Big 12 Football: Week 9 Power Rankings

Oct 29, 2016; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive back Justis Nelson (31) knocks down a pass at the end of regulation against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Texas Tech won 27-24 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 29, 2016; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive back Justis Nelson (31) knocks down a pass at the end of regulation against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Texas Tech won 27-24 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we’re into Week 9 of the Big 12 Football calendar, it’s time for another round of conference power rankings.

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the top two teams in the Big 12, and they’re both sitting at two losses on the season now. With West Virginia and Baylor each suffering losses, the Big 12 championship is very much a four-way race right now. On the other hand, with backloaded scheduling to finish the season out, you have to wonder at this point if any team will be able to win out and position itself into playoff discussion, or contention.

Even for middle-tier teams, there are significant bowl implications on the line, as some might not be eligible as the season progresses. We’ll just have to wait and see, but with how last weekend went down, It’s safe to say we can expect some serious drama heading into bowl season.

Disclaimer:

The following power rankings are based on observations for weeks 1-8, while forecasting playoff implications; there are no additional factors, so expect these rankings to change a lot this season based off how powerfully these teams are performing.

For those keeping track, here are my Big 12 Power Rankings for Week 8.

Oct 29, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Kansas Jayhawks cornerback Derrick Neal (7) breaks up a pass intended for Oklahoma Sooner wide receiver Dahu Green (2) during the third quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

10. Kansas Jayhawks (Record: 1-7)

The Kansas Jayhawks truly appear to be on their own island in the Big 12 right now, which isn’t a good thing. With eight games into the schedule, we all would have liked to have seen something–anything really–to indicate the team is on the right path towards a turnaround. But so far, the Jayhawks’ shortcomings paint a picture that improvements are tangible, just not likely within the next few years.

In the Jayhawks’ 56-3 loss against Oklahoma, the Sooners needed to pile on points to demonstrate its offensive firepower, but also make a statement on defense, as it fell significantly in both total defense and passing defense against Texas Tech two weeks ago. With a dominant win over Kansas, the Sooners were able to do just that, and then some. Kansas crossed the 50-yard line on just three drives, and were only able to amass 170 total yards of offense, despite holding on to the football for 29 minutes and 55 seconds.

Quarterback Montell Cozart threw two interceptions, and the Kansas offense was only able to put up 49 yards rushing on the day. Averaging less than four yards-per-play is no way to win in any league, even one where defense doesn’t usually dominate.

Kansas goes on the road to Morgantown this weekend, and coming off a potential playoff-ending loss for West Virginia, expect no mercy; this could get very ugly, very fast, as the Mountaineers will need to dominate the rest of the season.

Next Game:

 Sat, Nov 05 West Virginia vs. Kansas Morgantown, W. Va. ESPN2

Oct 29, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Kansas State Wildcats running back Alex Barnes (34) fights of the tackle by Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Jomal Wiltz (17) to score a touchdown at Jack Trice Stadium. The Wildcats beat the Cyclones 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

9.  Iowa State Cyclones (Record: 1-7)

Iowa State held Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz to just 151 yards last weekend, and shut the Wildcats out of scoring several times. That alone is a serious improvement for a team that doesn’t have much to show on the season–at least at face value.

Iowa State has dropped nine straight to Bill Snyder’s Wildcats, but managed to do enough to make this meeting pretty interesting. Despite just scoring three points in the first half, the Cyclones managed to put up 493 total yards of offense, but redzone efficiency was a huge issue. Jacob Park set the Cyclones up on the Kansas State 1 yard line on a 10 yard catch. The Wildcats rank No. 32 in total defense, but first and goal from the one is manageable. Unfortunately, a run/run/run/pass combination of calls led to a turnover on downs in a situation where Iowa State couldn’t even afford to settle for a field goal.

With Oklahoma visiting Ames this weekend, it’s hard to see a situation where the Cyclones keep it close, but if it can capitalize off the Sooners’ defensive inconsistencies, it might not be a shutout, as was the case for the Kansas Jayhawks last weekend.

Next Game:

 Thu, Nov 03 Iowa State vs. Oklahoma Ames, Iowa 6:30 p.m. ESPN

Oct 29, 2016; Fort Worth, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs place kicker Brandon Hatfield (27) misses a field goal in double overtime against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Texas Tech won 27-24 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

8. TCU Horned Frogs (Record: 4-2)

TCU head coach Gary Patterson is easily one of the most likable coaches in the Big 12, primarily for his demeanor. So for coach Patterson to pull transfer quarterback Kenny Hill after completing 15/29 for 160 yards and one interception for Foster Sawyer, it showed the Texas Tech defense that TCU had limited faith in its offense, and David Gibbs was able to capitalize.

Kicker Brandon Hatfield was perfect on PAT’s, but struggled on field goals, where he made just 1/4 attempts, including a field goal attempt in double overtime. Texas Tech kicker Clayton Hatfield would go on to kick the game winning field goal to end it on the ensuing possession.

