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Around the Horn: Big 12 Power Rankings Week 1

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Was a 59-3 drubbing of UTEP enough to put the Longhorns atop the conference?

AP Photo / Chuck Burton

Though it looked, sounded, and felt much different than in years past, college football season is finally here. With altered schedules and postponements galore, (most of) the Big 12 and participating NCAA teams kicked off their seasons this past weekend. And even though this nation is still dealing with a global pandemic, the Big 12 Conference proved some things would never change — like embarrassing yourself on national television.

As the first game of the day, once-ranked Iowa State kicked off the season in tremendous fashion, losing at home to the Sun Belt Conference’s Louisiana Lafayette, 31-14. Not more than 30 minutes later, Kansas State gave up the game winning touchdown to another Sun Belt school, losing to visiting Arkansas State 35-31. Then, while Texas and Oklahoma were taking care of business and destroying their week one opponents, Texas Tech barely squeaked by FCS Houston Baptist, and Kansas provided the third and final Sun Belt loss on the day with a 38-23 defeat at the hands of Coastal Carolina.

It was truly wholesome to see the Big 12 remind of us how seemingly each and every year, it’s a top-heavy conference filled with sadness at the bottom. And this year, it looks like Texas is one of those top-heavy teams. *knock on wood*

Of course, you’ve probably seen or heard of all this by now. But, how do these performances and schools stack up against one another after such an odd opening week to the season? That’s where the Burnt Orange Nation Power Rankings come into play.

BIG 12 POWER RANKINGS

A reminder that the Power Rankings are not meant to reflect the current standings. They’re based on a combination of season performance, heavily weighing more recent games, and take into consideration opponent quality compared to the rest of the conference.

1. (3) Oklahoma Sooners

Last week: W vs Missouri State, 48-0

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Trending: NEUTRAL. In quarterback Spencer Rattler’s first game as a Sooner, the freshman showed why he was one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation coming out of high school. Rattler threw for four touchdowns to go along with 290 yards passing as OU rolled all over Missouri State. Missouri State is one of the worst teams in the FCS, and you can use that to argue that this makes OU’s victory less impressive than, say, Texas’ over FBS team UTEP. But the play from Rattler and Lincoln Riley’s offense looked great, and the No. 1 spot in these rankings will probably belong to the Sooners until they give us a reason to move them down.

Next Up: vs Kansas State, Saturday, September 26th 11:00 a.m. Central (on FOX)

2. (9) Texas Longhorns

Last week: W vs UTEP, 59-3

Trending: UP. At last — the Texas Longhorns have gone undefeated in non-conference! Though this season will certainly need an asterisk next to it, this is the first undefeated in non-conference season since 2012. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger paced the offense with a spread passing assault on the UTEP defense, going 25-for-33 for 426 yards passing and threw five touchdowns in just one half of play. That performance won him Big 12 Player of the Week honors.

For offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, UTEP served as more of a scrimmage than a legitimate opponent, and that’s the only thing keeping Texas lower in these ratings than Oklahoma. But you had to have liked what you saw out of the Horns on Saturday — if there was ever a year to finally be “back”, this could be it.

Next Up: at Texas Tech, Saturday, September 26th 2:30 p.m. Central (on FOX)

3. (11) Oklahoma State Cowboys

Last week: Postponed

Trending: NEUTRAL. A COVID-19 outbreak caused Oklahoma State to push their season opener back to this upcoming weekend. They’re not the only team in the Big 12 to have to delay their season start, but they’re definitely the most important. We’ll have to wait one more week to see the Cowboys take the field, where many have them pegged as Big 12 Championship game bound. The hype comes with good reason — OSU returns 18 starters from last season, including preseason award favorites running back Chuba Hubbard and wide receiver Tylan Wallace.

Next Up: vs Tulsa, Saturday, September 19th 11:00 a.m. Central (on ESPN)

4. Baylor Bears

Last week: Postponed

Trending: NEUTRAL. Like the Cowboys, the Bears’ season was postponed and will begin this upcoming weekend. The Bears lost a ton of talent from last season’s surprise Big 12 runner-up year. Most notable among those departures was head coach Matt Ruhle, who took a job in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers. It will be interesting to see what the new-look Bears, led by former LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, bring to the table this season. Their first game against Houston is one of the tougher non-conference games anyone in the Big 12 has on their schedule.

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Next Up: vs Houston, Saturday, September 19th 11:00 a.m. Central (on FOX)

5. West Virginia Mountaineers

Last week: W vs Eastern Kentucky, 56-10

Trending: UP. Allow me to be the first to admit that WVU is probably ranked too high in these initial power rankings. Yes, their win was against Eastern Kentucky and they’re not exactly world beaters. But due to the performances we saw from the rest of the Big 12, the Mountaineers find themselves in the top half of the conference. Despite suspending 11 players prior to their game, WVU put up an offensive exhibition — especially on the ground. Two WVU runners had over 100 yards on the ground (Leddie Brown and Alec Sinkfield each had 123 yards) as the team totaled 329 rushing yards on the day. That’s a far cry from last season’s average of 73 yards per game and this marks the first time since 2018 that any WVU rusher amassed over 100 yards in a single game.

