Ranking The Big 12 At The Halfway Point Of The Season: Can A&M Make The Top 12?
The first half of the season has come and gone, with RELATIVELY little shakeup in the Big 12, barring last week. All of the teams hyped up before the season are still hanging around their original rankings, with Missouri suffering the most after a letdown against the surprising Cowboys of Oklahoma St, who many would call the surprise of the year...
Let's get to the power rankings.
No. 1 Texas Longhorns
Coming off a very tough sophomore season, Colt McCoy could have locked himself in his room for the time off, eaten tubs of ice cream, and pouted, all while watching "Air Bud: Golden Receiver" wishing he could get that type of support from his crowd. But he didn't, well, at least I don't think he did.
He has come out in 2008, and led the Longhorns like a changed man, at least for the time being. He showed composure, and made few mistakes in an upset of No. 1 Oklahoma last weekend in the Red River Friendship (Come on! They changed the name from shootout to rivalry to be more polite, pretty soon, it could be the RRF, complete with slumber parties between the two quarterbacks).
Completing passes at nearly 80 percent, McCoy's efficiency has been his greatest asset, regardless of who the games were against. Chris Ogbonnaya showed promise in the OU game, and Cody Johnson is the new Ron Dayne perhaps. But what frightens me much more than the UT passing offense excites me, is their pass defense.
You know that McCoy guy I was telling you about, blonde hair, great stats (1557 Yards, 17 TD, 3 INT)?
Well, the stats of opposing quarterbacks against UT are startlingly good as well (1607 Yards, 10 TD, 4 INT, the worst defensive TD/INT ratio in the big 12)...
Yes, McCoy has been out-passed by his competitors, all six games being wins. In a conference full of quarterbacks that are known to pick sub-par defenses apart like cornbread, the Longhorn secondary is looking mighty flaky right now...
High Point- McCoy's maturity.
Low Point- Pass Defense.
What's Ahead?- Missouri. Texas Tech. A bill from Blockbuster regarding a late fee on a certain air bud movie which was never returned. Colt...?
No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners
The near-unanimous number one after manhandling their out of conference opponents, Oklahoma came into the annual Red River game with high hopes. But those hopes were crushed, along with the punter, Mike Knall.
What!? You didn't see it? Mike Knall took an absolutely MONSTER hit, I was surprised he was even able to get up after bone-tickling, err, rattling knockdown. Here's to you Mike, it took a lot of heart to walk off the field before the audience threw flowers at you.
Sam Bradford played well enough to warrant a victory, yet unfortunately for him, the rest of the team was nowhere to be found as the game wound down. The route running was shabby at times, the running game was missing all day, and the defense took a big hit when Ryan Reynolds left the game.
Oklahoma has a lot going for them, Sam Bradford, Bob Stoops, a Tony-Nominated punter, and, following this weekend's game against Kansas, a three week stretch against Kansas St, Nebraska & Texas A&M, followed by a bye week to prepare for back-to-back games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma St. to end the season. Here's to hoping that everyone else in the Big 12 beats each other up before then.
High Point- Sam Bradford is only a sophomore, and WILL be the best quarterback in the Big 12 very soon.
Low Point- The safety allowed against Chattanooga, they were lucky they snuck away with that win...
What's Ahead?- They need to flex their muscle and pound Kansas into the ground, hopefully developing a running game along the way... Let's hope Mike Knall doesn't jet the Sooner State for Hollywood just yet either, has anyone seen him lately...? Mike?
No. 3 Texas Tech
The anomaly of the conference it would seem, Tech breezed through conference play, if you can call it that, and silenced most critics after an offensive clinic at the expense of Kansas State on the road. They followed that up by almost choking away their homecoming to an inspired Nebraska team.
Tech was out-gained by Nebraska in a game that saw Tech run 32 plays less than Nebraska. It's not that Tech had a bad game offensively, it's just that Tech saw the field less than Joe Paterno when he takes his glasses off. Harrell had another efficient game, and proved he is a leader capable of taking Tech to the next level this season.
Mike Leach called a memorable play on 4th-and-4, though it is still being disputed whether they would have actually run the play had the defense not jumped. Regardless, it worked out, and Jamar Wall let Donnie Carona off the hook by intercepting the second play of overtime to seal the victory.
Baron Batch is proving every week that he should touch the ball more often, and Crabtree is always hiding somewhere ready to make the big play. As long as Leach goes against the grain, and Tech doesn't have to rely on their kicking to win games, they are in good position.
High Point- Harrell-to-Crabtree. Crabtree has caught half of Harrell's 20 touchdown passes. Not to mention the play of Baron Batch (2nd in the Big 12 in yards per carry.)
