Sooner fans, the time has finally arrived to talk about the Big 12 Conference — or at least the on-field product in 2017 — in earnest. With non-conference play in the back burner for nine of the league’s 10 schools, it seems as if we finally have a large enough sample size to do some power rankings without simply basing them on preseason projections and perceptions.
It’s abundantly clear that OU’s victory in Columbus was the Big 12’s best OOC win, which quite honestly is good enough to give them the top spot by default. Short of beating the Oklahoma Sooners two months from now, what would teams such as Oklahoma State or TCU have to do to be seen as the top dog in the conference? The two face each other this coming weekend, and a convincing win would go an awfully long way for the victor’s national perception and future CFP chances.
- Oklahoma (3-0) - The Sooners have Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy frontrunner leading the way, an experienced offensive line to protect him and open up holes for the young backs, and a number of receivers who are beginning to unlock their true potential. Above all, the Sooners finally seem to have a defense in which OU fans can genuinely take some pride.
- Oklahoma State (3-0) - OSU hasn’t really faced a quality opponent yet, but there’s simply no dancing around the fact that they really do look like a contender. The one weakness we’ve seen, however, is along the offensive line. Mason Rudolph looked like a superstar against Pitt, but there were a number of breakdowns in pass blocking that forced him to use his feet a bit more than he probably wanted to. Pitt may not have been able to take advantage of that, but TCU might be able to. We’ll probably learn quite a bit about the Cowboys this coming Saturday.
- TCU (3-0) - Like Oklahoma, TCU seems to be back on the right track defensively after a rough go of things in 2016. Chad Morris’ SMU Mustangs were able to put up some points and yardage in the first half of Saturday’s game in Ft. Worth, but halftime adjustments by the TCU coaches quelled a very dangerous Mustang offense. The week prior, Arkansas seemed stunned by the physicality of Gary Patterson’s team. At that point it became apparent that this team can probably go toe-to-toe with most teams in college football. Unfortunately for TCU, star running back Kyle Hicks may not be able to play against Oklahoma State this weekend. If he can’t go, it’s a serious setback for their upset bid.
- West Virginia (2-1) - The Mountaineers were one last-second attempt away from forcing overtime with Virginia Tech on a neutral field, and it may not have even come to that had Will Grier played well in the first half of that season-opening thriller. Nevertheless, WVU looks good enough to beat Oklahoma, Oklahoma State of TCU if any of the three were to have an off day. They also get Oklahoma State in Morgantown, so they could even be a real contender for the second spot in the Big Championship. The offense has the necessary firepower, and the defense is good enough to at least ensure that things are interesting.
- Kansas State (2-1) - Bill Snyder wins games by out-coaching his peers — and I’m talking about far more than just a game plan. However, when another coach (Derek Mason) also happens to coach the hell out of his team, K-State usually doesn’t have the athletes to simply outmatch them. So now we’re back to being sort of unsure about Kansas State. I don’t picture them being able to beat this year’s OU team, and they also have to go to Stillwater to face OSU. However, putting them in the top half still seems pretty safe.
- Iowa State (2-1) - The Cyclones legitimately might have the third-best offense in this league behind the Oklahoma schools. Jacob Park is the real deal, the offensive line is solid, they have two above-average backs, and Allen Lazard is one of the best receivers in the country. However, it was really painful to see that defense get worn down by a boring Iowa offense, at that’s what puts them behind Kansas State.
- Texas Tech (2-0) - The Red Raiders really haven’t done anything to deserve being this high, and I was tempted to put (gulp) Texas in this spot. They earned a nice little victory against Arizona State on Saturday, but the Sun Devils are not exactly a force in 2017 (actually, they’re kind of terrible). One thing Tech has going for it is QB Nic Shimonek, who seems to be perfectly capable of running that offense and putting up a bunch of points. The defense, however, looks about like it always does. Basically, Texas Tech is Texas Tech.
- Texas (1-2) - Texas really did look like an alright, alright, alright football team this weekend, but that’s something they’ve done from time to time since the latter stages of Mack Brown’s tenure. The athletes are there — we know that — but almost beating a good USC team on the road isn’t quite enough to make me think they’ve legitimately turned a corner.
- Baylor (0-3) - The Bears have baaaaaad losses to Liberty and UTSA, but they actually looked like an FBS football team on Saturday in Durham. David Cutcliffe has a solid squad, and Baylor was at least able to hang around.
- Kansas (1-2) - After Baylor lost its first two games, Kansas had to try really hard to keep its spot in the cellar. Mission accomplished.