Monday, October 26, 2009
Big 12 power rankings
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Nothing like a couple of stunning upsets to turn around the order of the Big 12's power rankings -- at least everywhere but at the top.
1. Texas: The Longhorns are cruising to their first Big 12 title since 2005 with the biggest speed bump approaching at Oklahoma State. Texas stumbled in a similar situation last season at Texas Tech in the same position of the season, but appear more grounded this time. Colt McCoy had his best game in recent times and the self-proclaimed "Goon Squad" defense knocked another starting quarterback out of the game for the third straight week.
2. Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy has been awaiting Texas’ visit all season. The Cowboys don’t have the weapons they were expecting at the start of the season without Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter, but have made strong defensive growth under Bill Young the past several weeks.
3. Oklahoma: An impressive victory at Kansas has to boost Landry Jones’ confidence heading into Kansas State’s visit. Jones’ help is in place after Ryan Broyles (11 receptions) and Adron “Pooh” Tennell (six grabs) both produced career highs in catches against the Jayhawks. And the Sooners' defense was as salty as expected, snuffing out Kansas' strong offense.
4. Kansas State: Who can believe the Wildcats are ranked this high? Not after their 3-1 Big 12 start that represents their best since 2000. Daniel Thomas produced a career-best 145 rushing yards, but the big story was the Wildcat defense, which forced four Colorado turnovers and has notched 10 sacks in the past two games. The Wildcats produced six sacks in the first six games of the season.
5. Iowa State: Unbelievably gritty performance by coach Paul Rhoads’ team, which beat Nebraska despite not having starting quarterback Austen Arnaud and leading rusher Alexander Robinson. The Cyclones have yielded only 17 points in their last two games -- the fewest in a two-game period since 1978. It won’t get easier for them as they travel to suddenly resurgent Texas A&M, but the stunner in Lincoln makes the Cyclones appear to be a good bet to become bowl-eligible, as they need only one more win.
6. Kansas: It appears the Jayhawks have been exposed after playing a pillow-soft nonconference schedule and then jumping into Big 12 play with recent back-to-back losses. Championship dreams appear flickering at best, and a bowl game shouldn’t be presumed as a certainty, considering the Jayhawks play one of their last five games at home the rest of the season.
7. Nebraska: Wasn’t this team supposed to be the North favorite after the conference-opening victory over Missouri? Those thoughts have dissipated in the last two weeks with embarrassing home losses. The Cornhuskers were minus-8 in turnover margin, including four inside the Iowa State 6-yard line that doomed their chances of winning. And for all of the talk about Cody Green challenging for the quarterback job, Bo Pelini and Shawn Watson seem hesitant to pull the trigger and put the freshman in the lineup in place of Zac Lee.
8. Texas A&M: It was the most satisfying victory in Mike Sherman’s tenure at A&M as the Aggies whipped Texas Tech in the trenches for a convincing road win. The biggest reason was the Aggies' energized offensive line play, which enabled them to pile up a season-high 321 rushing yards. The maligned A&M defense allowed 520 yards, but forced three fumbles, intercepted two passes and held on fourth down twice.
9. Texas Tech: Mike Leach was in rare form after his team’s upset loss to Texas A&M, where he stated it would be easier to coach the Swedish bikini team than the Red Raiders. Of course, he’s right after the way that Tech collapsed from A&M’s rushing game. And a record crowd at Jones AT&T Stadium spent most of the second half booing Taylor Potts -- at least for those who were left. Potts' struggling performance and Seth Doege's relief work might lead to another quarterback switch against Kansas.
10. Missouri: As much as the Tigers have struggled so far this season, they could surge back into contention in the wacky North Division with a late charge. To do so, they need get some more offensive production after being limited to 225 yards or less in two of their first three conference games and being outscored 101-36 -- the lowest three-game period of point production in coach Gary Pinkel’s tenure. Their comeback starts against Colorado on Saturday.
11. Colorado: Offensive momentum has been impossible to generate for the Buffaloes, who scored on their first drive against Kansas State and then didn’t cross midfield until less than 6 minutes remained in their loss to the Wildcats. Coach Dan Hawkins inserted his son, Cody, back into the lineup to try to spark the offense. It didn’t work. Rodney Stewart struggled for 49 rushing yards and never could balance the Buffaloes’ pass-heavy offense. The defense played strongly against Kansas State, but in the end couldn’t escape the poor field position it was forced to defend throughout the game.
12. Baylor: The season that could have been haunts Baylor fans. No Robert Griffin means that the Bears seem to be playing out the season. The offense has sputtered in Big 12 play without Griffin, scoring 24 points in their last three games. It won’t get any easier on Saturday when Nebraska, hungry for a win to boost it back into North title contention, will visit Waco.