Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Making the case for the Big 12's No. 2
By Max Olson
On most weeks of most seasons, the act of assembling Power Rankings to order the Big 12's best and worst is a quick, painless exercise. Records and top-25 rankings and head-to-heads typically make the conference's hierarchy obvious and agreeable.
To some extent, that still is true entering week 10 of this season. Baylor is the undisputed No. 1. The five teams at the bottom of the Big 12 standings each have losing records. The gap between the five best and five worst is a sizeable one.
But what about the four teams that remain? Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech sit proudly between the Bears and the bottom these days, each with a perfectly legitimate chance to win the Big 12
Until Baylor loses, the question will remain: Who's No. 2? Here's a look at how the four teams' respective resumes are shaping up and what challenges lie ahead.
Oklahoma Sooners 7-1, 4-1 in Big 12
Rankings (BCS/AP/USA Today): 10th/13th/9th
Wins: No. 10 Texas Tech (38-30), at No. 22 Notre Dame (35-21), TCU (20-17), West Virginia (16-7), at Kansas (34-19), Louisiana-Monroe (34-0)
Loss: vs. Texas in Dallas (36-20)
Remaining schedule: at No. 6 Baylor, Iowa State, at Kansas State, at No. 18 Oklahoma State
Why they're No. 2: Taking down Texas Tech with a tough, convincing home win on Saturday has the Sooners back into the top 10. They're top-20 in the nation in rushing, scoring defense, total defense and pass defense. Impressive, no doubt, but all that gets put to the test next Thursday in Waco. Nobody in the Big 12 had a better nonconference win than OU's road victory against Notre Dame. A blowout loss to Texas hasn't hurt the Sooners' stock much nationally, and a win over the Bears puts them in the driver's seat in the Big 12.
Texas Tech Red Raiders 7-1, 4-1 in Big 12
Wins: No. 24 TCU (20-10), at West Virginia (37-27), Iowa State (42-35), at SMU (41-23), at Kansas (54-16), Texas State (33-7), Stephen F. Austin (61-13)
Loss: at No. 15 Oklahoma (38-30)
Remaining schedule: No. 18 Oklahoma State, Kansas State, No. 6 Baylor (Arlington), at Texas
Why they're No. 2: Texas Tech proved against OU it can play with the league's best. Its marquee win early on was a victory against a TCU team that has gone downhill since, but escaping Morgantown with a win and taking OU down to the wire showed Tech is no pretender. Kliff Kingsbury has built a confident bunch around two freshman quarterbacks, one of the Big 12's best offensive weapons in Jace Amaro and a stout 3-4 defense. The Red Raiders can beat any team left on what should be a challenging late-season schedule.
Oklahoma State Cowboys 6-1, 3-1 in Big 12
Wins: TCU (24-10), Mississippi State (21-3), Kansas State (33-29), at Iowa State (58-27), at UTSA (56-35), Lamar (59-3)
Losses: at West Virginia (30-21)
Remaining schedule: at No. 15 Texas Tech, Kansas, at Texas, No. 6 Baylor, No. 10 Oklahoma
Why they're No. 2: Like Baylor, Oklahoma State has yet to face the Big 12's best or any ranked teams. The Cowboys' season-opening win over Mississippi State in Houston was impressive at the time, even if MSU is now 4-3. This is a top-three offense in the Big 12 in scoring and passing, and the rise of Desmond Roland might solve OSU's run game. The defense is much-improved from 2012, and the Pokes can send a big message with a win over Texas Tech this weekend. The West Virginia loss was a bad one, but OSU is still very much in this race.
Texas Longhorns 5-2, 4-0 in Big 12
Wins: No. 12 Oklahoma (36-20), at TCU (30-7), Kansas State (31-21), at Iowa State (31-30), New Mexico State (56-7)
Losses: at BYU (40-21), Ole Miss (44-23)
Remaining schedule: Kansas, at West Virginia, No. 18 Oklahoma State, No. 15 Texas Tech, at No. 6 Baylor
Why they're No. 2: Texas has its season back on track with a four-game win streak and dominant victories over Oklahoma in Dallas and at TCU. The Longhorns found their offensive identity as a power run team led by Case McCoy and, since the start of conference play, have the Big 12's No. 1 scoring defense and No. 2 total defense under new coordinator Greg Robinson. The path to 6-0 in the conference looks fairly easy, and then Texas runs into three of the league's best. But this team has a season-changing win over OU on its resume and serious momentum ever since.