Monday, November 9, 2009
Big 12 power rankings scrambled after wild week of upsets
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are this week's Big 12 power rankings after four upsets scrambled both divisions.
1. Texas: The Longhorns sputtered coming out of the gate, but still rebounded for an impressive victory over UCF. Colt McCoy stoked his Heisman Trophy credentials with a monster game, and Jordan Shipley had the best receiving game in school history. The defense also kept up with its steady play. Amazingly, the Horns had one of their strongest games of the season and still fell from second to third in the BCS.
2. Oklahoma State: No Dez Bryant. No Kendall Hunter. No worries for this group. The key for the Cowboys’ recent surge has been Bill Young’s defense, which limited an Iowa State team that was leading the conference in rushing to only 54 yards. It’s helped the Cowboys win seven games in four consecutive seasons for the first time in the 109-season history of the program.
3. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders were off last week, but had more time to get their quarterback situation untracked as Steven Sheffield recovered from his foot surgery. The Red Raiders will face a huge challenge in the final three games as they meet Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor. Win out and they could be headed for the Cotton Bowl. But they haven’t claimed a sweep of those three teams in the same season since 1996.
4. Kansas State: Bill Snyder’s team isn’t very pretty, but it just keeps winning. The Wildcats beat Kansas because Daniel Thomas rushed for a career-best 185 yards, and an opportunistic defense that is plus-11 in turnover margin this season flummoxed the Jayhawks and Todd Reesing. The Wildcats can wrap up their first title since 2003 with a victory and two Nebraska losses. And can we give Snyder the Big 12’s Coach of the Year award by acclimation right now?
5. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have the most favorable schedule of any of the North challengers, so they now are in the favorite’s role for the title. But their 10-3 victory over Oklahoma was set up because the game’s only touchdown capped a 1-yard scoring drive after an interception. The quarterback situation remains scrambled, but Roy Helu Jr. came up big for the Cornhuskers when they really needed him to. But as well as the defense played, how much confidence can Bo Pelini have in an offense that had more punts (11) than points (10) or first downs (7)?
6. Oklahoma: In doing these weekly ratings since the conference began, I can’t remember the Sooners being ranked as low during the Bob Stoops coaching era. The Sooners’ offense had the lowest point production in Stoops’ tenure against Nebraska and it was painful to watch. Oklahoma had field position all night as 11 of 16 drives ended up in Nebraska territory and it still couldn’t produce a touchdown for the first time in the Stoops era. Sooners coaches have to hope that the five-interception effort by redshirt freshman Landry Jones -- a school record -- doesn’t stunt his growth as a starter.
7. Kansas: Reesing’s stature as the most productive quarterback in school history is being sullied by his mystifying turnover slump late in his senior season. The Jayhawks are skidding out of control with four straight losses after five victories to start the season. The upcoming games appear tough, and a sixth victory that would ensure bowl eligibility will be a difficult accomplishment. Remember when many thought this team was the North Division’s best?
8. Colorado: Don’t look now, but the Buffaloes are sitting in third place in the North Division after their comeback victory over Texas A&M. Tyler Hansen had a resilient game as he rebounded from eight sacks to spark a surprisingly effective offense. The Buffaloes still are only a game away from being eliminated from bowl contention, but they have a better shot at the North title than Kansas and Missouri teams that were picked in front of them.
9. Texas A&M: The Aggies squandered a chance to become bowl eligible and their schedule gets tougher in the next several games. Their defense picked up eight sacks against Colorado, but they let too many receivers get free for big gains and it cost them the game. I’m still wondering why a field goal looks so good in the fourth quarter on the road, when the same situation was in place in the first quarter and didn’t call for the gamble. The Aggies had good field position and strong special-teams play and still couldn’t escape with a victory.
10. Iowa State: The Cyclones have two shots at bowl eligibility remaining and their best chance will be this week when Colorado visits. Paul Rhoads has done a masterful job with this team’s confidence, but it has struggled offensively in the past three games. Over the last 13 quarters, the Cyclones have produced three touchdowns. Their bowl hopes depend on juicing production -- quickly.
11. Baylor: Great coaching job by Art Briles to keep the Bears engaged this season after the Robert Griffin injury. And his confidence paid off with the upset victory at Missouri where Nick Florence sliced through the Missouri defense for a school-record 427 passing yards. Brian Norwood’s defense made some masterful adjustments after Blaine Gabbert blistered the Bears in the first half. It helped snap Baylor’s 13-game conference road losing streak and ranked as the Big 12 upset of the season so far.
12. Missouri: The loss to Baylor has to rank as one of the worst of Gary Pinkel’s coaching era. Nick Florence singed the Missouri defense and stretched their home losing streak to three games for the first time since 2004. The Tigers have been outscored 80-11 in the second half of five Big 12 games with the points coming from three field goals and a safety. But they still remain only one victory from bowl eligibility as a difficult challenge at North Division leader Kansas State approaches this week.