Big 12 Power Rankings: Wildcats climb to the top

Wes Maulsby

1. Kansas State: The Wildcats solidified their control of the Big 12 by demolishing Texas Tech in Manhattan. Kansas State’s schedule gets a lot easier now as the season nears the closing stretch. Its reaming opponents are 8-10 in conference play, with Baylor and TCU combining for seven of those 10 losses. Only Oklahoma State and Texas appear likely to stand a chance against Kansas State, and both of those games are at home. The Wildcats are in complete control of the Big 12 and the conference is theirs to lose, which does not appear likely at this point.

2. Oklahoma: The Sooners suffered their second home loss of the season to Notre Dame, and the only consolation appears to be that it was not a conference game. It’s not that the Sooners are poor, but that their opponents were just better. Kansas State and Notre Dame are both very tough, mentally and physically, and were able to bully the Sooners off the line of scrimmage. Home losses are very rare for the Sooners: they lost two home games between 2005 and 2011. The major concern for Oklahoma is that it was held to 103 yards rushing against Kansas State and Notre Dame combined, with the Irish limiting the Sooners to just 15 yards on the ground.

3. Texas Tech: It is becoming blatantly apparent that the Big 12 is Kansas State, then Oklahoma close behind, then everyone else. Those two teams have proven that they stand well above the rest of the Big 12 field. Texas Tech got hammered by Kansas State and only fell five spots in the human polls, and just three slots in the BCS. It is simply expected for everyone else to lose to Kansas State and Oklahoma. The Red Raiders are still a quality team, and could very well win 10 games in the regular season, but they will still have to look up at the Sooners and Wildcats.

4. Oklahoma State: Since losing to Texas in its conference opener, Oklahoma State has popped off three straight wins against the bottom of the Big 12. Now the Cowboys have to face Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Oklahoma all in consecutive weeks. A road trip to Manhattan, Kan., doesn’t look good for the Cowboys’ win streak. Joseph Randle is the leading rusher in the Big 12, but his production will be tested against a Kansas State team that leads the conference in rush defense.

5. West Virginia: The Mountaineers had the week off to let their consecutive blowout losses marinate. West Virginia’s offense, which looked unstoppable through the first half of the season, is suddenly very pedestrian, mustering only 28 points in consecutive games. Its lowest output before these games was 31 points against Maryland in mid-September. A visit from Oklahoma is the only daunting task left on the Mountaineers’ schedule, so they could have a nice finish, but Geno Smith will have to find his early-season form again for that to happen.

6. Texas: Goodness. The Longhorns had pull out all the stops in order to get past Kansas in Lawrence. Since taking a nail bitter in Lawrence in 2004, Texas had outscored the Jayhawks by 154 points in four games, with two shutouts. Yet Texas had to bench David Ash and put in Case McCoy to top the hapless Jayhawks, who are in the midst of a one-win season. Things just continue to get worse for Texas, yet it continues to find ways to win games it may have no business wining. Texas hasn’t won a conference game by more than a touchdown this season and has games against Texas Tech and Kansas State still to go.

7. Iowa State: The Cyclones, with quarterback Steele Jantz hitting a groove, appear to be on their way to bowl contention if the rest of their schedule goes as expected. Only a home game against Oklahoma appears unmanageable. Six wins may not guarantee Iowa State a bowl game, so it will have some work to do to secure a bowl spot with only four games remaining.

8. TCU: The conference newcomers haven’t exactly had a warm welcome. West Virginia looked good before being blown apart twice, and TCU has been inconsistent, and that only got worse when quarterback Casey Pachall was arrested. TCU games have been festivals of turnovers. Sometimes the Horned Frogs are the culprits, sometimes they are the beneficiary. There have been at least three turnovers in all but one of TCU’s games.

9. Baylor: Baylor’s defense isn’t so bad. Yes, it may give up a few points and a few yards, but it’s not as bad as advertised. By holding Iowa State to a meager 35 points in it’s loss last week, Baylor has jumped ahead of West Virginia, and is now only allowing 52.5 points per game to the West Virginia’s 53. And it’s not like they give up a whopping 600 yards a game: the Bears are only allowing teams 599.5 yards per game. Who knows, maybe Baylor’s defense may rise up to abomination from crime against humanity before the season ends.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks have been scrappy in their past few games, but their conference losing streak has now extended to 17 games. Kansas and Baylor play Saturday, in what is both teams’ best chance for a first conference win. The winner gets a little bit of pride and the loser may be looking at a winless conference schedule.