Low Point(s)- Extra Points. This week Tech announced that senior Cory Fowler would handle extra point duties for the time being. Bad news for referees. Honestly, it has to be the greatest feeling in the world to be able to look towards a kicker after an extra point and wave your arms adamantly NO GOOD to kill his self esteem even more.
What's Ahead?- After A&M, Tech faces a killer stretch, @ Kansas, Vs. Texas, Vs. Oklahoma State, and @ Oklahoma. As long as Harrell and Crabtree are here though, the unexpected can happen... Hey, why is Crabtree wearing a Rams hat? Michael...?
No. 4 Oklahoma State Cowboys
The surprise team in the Big 12 this year, stunning most of the skeptics with a 28-23 road victory against a Missouri team so many picked to go undefeated through conference play. They like to run, but that doesn't mean that they can't pass either. Zac Robinson is a better passer, and a worse runner than the casual observer would assume.
Oklahoma State has three running backs with at least 250 yards, all of which average 6.6 yards per carry or more. Led by Kendall Hunter, averaging 144 yards per game topped off with nine touchdowns. Keith Toston, a relative non factor in the Missouri game, averages half of that, at 72 yards per game, but an even more impressive eight yards per carry.
Cowboy receiver Dez Bryant is quietly averaging more yards per game than Michael Crabtree, and is doing it on a team known for their running. I guess people forget that Zac Robinson has the No. 3 passer rating in the nation... No other Oklahoma State receiver even has 10 catches.
High Point- While Bobby Reid is here in Houston playing for Texas Southern, Zac Robinson is proving Mike Gundy a smart man for giving him the starting job last year.
Low Point- Missouri State's quarterback completing more passes than Zac Robinson in OSU's 57-13 victory. True, Robinson was 2-4, and MSU's Cody Kirby was 3-15, but I can guarantee somebody has tried to use it as a downer to the Cowboys, so why can't I?
What's Ahead?- Three even harder games, including road games against Texas and Texas Tech. This sure was a bad year to all of a sudden to contend, don't you think? Don't worry Mike Gundy, you're still my boy, I mean, errr, man... Where you going? Mike...?
No. 5 Missouri Tigers
A costly slip-up at home last weekend doesn't necessarily knock Missouri out of the national championship picture, and definitely not the Big 12 championship. Chase Daniel looked human, not to mention a bit hairy last weekend, and threw three costly interceptions in the loss to Oklahoma State.
They still have an offense that can compete with anybody, and one of the only three out of conference victories by the Big 12 over a once-ranked opponent. In a year where they play neither Oklahoma nor Texas Tech, who would have thought that Missouri would have lost a game to a Big 12 south opponent other than the Longhorns?
Their pass defense is atrocious, the worst in the Big 12 in yards allowed, and they have allowed the second most passing touchdowns in the conference. So perhaps this was the perfect year to avoid Oklahoma and Tech. But do not worry Missouri fans, you have something that nobody else in the country has, two quarterbacks named Chase!
Incidentally, the Tigers could lose this weekend to Texas, and end up in the Big 12 championship game just by ending their season with a win over division-rival Kansas. Have hope Mizzou fans, you can still stumble your way into a BCS bowl!
High Point- A season opening 52-42 win against Illinois. They showed they can score, both in the air or on the ground.
Low Point- A season opening 52-42 win against Illinois. Giving up 42 points to a team who was held to 24 or less in their other two games against quality opponents (Penn State & Minnesota). A passing defense that will not hold up in conference play if it doesn't improve.
What's Ahead?- In between must-win games against Texas and Kansas, is a 4 game stretch against four of the worse teams in the Big 12, Colorado, Baylor, Kansas State & Iowa State, four teams with a combined record of 12-12.
Missouri can play themselves back into the national championship race if they stay hungry... Chase, why is your finger in your nose? You better not be putting that in your mouth. Chase...?
No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks
I can't really say anything about Kansas other than they let me down... It's like one kid from a school (Kansas, Big XII) gets sent to spelling bee (To play a ranked opponent), and they get an easy word perhaps ointment (A favorable matchup), and they start off well, O-I-N (Take the lead), when you think they have the word spelled, O-I-N-T-M (The game won), they choke, and somehow misspell the word O-I-N-T-M-I-N-T (Lose the game to an overrated South Florida team) and it makes your school look stupider (The Big 12 look weak)...
Todd Reesing is a smart, efficient quarterback that can lead the Jayhawks to a good bowl this season, but i doubt he will be able to recreate the success from last year due to a tougher schedule. The Jayhawks' running game is second worst in the Big 12, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, and 124 yards per game. Surprisingly, their longest run of the season was only 20 yards...
