisingly potent offense. They have their toughest test thus far against No. 11 Oklahoma this week, but you can’t sleep on head coach Bill Snyder and his Wildcats.

5) Oklahoma State

The Cowboys, like Kansas State, had a close loss to a top-five team early in the season. Since then, they have been winning and working their way up to No. 15 in the nation. They had a bit of a scare against Kansas on the road but were able to pull off the win. They travel to TCU on Saturday where we’ll learn the true strength of this team.

6) Texas

The Longhorns are slowly getting better. Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is beginning to look more comfortable, and the defense continues to shut down some of the best offenses in the country. They just need to limit mistakes and find ways to generate the occasional big play.

7) West Virginia

The Mountaineers are 4-2, but that includes wins over Towson and Kansas and three-point victories against Texas Tech and Maryland. Behind senior quarterback Clint Trickett, the offense will put up points. But their defense is full of holes and that may keep them from moving their way to the top of this list.

8) Texas Tech

Remember when head coach Kliff Kingsbury was the savior? The Red Raiders tanked at the end of last year and have lost four straight this year. Their defense is ranked No. 122 in the nation, allowing just below 40 points a game. Even for an offense as good as Tech’s, that terrible defense is too much to overcome.

9) Iowa State

The Cyclones just aren’t good enough at any position to compete in the Big 12 right now. They can hang and play teams toughly, but they won’t pull anything out against a team in the top half of the conference. On the bright side, they still have Kansas on the schedule.

10) Kansas

The Jayhawks came close to winning Saturday against Oklahoma State, which should be considered a great showing. With four ranked Big 12 teams still on their schedule, Kansas may go without a win in the Big 12 once again.

1. Baylor

The Bears offense looked stoppable against Texas, but, after Oklahoma’s loss to TCU, they regain the top spot. Unlike in past years, they are a complete team. While their offense is still No. 1 in the nation after a shaky week, their defense is something to fear. Baylor has allowed only 12.4 points per game, fifth best in the country.

2. Oklahoma

This Sooner defense isn’t as good as it has been in years past, allowing 35 points per game in their two Big 12 matchups against TCU and West Virginia. After holding on to the top spot on this list and a No. 4 ranking in the nation, Oklahoma fell to an upstart TCU squad. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight isn’t having the big year many were hoping for. His fourth quarter pick-six was the difference. The Sooners should be able to turn it around, but they will need better play from Knight.

3. Kansas State

The Wildcats demolished Texas Tech, shutting down its offense. They forced sophomore quarterback Davis Webb into four interceptions, holding the offensive juggernaut to just 347 total yards. Kansas senior quarterback Jake Waters, who seems to be getting better each week, was incredibly efficient again, tossing four touchdowns while completing 77 percent of his passes. Their only loss was a tight one to Auburn, and that’s not too shabby.

4. TCU

With a shocker against Oklahoma, the Horned Frogs have turned themselves into a contender. Their offense behind junior quarterback Trevone Boykin and junior running back B.J. Catalon is balanced. They are averaging 42.8 points per game, good for No. 12 in the nation. But more impressive — and less surprising — is their defense. Even without the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Devonte Fields, the Horned Frogs defense is allowing less than 14 points per game.

5. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys were sloppy in the first half and let a bad Iowa State team hang around. But, nevertheless, they have won four in a row behind an upstart offense. Dax Garman, since taking over in week two, is leading the efficient offense. They will be in the Big 12 race all season, as they don’t face Baylor and Oklahoma until the final two weeks.

6. West Virginia

For the fifth straight game, senior quarterback Clint Trickett threw for over 300 yards. With him at the helm, the Mountaineers won’t be a pushover. But, with a struggling defense on the other side of the ball, not much can be expected from them against tougher competition.

7. Texas

The defense looks great, but the offense does not. Swoopes’ performance against Baylor was abysmal, and the offense failed to get anything going at home. The good news, though, is that head coach Charlie Strong has the defense playing at a high level. They held Baylor senior quarterback Bryce Petty to 111 yards, which is no small feat.

8. Iowa State

They have found themselves hanging around better teams before ultimately falling short. But their ability to hang around is certainly a positive. Sooner, rather than later, they will be able to hang around just long enough to upset one of the teams ranked higher than them.

9. Texas Tech

Sophomore quarterback Davis Webb has thrown six interceptions in his last two games, as teams begin to make life difficult for him. As the only bright spot early on for Texas Tech, Webb’s star is getting dimmer and dimmer. That’s bad news for the conference’s
worst defense.

10. Kansas

Their offense is really bad. Their defense is pretty bad. Not much is going right for the Jayhawks off the field, either. With two wins already on the season, at least they had something to cheer for — because they may not get another one this year. The good news: just a little over a month until basketball season starts. 

EFFECTIVE SWOOPES

For better or for worse — mostly worse so far — the Texas offense runs through sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. Teams like Georgia can work around a mediocre quarterback by using talented running backs and strong offensive linemen, but Texas doesn’t have such a luxury.

Defenses in recent weeks have taken note of Swoopes’ ineffectiveness throwing the ball and have responded by playing press coverage and working to take away the run. Baylor played a huge portion of the game with a single high safety and man coverage across the board. A good quarterback would view that as an invitation to stretch the field, but Swoopes’ deep balls rarely hit their mark.

Oklahoma’s ability to confuse an offensive line and pressure the quarterback will only exacerbate the problem. If Swoopes cannot hit his receivers in stride and stand tall against the pressure, no one on the offense is good enough to pick up the slack on their own and the Golden Hat will make its way back to Norman.

