After seven weeks of college football action, we have more questions than answers. Texas tops the conference at the moment, but are the ‘Horns legitimate College Football Playoff contenders? I tend to think not, as they appear to have been let off the hook by the Oklahoma Sooners (Sun Belt defense) and TCU Horned Frogs (doesn’t like to take care of the football). Speaking of the Oklahoma defense, is there really any hope for a turnaround in 2018? I’m pessimistic in that regard, as well. And what about West Virginia? That offensive performance against Iowa State was clearly a bit of an outlier, but the warts are beginning to show.
Beyond that, which teams are still in contention for a spot in Arlington? The Iowa State Cyclones are looking sharp and could theoretically make it to Jerry World if they keep winning. Texas Tech appears to have a pulse on defense, and the Red Raiders get both Oklahoma and Texas in Lubbock this year. Meanwhile, TCU could bounce right back into this race if Shawn Robinson cleans up the mistakes and helps orchestrate an upset this weekend.
Anyway, our stupid, stupid conference is going to provide plenty of drama down the stretch. After a two-week hiatus, here are this week’s Big 12 Power Rankings:
1. Texas (6-1, 4-0) – As was the case with Oklahoma this past week, the upcoming bye week comes at the perfect time for Texas, as Sam Ehlinger suffered a sprained AC joint during the first drive against Baylor and was sidelined for the contest. As much as Texas appeared to struggle at times offensively against the Bears, his absence obviously has to be taken into consideration as it clearly limited what they were able to do on that side. Fortunately for UT, Ehlinger has a week to allow the swelling to fully subside before preparing for the Oct. 27 game in Stillwater.
2. Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1) – Halfway through the regular season, one thing is apparent — this offense is capable of outscoring anyone in the country, but the defense has to give it some relief. Forcing the offense into a position in which it feels the need to score a TD on damn near every possession in order to simply survive is obviously not fair or sustainable. Will Ruffin McNeill’s tweaks — as minor as many of them they may turn out to be — make enough of a difference down the stretch?
3. West Virginia (5-1, 3-1) – WVU’s offense is obviously much better than what we saw this Saturday, but Mountaineer fans are far from pleased with OC Jake Spavital at the moment. The Iowa State Cyclones were able to hold Will Grier & Co. to 152 yards of offense on only 42 plays, which was probably the most shocking development of the wild weekend across the CFB landscape.
4. Iowa State (3-3, 2-2) – After starting 1-3 and suffering three close defeats, every remaining game on the schedule looks winnable for what appears to be one of the most complete Iowa State teams in memory. Excluding the Nov. 17 game in Austin, the Cyclones could be the favorite in every contest from this point forward, and if they can somehow pull off the upset at Texas, the Dec. 1 game scheduled against Incarnate Word could end up being a scratch. A 7-2 conference record with head-to-head wins over WVU and UT might end up doing the trick in that regard.
5. Texas Tech (4-2, 2-1) – The Red Raiders host Kansas this week, but the following week’s trip to Ames is going to be pretty huge. If they can grab that win against the Cyclones (I’d pick ISU, particularly if Alan Bowman is still out at that point), it’ll set the table for a huge one in Lubbock when the Sooners come to town Nov. 3.
6. TCU (3-3, 1-2) – The talent is apparent on both sides of the ball, but the Frogs are 125th nationally in average turnover margin at -1.5 per contest. If you’ve been waiting to see this Oklahoma defense finally come up with some crucial turnovers, this might just be your week.
7. Baylor (4-3, 2-2) – After going 1-11 in 2017, Matt Rhule and his staff are doing a good job with what they have at their disposal — some great skill-position players and not much else. Reaching the six-win mark isn’t going to be easy, as the Bears close at West Virginia, at home against OSU, at Iowa State and at home against TCU before ending the regular season against Texas Tech at Jerry World.
8. Kansas State (3-4, 1-3) – The Wildcats, like their coach, refuse to go quietly into the night. However, the remaining schedule doesn’t really set K-State up for a big rebound, and this program seems destined to miss a bowl game for the first time since 2009.
9. Oklahoma State (4-3, 1-3) – In our preseason predictions, I picked Oklahoma State — somewhat inadvertently — to go 6-6 with a 3-6 conference record. I pictured this as a potential 9-3/8-4 team because of the talent at the skill positions and potential for defensive improvement under Jim Knowles, but it shook out to 6-6 after going game-by-game with predictions. At this point, every preseason variable appears to have gone in the wrong direction for the Cowboys, and 6-6 is starting to look generous.
10. Kansas (2-4, 0-3) – KU’s remaining schedule includes Texas Tech, TCU, Iowa State, K-State, Oklahoma and Texas. Party at my place if the Jayhawks win the last one.
Big 12 Schedule – Week 8
Oklahoma at TCU – ABC, 11 a.m. CT
Kansas at Texas Tech – FS1, 2:30 p.m. CT