The biggest red flag for TCU wasn’t the kicking situation, however, it was in scoring efficiency. TCU ranks No. 73 in the nation in redzone scoring, making 41 trips inside the 20 for a .829 scoring percentage. On Saturday afternoon, the Horned Frogs came up empty on three trips in scoring territory, including three missed field goals from 37, 15, and 39 yards out, and one interception at the Texas Tech 39 yard line.

With TCU and Baylor coming off brutal losses and bowl eligibility implications on the line for the Horned Frogs, Saturday’s game will be something to pay attention to.

Next Game:

 Sat, Nov 05 Baylor vs. TCU Waco, Texas FOX

Oct 29, 2016; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive back Justis Nelson (31) knocks down a pass at the end of regulation against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Texas Tech won 27-24 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

7. Texas Tech Red Raiders (Record: 4-4)

If you told a Texas Tech fan that head coach Kliff Kingsbury would commit less to the Air Raid following the 48-17 loss against West Virginia in favor of an evenly distributed pass/run scheme against TCU, they probably would have laughed at you. I probably would have laughed at you considering how stubborn Kingsbury has been with his offense. Well, that was the case, and the defense appeared to finally be clicking in the Red Raiders’ thrilling 27-24 double overtime victory in Fort Worth.

Following the record performance by Patrick Mahomes against Oklahoma, the quarterback was 24/39 for 206 yards, with three touchdowns, and one interception. Tied 10-10 at halftime, the Red Raiders came back and shut TCU out in the third quarter. Tech’s defense also gave TCU issues in the redzone, preventing scores on two trips inside the 20. Tied at the end of regulation, both sides of the football were showing the resilience and confidence it’s been lacking throughout the past few years.

As is the case in all games, I read an asinine comment attributing Texas Tech’s victory on account of TCU kicker Brandon Hatfield, who was just 1/4 on field goals on the day. To give credit where it’s due, despite allowing 418 yards, Tech’s defense was the reason the Red Raiders won. This is huge for a team that gave up 82 points to TCU two years ago.

Perhaps the biggest stats of the night came off Texas Tech ending its three game turnover drought by Douglas Coleman. And the 122nd most penalized team in the nation showed significant improvement on disciple, committing just one penalty for just five yards.

D’Onta Foreman should be in Heisman discussion, so how Texas Tech’s defense protects the Texas Longhorns’ run game this weekend will probably emerge as the biggest storyline–win or lose.

Next Game:

Sat, Nov 05 Texas Tech vs. Texas Lubbock, Texas FS1

Oct 29, 2016; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns players Brando Hodges (58), Quincy Vasser (44), and Malcolm Roach (32) celebrate after defeating the Baylor Bears 35-34 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

6.  Texas Longhorns (Record: 4-4)

Down. Goes. Baylor.

The Texas Longhorns were underdogs headed into Saturday’s matchup against the undefeated Baylor Bears, however, as we all know, upsets in college football are guaranteed at some point or another.

Facing extreme scrutiny, and with job security red hot, Charlie Strong had to find a way to win, and he delivered. The first drive by Baylor resulted in a 50 yard touchdown run by Bears’ quarterback Seth Russell. Many thought that if Texas couldn’t contain Russell, it could be a very long day. However, Texas brought pressure, and even limited Baylor to a single field goal in the fourth quarter. The Longhorns’ biggest accomplishment in the fourth quarter was taking 2 minutes and 24 seconds off the clock on a touchdown drive, leaving just :46 seconds for Baylor to score. With an aggressive pass rush, including a sack for loss by Malik Jefferson, capped by an incomplete pass to KD Cannon as time expired, the Longhorns prevailed to win, 35-34.

Texas’s defense will have to contain Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes this weekend in a similar way that TCU did. But for a defense that’s ranked No. 111 in the nation in total defense, allowing 461.9 yards-per-game, compared to the nation’s second highest rated offense in Texas Tech, that might be easier said than done.

Next Game:

Sat, Nov 05 Texas Tech vs. Texas Lubbock, Texas 11:00 a.m. FS1

Oct 29, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Jesse Ertz (16) avoids a tackle from Iowa State Cyclones defensive end Jhaustin Thomas (8) at Jack Trice Stadium. The Wildcats beat the Cyclones 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

5. Kansas State Wildcats (Record: 5-3)

Having won four of its last five games, the Kansas State Wildcats’ 31-26 win over the Iowa State Cyclones certainly pulls them within bowl reach. Although, the win is certainly nothing to write home about, especially considering Kansas State’s backloaded schedule to finish the season.

Quarterback Jesse Ertz completed 18 of 28 passes for just 151 yards and a touchdown, but Kansas State was shutout in the fourth quarter completely. Defensively, the numbers are even more worrisome, considering the scheduling to finish out the regular season. Kansas State allowed 493 total yards against a 1-7 (0-5 in Big 12 play) Iowa State team, which included two, fourth quarter touchdowns.

