1. Kansas State:
After steamrolling West Virginia in Morgantown, Kansas State is not only in prime position to win the Big 12, but is now one of the frontrunners for the national championship. Kansas State has the No. 1 red zone defense in the conference and has only turned the ball over once in Big 12 play. This week’s opponent, Texas Tech, could bring a substantial challenge to Kansas State. But the Wildcats have shut down Oklahoma and West Virginia, and adding the scalp of the Red Raiders to their wall would give them a nice set. Don’t expect Kansas State to have a letdown.
The Sooners continue to roll since their loss to the Wildcats, but Kansas State continues to win, and it looking impressive in doing so. Oklahoma needs to start cheering for the rest of the Big 12 to beat Kansas State twice in order for Oklahoma to win its eighth Big 12 title. The Sooners are averaging 52 points a game in their current three-game win streak and their defense has been smothering opposing offenses. But now a new challenge comes into Norman in the form of Notre Dame. The Irish are one of the toughest and most physical teams in the country and will have a similar approach to stopping the Sooners as Kansas State did. There were a lot of questions about the Sooners in the wake of that home loss to the Wildcats which have quickly gone away. But they could come back with a vengeance if Notre Dame is able to bully the Sooners.
3. Texas Tech:
The Red Raiders pulled out a close win against TCU on the road and are still in contention for the Big 12 title. If Texas Tech can shock the world and pull off another top five upset this weekend, then it will be one Sooner loss away from its first conference championship since 1994. But it will take a lot for the Red Raiders to beat the Wildcats, who present one of the best defenses they have faced.
The Longhorns recovered from their poor offensive showing with a 56-point outburst against Baylor. The defense continued its poor play by allowing the Bears to make a game out of it with 50 points. The Bears only punted three times, ran out of time in the first half, and had two turnovers that cost them the game. The Texas defense could not get of the field. Texas is stopping 42 percent of third downs, which is about average in the Big 12, but Texas has yet to stop a fourth down conversion this season. The Texas defense cannot make timely stops and until it does, it will have to outscore all of its opponents. Though the offense is improved, it cannot execute well enough to pull that off every week.
5. Oklahoma State:
The Cowboys have bounced back from their 2-2 start with a two-game winning streak including a home win over a ranked Iowa State team last week. Oklahoma State gets a battered TCU team at home this weekend before going to Manhattan to play league leader Kansas State. Once the game against TCU is done this week, the easy part of Oklahoma States schedule is over. Three of its last five games will be on the road and its home games won’t be too good either with West Virginia and Texas Tech going to Stillwater.
6. West Virginia:
The one-time leaders of the Big 12 are now trying to find a way to recover from two straight beatings. The Mountaineers have been outscored 104-28 and its stout offense has suddenly become very stoppable. With national and conference championship hopes gone, and Geno Smith’s Heisman chances essentially dashed, West Virginia will have to find something to play for before this season falls apart.
The Horned Frogs have three road games left this season, which should come as good news for TCU fans. It has two losses on the season, both of which have come at home. First Iowa State pushed a Casey Pachall-less TCU around, then Texas Tech took advantage of TCU turnovers to make up for a lackluster offensive game by Tech Standards. TCU gets to get comfortable on the road this week against Oklahoma State, and one thing is guaranteed: there will be turnovers in this game. We just don’t know from which team yet.
8. Iowa State:
The Cyclones are in a bit of a tailspin after getting off to a 3-0 start to the season, dropping three of their last four games. Kansas remains on the schedule, but with big offenses from Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia still to come, it will be hard for Iowa State to reach the six-win mark and achieve bowl eligibility. Fortunately for the Cyclones, they get the three worst defensive teams in the conference, beginning with Baylor this week.
The Bears have decided to play on just one side of the ball this season. They have the worst scoring defense in the country, allowing teams to score 44 points a contest. It’s only gotten worse in conference play, where teams are scoring 58 points a game. Were it not for Baylor’s offense, it may not have a single win this season. It leads the Big 12 and is third in the nation in scoring offense this season, scored below 40 points just once this season. The Bears have score 134 points in three conference games this season, but have allowed an astonishing 175 points in as many games. If the Bears can manage just a couple of stops in a game, their offense has a chance to pull out a win.
A week after coming within a single score of landing its second win of the season, Kansas got throttled by a rolling Oklahoma team. It has already played the top two teams in the conference and has been outscored 108-23 in those two games. While some conference schools are seeing how poorly they can play on defense, the Jayhawks have given offense a bad name: they have scored five total touchdowns in Big 12 play and are only ahead of Auburn in scoring among BCS conference schools.