We are officially in the home stretch and the Big 12 still has a solid 5 teams “in the hunt” for a conference championship. National media will be quick to ignore these teams due to lack of CFP stakes, but it’s truly going to be the most exciting conference to monitor over the next month. This year, the league has shifted from games in the 80s and 90s of total points, to the teams with strong defenses being the best. All 5 of these contenders are flawed, and a lot of them still play each other in the next 4 weeks. So hold on tight because this is going to be a lot of fun.
1. Iowa State (Last Week: 1, Beat Baylor 38-31)
The Cyclones keep the top spot as the sole owners of 1st place in the conference at the moment. Brock Purdy was a mess in the 1st half against Baylor before playing a close to perfect 2nd half. This defense is to be feared. The run game is the best in the conference. Purdy’s consistency will have to improve in a big way before this tough closing stretch.
2. Oklahoma (Last Week: 2, Beat Kansas 62-9)
I’m upgrading Oklahoma from “team no one wants to play” to “championship level”. It’s easy to see the opponents and feel like this is an overreaction, but the way they are putting teams away is impossible to ignore. Bedlam in two weeks will be an absolute treat with this offense against Oklahoma State’s defense. The Sooners are a couple of breaks away from holding on to the Big 12 championship belt.
3. Texas (Last Week: 3, Beat West Virginia 17-13)
Winning ugly isn’t something usually associated with Texas, but that’s exactly how they held off West Virginia, and that’s meant as a compliment. Handling prosperity has been a fatal flaw of the Tom Herman era, as they’ve lost that game after the big win over and over the past 4 years. These guys are an official threat to reach the title game. Who would’ve thought after their rough-and-tumble September.
4. Oklahoma State (Last Week: 4, Beat Kansas State 20-18)
We’ve gotten used to these style of games from Oklahoma State this year. A lot of credit is due to the Cowboys for winning a truly tough road game. Everything was set up against them. But the defense was opportunistic, the offense made just enough plays, and now these guys are set up to go to Norman and eliminate Oklahoma from the championship race. What more could you ask for?
5. Kansas State (Last Week: 6, Lost to Oklahoma State 20-18)
It’s the rare loss and move up the rankings this week for the Wildcats. After controlling the first 30 minutes against Oklahoma State, things just started to come apart. You can tell how limited they are offensively without Skylar Thompson. But despite that, they were a couple of bad turnovers away from staying in 1st place. Farmageddon looms with perhaps the biggest stakes in series history in 2 weeks. That ought to be a beautiful rock fight.
6. West Virginia (Last Week: 5, Lost to Texas 17-13)
Neal Brown’s team laid it all out against Texas. I’ve struggled all year to peg these guys. Not quite good or bad, I’ll settle on feisty. They’ll be a tough out for both Iowa State and Oklahoma in the coming weeks. Look out for this program in the coming years.
7. TCU (Last Week: 7, Beat Texas Tech 34-18)
The Frogs have taken care of business against the bottom of the league. They’re in the weird spot where they aren’t a true competitor, but they are nowhere near as bad as the bottom of the league. I’d still leave them in the range of “no fun to play”, especially if track star, Max Duggan, is going to run wild.
8. Baylor (Last Week: 9, Lost to Iowa State 38-31)
On the one hand, the Bears had Iowa State down 24-10 early in the 3rd quarter. On the other, they were basically spotted 17 points right away before being outscored 28-0 in the 2nd half. There was almost a last minute, desperation comeback that fell short. Dave Aranda will have Baylor competitive sooner than later. I think we can definitively say they have the right coach. The problem they face is a beast of a closing schedule.
9. Texas Tech (Last Week: 8, Lost to TCU 34-18)
I can’t make sense of Texas Tech at all. Their offense looked terrible against TCU. They can’t stop anyone. And they’re the same team that had Texas on the ropes in September. The saving grace for these guys is the team below them in these rankings takes the stink off them a bit.
10. Kansas (Last Week: 10, Lost to Oklahoma 62-9)
I’m officially out of nice things to say about Kansas. Check back in the 10 spot next week to see if anything’s come up.