Monday, November 2, 2009
Big 12 power rankings
By David Ubben
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
1. Texas (8-0, 5-0 in South): The Longhorns’ movement in the BCS standings and the national polls Sunday was largely superficial. All they have to do is keep winning and they’ll be playing in the BCS title game. The Longhorns’ secondary is playing at levels reminiscent of the 2005 title team with Earl Thomas developing into a legitimate Thorpe Award candidate. The running game is a concern, but the Longhorns have a few weeks to work on that before it will really become a worry.
2. Oklahoma State (6-2, 3-1 in South): We saw how much Dez Bryant and a healthy Kendall Hunter really were needed against Texas. The Cowboys had a strong defensive plan and shut down the Longhorns for much of the game, but struggled offensively with mistakes that were returned for touchdowns and a bad case of the dropsies by Hubert Anyiam. The loss assuredly dims their divisional hopes. But the Cowboys can play in a New Year’s Day bowl game and still have a slim hope at a BCS bowl if there’s a lot of implosion in front of them during November.
3. Oklahoma (5-3, 3-1 in South): The Sooners have won two straight since the Texas loss and are heading into Nebraska with some momentum. Landry Jones appears to have found another productive receiver with the emergence of Dejuan Miller, who adds another weapon for the Sooners. The Sooners showed some uncharacteristic struggles against Kansas State in the second half, but still had enough offense left to enable them to claim the victory. It will be more of a challenge this week in Lincoln -- even with the Cornhuskers’ recent struggles.
4. Texas Tech (6-3, 3-2 in South): Mike Leach’s trip to the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., Monday and his team’s bye week will be much happier after the Red Raiders’ comeback against Kansas on Saturday. The victory enabled Leach to tie Spike Dykes as the winningest coach in school history with 82 triumphs. Taylor Potts’ heroics off the bench throw the quarterback situation back into a quandary. But the biggest story was the comeback of the Tech defense, which bounced back from its struggles against Texas A&M to limit Kansas to 258 yards while recording six sacks and recovering four fumbles.
5. Kansas State (5-4, 3-2 in North): The gutsy Wildcats might have shown more in their loss to Oklahoma than in any of their previous victories. Despite spotting the Sooners an early 21-0 lead, they came storming back to make it a competitive game in the second half. That game should provide Bill Snyder’s team with a shot of momentum heading into the Kansas game that will be pivotal in their improbable trip to the Big 12 North title. The biggest reason for their recent success has been Brandon Banks, who had a career game with 351 all-purpose yards against Oklahoma, equaling the school single-game record set by Darren Sproles.
6. Texas A&M (5-3, 2-2 in South): The Aggies took another step to a bowl berth by manhandling Iowa State. The developing running game keyed by Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael has helped them soar to No. 23 in rushing offense. A&M now is the nation’s only team to rank in the top 25 in the four major offensive categories of rushing offense, scoring offense, passing offense and total offense. Jerrod Johnson’s offensive statistics are as good as any quarterback in the league. The Aggies’ recent surge has enabled them to win back-to-back Big 12 victories by more than 20 points for the first time since beating Baylor and Kansas in 2002.
7. Nebraska (5-3, 2-2 in North): Cody Green was the first freshman quarterback to start for Nebraska since Tommie Frazier in 1992, and his magic worked in the first half to spark the Cornhuskers’ victory at Baylor. Whether it will pass muster against Oklahoma is an entirely different story. The Cornhuskers’ inconsistency in the second half won’t give Bo Pelini much confidence as he prepares for the Sooners. But the defense, which has held the last seven opponents to 280 yards or less, will give them a chance to be competitive.
8. Kansas (5-4, 1-3 in North): Are the Jayhawks heading into meltdown mode? With the stunning benching of Todd Reesing, it appears that coach Mark Mangino is looking for some kind of spark to get them back on track. And it won’t be easy Saturday at Kansas State, in a stadium where Bill Snyder has defeated the Jayhawks the last eight times he coached against his archrivals. With the recent slump in production and all of the offensive turnovers, it will be a big change to turn that around.
9. Iowa State (5-4, 2-3 in North): Even after the loss at Texas A&M, the Cyclones' bowl hopes look pretty good. All they need to do is win one of their last three games of the season in a gauntlet that starts Saturday against Oklahoma State. Alexander Robinson was back against the Aggies, although Austen Arnaud was missing. His return will be vital for any upset bowl hopes they might have, even with Jerome Tiller’s strong recent play.
10. Missouri (5-3, 1-3 in North): The Tigers still have a shot at the North championship if they can run the table. Their offense perked up with the use of a two-back alignment that boosted their running game against Colorado. And Blaine Gabbert didn’t look like his ankle was bothering him nearly as bad against the Buffaloes. Dave Steckel’s defense produced eight sacks against Tyler Hansen, the most since 2006 and a good sign heading into the Baylor game on Saturday.
11. Colorado (2-6, 1-3 in North): There’s no doubt that Colorado doesn’t like to play Missouri. After the Buffaloes fell into an early 33-0 hole against the Tigers, it marked a streak of 139 consecutive points scored by the Tigers against Colorado’s defense over two-plus seasons. And it won’t get any easier against Texas A&M. Colorado fans are becoming more vocal about a coaching change after the end of the season. And it won’t be a picnic for the struggling Colorado offensive line, which will try to contain the nation's sack leader, Von Miller, a week after allowing eight sacks against Missouri -- the most by a Colorado team since 1984.
12. Baylor (3-5, 0-4 in South): Bowl hopes aren’t officially dead, but they have been on life support since Robert Griffin’s injury. The Bears’ woes on offense continue as the conference losses in the tough South Division keep mounting. Baylor’s only TD against Nebraska came on an interception return. In four conference games, the Bears have averaged 8.5 points per game and have scored no more than 10 points in any single game. Missouri’s improving defense will provide a huge challenge to surpass those numbers.