Oklahoma’s football season is sprinting headlong into the defining month of November with four Big 12 opponents in the past tense and five more to go.
The Sooners rebounded from their only loss this season, to Texas in the annual Red River rivalry game, with a strong offensive and defensive effort and a resounding 52-27 victory over TCU on Saturday. In its last three meetings with TCU, Oklahoma has put up 38, 41 and 52 points, respectively, against the team believed to be the best defensive team in the conference.
Through four conference games, Texas remains the only undefeated team, with three one-loss teams, including the Sooners lurking within a game of the Longhorns. At this point in the season, almost halfway through the conference race, it’s pretty safe to say the Big 12 contenders have separated themselves from the pretenders.
West Virginia and Texas Tech, along with Oklahoma, are in hot pursuit of the Longhorns with matching 3-1 records in the Big 12.
Baylor and Iowa State, both with two up and two down in Big 12 play, are teetering on the edge, but for TCU, Oklahoma State and the two teams from the Sunflower State, Kansas State and Kansas, the lights are all but out regarding Big 12 title hopes for this season.
Texas is sitting in the best position currently to make it to the Big 12 Championship on Dec. 1, but the Longhorns still have some big games remaining, as do the three other teams that just a game back.
The Sooners still have games remaining with Texas Tech (on Nov. 3) and West Virginia (on Nov. 23). Both of those games are on the road, but Oklahoma has been the best road team in the country in the three-plus seasons Lincoln Riley has been at OU. The win on Saturday at TCU extended the Sooners’ nation-best winning streak in true road games to 18. So having to go on the road to play big games is not as big a deal for this Oklahoma team as it might be for other teams.
It is also important to note that the Sooners have won 28 of their last 30 games against Big 12 opponents, dating back to 2014.
We’re going to learn a lot over the nest three weeks about how things are going to ultimately shake out in the Big 12 title race.
Four of Texas’ final five games are with Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State. The Longhorns must go on the road this weekend at Oklahoma State and at Texas Tech on Nov. 10, but are home in Austin against West Virginia (Nov. 30 and against Iowa State (Nov. 17
On Saturday, Texas Tech is at Iowa State, which upset West Virginia there two weeks ago. The Red Raiders following that up by hosting Oklahoma and Texas on successive weekends.
Similarly, West Virginia has a four-game stretch to conclude the regular season at Texas, home against TCU, at Oklahoma State and back home hosting OU on the final weekend of the regular season.
Things are apt to chance in the weeks ahead but this is what the Big 12 Power Ranking look like through four games:
1. Texas Longhorns
Unbeaten through four games, Texas is finally playing like everyone expected would happen under head coach Tom Herman. The Longhorns lost their season opener, but have won six straight since then, including a big win over Oklahoma. Texas’ most difficult stretch, though, comes in the next four weeks.
2. Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners stumbled against archrival Texas, but rebounded strongly in a 25-point road win over TCU. Despite on loss, OU still has everything in front of it with games remaining against Big 12 contenders Texas Tech and West Virginia and a potential championship rematch with Texas
3. West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers, with Heisman contender Will Grier at quarterback and a host of talented receivers at his disposal, have scored at least 35 points in all but one game this season. That one game was at Iowa State, where the Mountaineers could muster just 14 points in an upset loss. West Virginia has the offensive firepower and a good enough defense, to beat any team in the Big 12. Whether they can do so will be determined in the critical weeks ahead.
4. Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Red Raiders may have the best offense in the Big 12, and they have started to play better defense. A dangerous combination for all of their remaining opponents, which include Oklahoma and Texas, both in Lubock.
5. Iowa State Cyclones
As Oklahoma quickly learned last season and West Virginia found out this season, you can no longer go to sleep on Iowa State. The Cyclones are playing sound, fundamental football, and they play good defense. They are even better at home, which is where Texas Tech is headed on Saturday.
6. TCU Horned Frogs
TCU has lost four games this season, three of those in the Big 12, but the Horned Frogs are still a dangerous team, and with arguably the best defense in the conference, they are more than capable of beating any Big 12 team on a given Saturday.
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State is struggling this season with a 1-3 record in the Big 12, but the Cowboys have home dates remaining on the schedule against Texas this weekend and West Virginia in a couple of weeks. Both games could impact the Big 12 title race, and the Cowboys probably relishes the idea of playing spoiler.
8. Baylor Bears
Head coach Matt Rhule has Baylor playing hard and much better than last season’s 1-11 Bears team. Baylor only lost by six points at Texas and could cause some trouble for others in their remaining five games.
9. Kansas State Wildcats
The Wildcats are down this season, but you can never count out a Bill Snyder-coached team. They play disciplined, fundamental football and they don’t beat themselves. The Cats won four of their final five regular season games a year ago to become bowl eligible and then soundly beat UCLA in the Cactus Bowl. K-State is at Oklahoma this weekend.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
This is a much better Kansas team than in recent years, but the Jayhawks had an enormous amount of ground to make up just to be competitive with the rest of the Big 12.