I imagine phrases such as “Kansas State held off Iowa State” is leaving Wildcats’ fans with a very uneasy feeling. Still, with No. 22 Oklahoma State visiting Manhattan this weekend, followed by games at Baylor, and TCU to wrap the season, Kansas State has to find ways to create more separation.

Next Game:

 Sat, Nov 05 Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State Manhattan, Kan. 2:30 p.m. ABC / ESPN2

Oct 29, 2016; Austin, TX, USA; Baylor Bears running back Terence Williams (22) pushes his way into the end zone past Texas Longhorns defenders at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Texas beat Baylor 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

4. Baylor Bears (Record: 6-1)

Whether people wanted to accept it or not, when a team is thin on depth, rotating in fresh bodies can be a challenge, and it was only a matter of time before Baylor’s depth chart starting showing fatigue. Against a Texas Longhorns’ team that has shown a refusal to quit over and over this season, Baylor had to know this wouldn’t be an easy game.

Seth Russell threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears’ second straight loss to the Longhorns. But its 624 yards of total offense were the most its ever put up on Texas. Unfortunately for Baylor, Texas might have knocked the Big 12 out of playoff contention along with Oklahoma State, which also handed West Virginia its first loss of the season.

When addressing the media on Monday, Baylor head coach Jim Grobe said quarterback Seth Russell was in concussion protocol, but wouldn’t provide any further information, such as a timetable.

Next Game:

Sat, Nov 05 Baylor  vs. TCU Waco, Texas FOX

Oct 29, 2016; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback Ramon Richards (7) reacts after dropping the ball intended for West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Ka

3. West Virginia Mountaineers (Record: 6-1)

West Virginia was setting itself up to be the conference darling, and unsung hero of underdogs everywhere. With dominant performances against Texas Tech and TCU, the Mountaineers appeared balanced and well coached. There’s definitive proof those factors are true, but when a team is undefeated, it’s also extremely likely that there will be a loss somewhere on the schedule.

Enter: Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys capitalized off three turnovers by West Virginia, and were able to put 17 points on the board as a result. When you’re sitting in the drivers’ seat of your conference standings, fundamental errors can cost dearly. So when you’re putting the football in the opposing teams’ hands, there’s a high probability bad things will happen. Moving forward, ball security clearly must be addressed.

With the 1-7 Kansas Jayhawks up this weekend, West Virginia should use the game as an opportunity to introduce some exotic plays, tune up the defense, and work on fundamentals. With a trip to Austin in two weeks to take on the wildly unpredictable Longhorns, West Virginia is going to have to be dialed in.

Next Game:

 Sat, Nov 05 West Virginia vs. Kansas Morgantown, W. Va. 6:00 p.m. ESPN2

Oct 29, 2016; Stillwater, OK, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Skyler Howard (3) sacked by Oklahoma State Cowboys defensive tackle Vincent Taylor (96) during the first half at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

2. Oklahoma State Cowboys (Record: 6-2)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys successfully handed the Big 12 conference its first upset of the day on Saturday with a 37-20 victory over the No. 10 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. With a 33-26 overtime victory last year against the Mountaineers, the Cowboys probably felt pretty confident coming into the game, despite having lost two games this season.

While the Mountaineers have surpassed all expectations and emerged as the Big 12’s dark horse, it was only a matter of time before a team caught on to their game plan. West Virginia ranks No. 24 in the nation in passing yards at 2,033, but the Cowboys held quarterback Skyler Howard to just 212 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Taking advantage of a likely tired unit that has been stout, the Cowboys were able to rack up 358 yards of offense, with Mason Rudolph accounting for 273 total yards, and three touchdowns.

Hosting Kansas State this weekend should be fun, as both teams have been establishing defensive fortitude, and balanced offensive attacks this season.

Next Game:

Sat, Nov 05 Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State Manhattan, Kan. 2:30 p.m. ABC / ESPN2

Oct 29, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Geno Lewis (5) catches a touchdown pass in the endzone while being defended by Kansas Jayhawks linebacker Mike Lee (11) during the third quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

1. Oklahoma Sooners (Record: 6-2)

Don’t shoot the opinionated messenger here, but unlike a few Big 12 pundits, the hangover from the shootout between the Sooners and Texas Tech Red Raiders is still lingering, and therefore, I’m still not 100 percent sold on the Sooners ranking No.1. With a 56-3 blowout win over the Kansas Jayhawks last weekend, experts are saying the Sooners are back into playoff conversation, but 1) It’s Kansas, and 2) Defense was still an issue against Texas Tech.

Sooners’ quarterback Baker Mayfield did “Baker Mayfield” things, completing 16 of 24 passes for 236 yards… but it was against a Kansas defense that allowed 538 yards.

The win over Kansas became the 12th straight game the Sooners had over 500 yards of offense against Big 12 opponents, making it the longest streak in Big 12 history. Iowa State this weekend should be an easy win, but with Baylor, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State to finish the season, we might have to wait a few more weeks to truly test how good this Sooners’ team really is.

Next Game:

Thu, Nov 03 Iowa State vs. Oklahoma Ames, Iowa 6:30 p.m. ESPN

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