Next Up: at (11) Oklahoma State, Saturday, September 26th 2:30 p.m. Central

6. Iowa State Cyclones

Last week: L vs Louisiana Lafayette, 31-14

Trending: DOWN. The Cyclones must listen to plenty of Green Day, since they’ve been asleep every September under head coach Matt Campbell. Since 2017, Iowa State now has a record of just 4-8 in September and 18-9 in all other months. There weren’t many positives to come out of this game for ISU. Quarterback Brock Purdy struggled (16-35 for 145 yards passing and 1 INT) and the defense looked slow and, frankly, unmotivated throughout the game. The Cyclones allowed two special teams touchdowns and 24 unanswered points to end the game. We’ve seen ISU start the season slow and end up becoming a top-25 team by season’s end. But by all accounts, this was an embarrassing loss for a team that has hopes of being a fringe Big 12 Championship game candidate.

Next Up: at TCU, Saturday, September 26th 12:30 p.m. Central (on FOX)

7. Kansas State Wildcats

Last week: L vs Arkansas State, 35-31

Trending: DOWN. Following just after the Cyclones is another team that has to be incredibly disappointed with their weekend. The Wildcats lost at home to Arkansas State — another Sun Belt team — in dramatic fashion, as the Red Wolves drove down the field and scored the game winning touchdown with just 38 seconds left. This game was a back-and-forth affair, with the lead changing hands three times in the fourth quarter. K-State came into this season as a mid-level foe in the Big 12, so losses like this one aren’t totally out of the question. And quarterback Skylar Thompson had a good game, going 17-for-29 passing with 259 yards and two touchdowns through the air. But to lose to a non-Power Five school, at home no less, stings for a program that was on the rise after last season’s success.

Next Up: at (3) Oklahoma, Saturday, September 26th 11:00 a.m. Central (on FOX)

8. TCU Horned Frogs

Last week: Postponed

Trending: NEUTRAL. The last of the Big 12 schools on this list to have their season opener postponed, TCU will look to rebound this season after missing out on a bowl bid last year. They’ll have to do so with plenty of uncertainty at the quarterback position, though, with last year’s starter Max Duggan out indefinitely with an undisclosed medical condition. The rest of the team grades out well on paper, though, and to doubt head coach Gary Patterson is probably a mistake. But, as we saw last year with this team, bad quarterback play can sink an entire season.

Next Up: vs Iowa State, Saturday, September 26th 12:30 p.m. Central (on FOX)

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Last week: W vs Houston Baptist, 35-33

Trending: DOWN. The only team to be trending “DOWN” despite winning their opening game is the Red Raiders, and for good reason. Tech opened their game as 38.5 point favorites at home against Houston Baptist. But with 3:23 left in the fourth quarter, it took the Red Raiders stopping a two-point conversion attempt to seal the deal against the Huskies. This ugly win was highlighted by the pitiful Tech defense that allowed 600 yards of offense and 23 second half points to an FCS team. Most of that damage was done through the air, as the Red Raiders allowed 567 yards and four touchdowns to come via the pass. HBU may have one of the better passing games in the FCS, but these results are a disaster for the Red Raider defense. If Tech can’t figure out how to stop bleeding yards and points in the passing game, it’s going to be an absolute bloodbath in their next game against Sam Ehlinger and the Texas Longhorns.

Next Up: vs Texas, Saturday, September 26th 2:30 p.m. Central (on FOX)

10. Kansas Jayhawks

Last week: L vs Coastal Carolina, 38-23

Trending: DOWN. At last, we have reached the bottom of the power rankings, where a familiar face brings us a familiar result. Kansas got creamed by Coastal Carolina, another non-conference loss handed to the Big 12 by — you guessed it — a Sun Belt Conference opponent. Unlike the other two losses by ISU and K-State, this game was never close, with the Chanticleers jumping out to a 28-0 lead in the second quarter. Last season, Kansas showed a lot of fight in their first year with Les Miles at the helm, going 3-9 and showing plenty of reasons for optimism for the future. Unfortunately, the future is not now for the Jayhawks, as this team should be expected to reserve the role of cellar dweller both on this list and in the conference standings.

Next Up: at Baylor, Saturday, September 26th 6:30 p.m. Central (on ESPNU)

BIG 12 STANDINGS (THROUGH WEEK 1)

  1. (3) Oklahoma Sooners [1-0]
  2. (9) Texas Longhorns [1-0]
  3. West Virginia Mountaineers [1-0]
  4. Texas Tech Red Raiders [1-0]
  5. (11) Oklahoma State Cowboys [0-0]
  6. Baylor Bears [0-0]
  7. TCU Horned Frogs [0-0]
  8. Iowa State Cyclones [0-1]
  9. Kansas State Wildcats [0-1]
  10. Kansas Jayhawks [0-1]

AROUND THE NCAA

In this section, we’ll provide updates regarding news and scores from around the NCAA.

ACC — The ACC kicked off their season last weekend, with Championship favorite No. 1 Clemson taking care of business at Wake Forest, winning by a score of 37-13. The only other ranked ACC team to play last Saturday was Mack Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels, who ran away with their game against Syracuse after a slow start, ultimately winning 31-6.

Big Ten — The Big Ten announced on Wednesday that they would begin their college football season in late October. Their season will look more like a sprint, with ESPN reporting that each team would “play eight games in eight weeks, leaving no wiggle room during the coronavirus pandemic before the Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 19.”

SEC — No SEC teams played this past weekend, but the conference’s members will begin their seasons next weekend on September 26th. Like the Big 12, the SEC schools will all play a ten game schedule, but only in-conference. No. 2 Alabama is the pre-season favorite to win the conference, but with half of the conference ranked in the AP Poll, there could be another surprise winner a la LSU last season.

PAC-12 — The PAC-12 is reportedly holding firm on not playing this fall, though with the Big Ten’s recent announcement to play starting in October, there is optimism for a change of heart on the West Coast.

PARTING SHOT