Big 12 Power Rankings: Mountaineers reclaim top spot

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Following its big win in Austin, West Virginia joins Kansas State atop the conference.

1. West Virginia: In front of what may have been the loudest crowd ever at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, West Virginia proved it is in fact a national title contender. Geno Smith added four touchdown passes to his season total and has yet to throw an interception. Andrew Buie rushed for over 200 yards and though the Mountaineer defense gave up 400 yards and 37 points, it got a timely sack in the fourth quarter that knocked the Longhorns out of field goal range. The offense also showed that it is not just a big play machine, going 5-5 on fourth down conversions, and only punting once on the night.

2. Kansas State: The Wildcats trailed the Jayhawks last week before scoring 21 unanswered points only interrupted by a Kansas safety in the third quarter. Kansas State proceeded to score four more touchdowns to put the game out of reach. At this rate Kansas State may not be able to survive against West Virginia if sleeps through the first half.  But Kansas State plays better defense than anyone else in the conference and it will not beat itself with mistakes. If it can get through Iowa State unscathed, then its trip to Morgantown will put the winner in the middle of a dwindling national championship field.

3a. Texas: The Longhorns proved they are improving and David Ash continues to play well and put the team in position to win. Texas had the ball in its hands with a chance to show the country that it was back among the the nation’s best and that its two year slump was over. The Texas offense could not match the execution of the Mountaineers attack and while the defense made big plays throughout the night, its inability to get off the field gave West Virginia long drives, which eventually wore the Longhorns down. Now it has to shake off this disappointing loss and get ready for Oklahoma this week.

3b. Oklahoma: At this point there is really nothing separating the Sooners and Longhorns. Both have home losses to the top teams in the conference by one score, as well as road wins against quality opponents. After looking shockingly average early in the season Oklahoma got a big win against Texas Tech, who traditionally gives Oklahoma fits. The series between the two is even at four wins apiece since 2005. Now the Sooners have momentum riding into a Red River Rivalry game, while the Longhorns are going to have to get over their loss to West Virginia in a hurry.

5. Baylor: The Bears chose a good time to have an off week, as three previously unbeaten teams in the Big 12 all lost last week. Baylor will host TCU this week with the Horned Frogs reeling after a home loss to Iowa State. Baylor’s offense may be second to West Virginia in the Big 12, but its defense is far from the top. Fortunately for the Bears, TCU can’t seem to stop giving the ball away. If the Bears defense could find a way to make just a few stops a game, then they could be a very scary team to face for anyone in the conference.

6. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders came back down to earth with a loss to Oklahoma last week. This was just the beginning of Texas Tech’s grinding schedule in which it will play three of the top four teams in the Big 12 in its next four games. The Red Raiders gained a lot of yards against the Sooners, but were unable to translate that into points. If the Red Raiders can figure out how to make that transition soon, then things  could be looking up from the bottom of the conference.

7. Iowa State:  The Cyclones’ road win over previously unbeaten TCU is big considering how competitive the conference has been this season. The Cyclones made life really tough for quarterback Trevone Boykin and forced him into three interceptions. Quarteback Jared Barnett made his first start of the season a memorable one with three touchdown passes in the road win. This comes on the heels of the Cyclones being held to under 200 total yards against Texas Tech. At 4-1, Iowa State is in a good position right now, but it will have to find some more offense if it wants to continue to compete.

8. Oklahoma State:  The Cowboys had the week off after suffering a close home loss to Texas. Fortunately, Oklahoma State is entering the easiest part of its schedule with games against Kansas, Iowa State and TCU over the next three weeks before it is thrown into the fire again near the season’s end. There are only three teams in the Big 12 without a conference win, so the Cowboys need to get wins wherever they can. Oklahoma State has one of the most prolific offenses in the country and will need it considering that its defense is allowing 31 points a game this season and is near the bottom of conference in turnover margin.

9. TCU: The Horned Frogs’ flaws were put on full display against the Cyclones this past week. TCU has had at least two turnovers in every game since its season opener and had nine combined turnovers against Iowa State and Kansas. The Horned Frogs were able to move the ball against Iowa State, but they simply cannot keep their hands on the ball with 10 fumbles already on the season. Its defense is allowing 13 points per game and is second in the conference in total defense, but it gave up huge plays to Iowa State early, allowing it 150 yards on six plays for two touchdowns in the first quarter. If TCU wants to prove that it belongs in the Big 12, it will have to clean up its play.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks did the impossible last week: they were competitive for a half against Kansas State. That’s more than most expected from Kansas. It was able to move the ball on Kansas State, but five turnovers doomed it in the end. The Kansas defense was gashed for 346 yards on 9.4 yards per rush, with Kansas State’s Klein and Hubert averaging over 10 yards per carry. Kansas only has three home games left this season against Oklahoma State, Texas, and Iowa State. With Kansas playing as poorly as it is, its best chance to win will be at home, likely near the end of season against Iowa State.