By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
As we get to the middle of the season, the Big 12 is getting shaken up more than ever, while Texas remains at No. 1. Here are my rankings after week seven.
1. Texas (6-1,4-0) (No. 7 in AP poll)
The Longhorns scraped out a 23-17 win over Baylor on Saturday in Austin after the Bears made a late push but came up just short with three incomplete passing attempts to the end zone. Texas was tested for the second week in a row but has managed to maintain a perfect conference record. Sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger left the game early due to a shoulder sprain, bringing in junior quarterback Shane Buechele who finished off the game for the Longhorns. Since Texas has a bye week this week, Ehlinger should be back in time to face Oklahoma State. While the Longhorns were held scoreless for the entirety of the second half, the defense held the team in the game and sealed the win. Now with five games left, West Virginia seems to be the only team left on the schedule that has a chance to take down the Longhorns.
2. Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1) (No. 9 in AP poll)
The Sooners took the week off after suffering its’ first loss of the season to Texas 48-45 in yet another incredible Red River Rivalry game. The Sooners still managed to put up 45 points on a Longhorn defense who is at the top of the Big 12. Senior quarterback Kyler Murray has pushed himself into Heisman talks with a dual threat ability that is one of the best, if not the best, in the country. Murray has helped lead the team to averaging 48 points a game and has five rushing touchdowns to go with 21 passing touchdowns through six games with a completion percentage of 71.1 percent. Even though they were taken down by the Longhorns, the Sooners are still a contender to win the Big 12 and possibly have a shot at the college football playoffs if the high-scoring offense continues to be as good as it has been.
3. West Virginia (5-1, 3-1) (No. 13 in AP poll)
The Mountaineers suffered their first loss of the season to an Iowa State team that lately has been making a surprising fight to climb the Big 12 ranks. The defense for the Mountaineers could not find a way to stop or even slow down freshman quarterback Brock Purdy, who saw his first action of the year last week against Oklahoma State in the second series of the game and secured a starting spot after leading the Cyclones to victory. The Mountaineer defense allowed the Cyclones 498 yards, split between 254 yards passing and 244 rushing along with three touchdowns and one interception. The offense had an even worse day than the defense for West Virginia, only amassing 152 total yards on the day. Senior quarterback Will Grier had a day he will want to forget, passing for only 100 yards and rushing for -33 while passing for one touchdown, all of which are the worst for him this season. Even with the loss, I think this is just one of those games for West Virginia and Grier will come back ready to play next week as they return home against Baylor.
4. Iowa State (3-3, 2-2)
The Cyclones, for the second week in a row, upset a ranked team in overwhelming fashion, 30-14 over West Virginia. While the score may not show it, Iowa State absolutely took over the Mountaineers in Ames, Iowa, holding Grier and the offense to 152 total yards. Purdy had 254 passing yards alone for the Cyclones. He has seemingly sparked something in the Cyclone’s that has them on a tear recently. If he continues this performance of already eight total touchdowns for him through not even two whole games, Iowa State could climb through to the top of the already close Big 12. We will see if that is possible as it takes on Texas Tech in Ames, a team who is 2-0 on the road. The Cyclone defense will have to play just as well as it did against West Virginia however, considering the Red Raiders have the third highest scoring offense in the Big 12.
5. Texas Tech (4-2, 2-1)
Even without freshman quarterback Alan Bowman, who was sidelined even after warming up due to suffering a partially collapsed lung almost two weeks ago, the Red Raiders pulled off a 17-14 win over TCU. The offense for the Red Raiders was averaging 48 points per game heading into Fort Worth and a national-best 591 yards of offense per game, both of which were much higher than what Texas Tech was able to get against the Horned Frogs. Sophomore quarterback Jett Duffy got his first start of the game in place of Bowman and threw for 190 yards with an interception, a touchdown and a rushing touchdown in the game with the other quarterbacks being hurt. TCU senior quarterback Shawn Robinson’s struggles continued as he threw two picks and two touchdowns helping the Red Raiders keep the Horned Frogs from putting more than 14 points on the board. As Saturday approaches, head coach Kliff Kingsbury has not announced who the starter will be, but if Bowman comes back, the offense should be back up to scoring in the 40’s as Texas Tech plays at home against Kansas.
6. Baylor (4-3, 2-2)
The Bears gave the Longhorns a scare with a 23-17 loss, that almost gave them their first victory over Texas since 2014. The story of this game was defense, specifically run defense, which something Baylor has struggled with this season and it all seemed to finally come together in Austin as the Bears held the Longhorns scoreless in the second half and had an interception to go with that, giving the offense a chance to win the game. Sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer and the rest of the offense came out after a crucial stop late in the fourth quarter by the defense for one final chance to score, starting from their own three-yard line. After driving down to the Texas 17-yard line, the clock ran out after three failed attempts to the end zone. Brewer managed to get 240 yards, a touchdown and a pick against a Texas defense that has allowed the fourth fewest points in the conference. Baylor looked like a team that can compete with the big dogs again and if its defense can play that well for the rest of the season, especially as it heads to West Virginia next week, will find bowl eligibility after going 1-11 last season.
7. Kansas State (3-4, 1-3)
The Wildcats, despite being the second lowest scoring offense in the Big 12, handed Oklahoma State its third conference loss 31-12. Sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson still hasn’t figured out the passing game, throwing for only 130 yards and no touchdowns, but was saved by junior running back Alex Barnes who tore up the field, rushing for 181 yards and four touchdowns. Senior defensive back Duke Shelley also had a great game, intercepting two of senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius’s passes. While neither quarterback threw a touchdown in this game, the running game won it for the Wildcats whose offense has been struggling. This won’t be something they can expect to do all season, but it definitely worked against the Cowboys.
8. TCU (3-3, 1-2)
The Horned Frogs had 411 total yards, but two interceptions thrown by Robinson and a lost fumble from junior running back Sewo Olonilua set back the team to a 17-14 loss at home. Robinson, who completed just over 57 percent of his passes on the day for two touchdowns and rushed for 42 yards but with the two interceptions, now has almost the same number of touchdowns as picks with nine and eight, respectively. While the defense has allowed the lowest amount of points to opponents in the conference, the offense has not scored more than 17 points since week three in the 40-28 loss to Ohio State. It seemed as though TCU was going to remain at the top of the Big 12 this season, but with so many poor offensive performances, has fallen to the bottom half of the Big 12.
9. Oklahoma State (4-3, 1-2)
The Cowboys, like TCU have fallen to the bottom half of the conference after a 31-12 loss to the Kansas State Wildcats for its third loss in the past four games. Cornelius had his worst performance this season, throwing for no touchdowns and two picks with one rushing touchdown. Junior running back Justice Hill also had one of his worst games so far, rushing for just 41 yards and no touchdowns. The offense for Oklahoma State just can’t find a way to outscore Big 12 opponents and after a bye week, will face a red-hot Texas team whose defense does not give easy yards and then a Baylor team whose defense has started to find its’ rhythm. Oklahoma State could find itself down to 1-4 in conference games.
10. Kansas (2-4, 0-3)
Kansas is back to good old Kansas, failing to win a conference game so far this season. With its’ last win coming week three over Rutgers, Kansas has now been outscored 112-57 through three conference games. The Jayhawks haven’t even faced the toughest Big 12 teams in Texas and Oklahoma yet and wait until its last two games to play them. Things aren’t looking too bright for Kansas and it’s looking like another season where the Jayhawks fail to win a single conference game.