STUFF THE RUN

Baylor’s offense was one of the most explosive in the country heading into last week’s game. The Longhorn front seven, though, was built to stop Baylor’s inside runs, and one of the most potent offenses in the country looked rather pedestrian until a string of three and outs by Swoopes and Co. exhausted the Texas defense.

Oklahoma likes to run the same inside zone reads that populate the Baylor playbook, but Sooner freshman running back Samaje Perine is better suited to bang around between the tackles than Baylor’s speedsters. 

The Texas defense can ruin the Sooners’ game plan if the defensive tackles can repeat last weekend’s efforts by plugging the gaps up the middle. Senior middle linebacker Steve Edmond will have to be up to the task of bringing down one of the most physical running backs in the country.

PRESSURE KNIGHT 

Oklahoma’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight has the mental faculties and arm strength to pick apart a secondary, if given enough time. His inexperienced receiving corps may not always get open quickly though.

Senior defensive end Cedric Reed has been stagnant all season, partly because of the mobile quarterbacks whom Texas has faced. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford may want to loosen the reigns on his NFL-bound defensive end and let him get to the quarterback any way he can. Knight can run, but he has not elected to do so very much this season, and his speed is not such that he can outrun a guy like Reed.

Knight is prone to the occasional bad outing, but the Longhorns will have to force one out of him. Fortunately for Texas, there is enough talent in the front seven to make that happen.

QB

Advantage: Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight played poorly against TCU, but the redshirt sophomore still possesses the arm strength and awareness to zip down-field passes into tight coverage. Knight has not been a huge part of the Sooner running game this season, but he totaled 445 rushing yards in 2013.

Texas’ sophomore quarteback Tyrone Swoopes’ steady rise took a nose dive after his 144-yard, two-interception performance against Baylor. The sophomore’s inaccurate passes forced wide open receivers to their knees, eliminating any hope for yards after the catch, and he still cannot hit the deep ball.

RB

Advantage: Oklahoma

Bruising freshman back Samaje Perine has had success banging around between the tackles in the Sooner’s inside zone read scheme. Oklahoma’s feature back sports a 6.3 yards per carry average. Sophomore Keith Ford has been a great change of pace for the Sooner offense.

Junior Jonathan Gray and senior Malcolm Brown have yet to eclipse the 100-yard mark in a single game, but the tandem ran well against Baylor. The Sooners are likely to load up the box to stop the run, but both backs are capable of avoiding tackles at the line of scrimmage.

WR

Advantage: Oklahoma

Junior wideout Sterling Shepherd anchors the inexperienced Sooner receiving corps with 436 receiving yards and a 19 yards per catch average. Former quarterback Blake Bell is slowly working his way into the offense after converting to tight end last season.

The Texas receivers can get open on short routes, but Swoopes has struggled to get them the ball. Having receivers who can catch over the middle is nice, but someone has to step up and be the deep threat in this offense. Junior speedster Daje Johnson’s injured hamstring is a huge blow to Texas’ big play ability.

OL

Advantage: Oklahoma

The Sooner offensive line is a sight to behold. The starters weigh an NFL-caliber average of roughly 325 pounds. If senior guard Adam Shead and company can push back Texas’ physical front seven, this game could get out of hand very quickly. 

The Texas offensive line did a decent job zone blocking on outside runs against Baylor, but it still isn’t generating enough push up the middle. Senior tackle Desmond Harrison may return from his suspension soon and would add much needed experience to this unit.  

DL

Advantage: Texas

The defensive line had been in decline, but it played brilliantly against Baylor. Defensive tackles junior Malcom Brown and sophomore Hassan Ridgeway did a great job of shutting down the inside runs. Another great effort by the defensive tackles would be a godsend for Texas against Oklahoma’s power run game.

Mike Stoops’ defense is in its second season playing with a three-man front, and the results have been paying handsome dividends. The line has been criticized for not getting to the quarterback, but it does not have to in a 3-4. Opponents’ paltry 3.1 yards per carry more than compensate for the lack of pressure.

LB

Advantage: Oklahoma

Unlike most elite pass rushers, junior linebacker Eric Striker is athletic enough to effectively drop into coverage. His versatility could be a massive headache for the Longhorns’ inexperienced line. His mere presence will draw attention away from the rest of the Sooner linebackers.

Senior linebacker Jordan Hicks and the Longhorn linebacking corps are getting better at defending the sidelines. Even so, Texas’ big bruising linebackers are better equipped to stop an interior rushing attack like Oklahoma’s, and, if they can get pressure on Knight, Texas could leave Dallas with its second consecutive Golden Hat.

DB

Advantage: Texas

Senior cornerback Quandre Diggs is putting together an impressive senior campaign, shooting up NFL draft boards in the process. The corner can lock down receivers and has been a key asset in stopping the run. Opposing quarterbacks have had a field day picking on sophomore walk-on safety Dylan Haines in recent weeks, though.

The Sooner secondary has had its struggles this season, but redshirt sophomore Zack Sanchez already has five picks on the year. The Longhorns tendency to favor the short pass should hide any serious flaws that this unit may have.

ST

Advantage: Oklahoma

Explosive redshirt sophomore running back Alex Ross is always a threat to take a kick for six, as evidenced by his 41.4 yards per kick return for the Sooners. Redshirt senior kicker Michael Hunnicutt is a model of consistency. The redshirt senior has hit on seven of eight attempts this season, with his only miss coming from 45 yards out.

Every game this season has seen unacceptable special teams gaffes from the Longhorns. Junior kicker Nick Rose is due for a benching. He had another kick blocked against Baylor, and his play has forced head coach Charlie Strong to elect to punt rather than kick long field goals.