Kansas can put themselves firmly in the Big 12 championship discussion with a road win against Oklahoma (Unlikely), or a home win against Texas Tech (More Likely).
Their run defense is their strong point, too bad for them there won't be much running in either of those games... Look for Kansas to finish 8-4.
High Point- Mark Mangino's cholesterol...
Low Point- The 1st half against Iowa State. That was definitely not the first half a team hoping to win the conference should play.
What's Ahead?- Frankly, it would be a successful season if Kansas can win 1-out-of-4 from Oklahoma, Tech, Texas and Missouri. A down year compared to last year sure, but don't expect to see Mark Mangino on the hot seat after the season is over, unless he farted in it. Hey, what's that smell coach? Mike...?
No. 7 Nebraska Cornhuskers
This was supposed to be the year that re-energized Cornhusker football. The year that brought them back to relevance, and this is just one more example of a team picking a bad time to try and improve. Bo Pelini will be fighting for a bowl, not a conference championship this season, and he will have to earn it.
After winning their first three games against teams that didn't put up much of a fight, Nebraska had their first chance to prove themselves on national television against a lackluster Virginia Tech team.
Their defense was exposed, and the season was starting to look a bit less exciting. They followed that letdown with an embarrassing loss to Missouri where there defense was further exposed.
They did nearly shock the nation with a close game in Lubbock, where they held on to the ball twice as long as Texas Tech did, but when it looked like they might come away with the win, Joe Ganz threw an interception to end the game in overtime, a heartbreaking end to a game they looked destined to win.
Ganz is a quality quarterback, but is only the eighth best in the conference, and that won't do. The Cornhuskers have a three-headed rushing attack, with Marlon Lucky, Roy Helu, and Quentin Castille. The only problem is, they would be better off giving either Lucky or Helu the ball everytime.
Lucky is the only one out of the bunch who is a playmaker, and he was even stuffed by the only good defense he faced. Helu is the most consistent of the bunch, more aware around the line of scrimmage. Castille, the third head is merely a change of pace back, that changes the pace from gain, to not so much of a gain...
Nebraska cannot slip up against any of there unranked opponents, or risk missing out on a bowl this season. They host Kansas on November 8th, and if Cornhusker fans want a statement victory this season, it has to be that one...
High Point- Coaching againt Texas Tech. They had a good game plan, and the players executed it to perfection. Kudos to Bo Pelini, the better team just won that day.
Low Point- Everything defensive against Missouri. Ugly was the only way to describe it.
What's Ahead?- A must-win game @ Iowa State this weekend. A loss here would all but kill the Cornhuskers' bowl dreams. Nebraska is one of the most penalized teams in the nation. They need to limit their personal fouls and stupid mistakes to win games. As long as they play smart, they can keep their hopes alive. Bo, did you just kick Mark Mangino in the love handle? I don't think you're allowed to do that. Bo...?
No. 8 Baylor Bears
A freshman quarterback, and a new coach have the Baylor Bears thinking about going to the lanes this season, err, bowling, you get it? Robert Griffin and Art Briles have brought energy to a team that has lacked it for years.
Since winning the starting spot, Griffin has been spectacular. Accounting for 250 yards of total offense a game, throwing for nine touchdowns without an interception, and rushing for eight more touchdowns on the side.
After being the only bright spot for the team in a season-opening loss to Wake Forest, Griffin has led the team like he's been the starter for years. After winning their first Big 12 game in 13 tries, the sky is the limit... Well, perhaps not the sky, but hey, it sure does feel good to be out of the cellar.
Although playing in a bowl game would require beating either Oklahoma St, Missouri, Texas Tech or Texas, not to mention beating Nebraska and Texas A&M, crazier things have happened. Griffin is the last starter left in the Big 12 not to throw an interception, and is a much more dangerous dual-threat than Zac Robinson of Oklahoma St...
I would already say that this season was a success, for a team that I predicted to be 1-11, to be eighth in the Big 12 right now has to be gratifying.
High Point- Robert Griffin being named the starter, followed by posting back-to-back wins out of conference.
Low Point- Wasting the first game of the season against Wake Forest before naming him the starter. Having to play in the Big 12 south.
What's Ahead?- A showdown at home against Texas A&M, which will most likely decide who wins 5th place in the Big 12 South. I recently became facebook friends with Robert Griffin on facebook. Our facebook chat conversation went as follows: Hey Robert, great job against Iowa St. you're my hero. My absolute hero. You know that? My hero. Robert...?
No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats
A team with two playmakers, and not much else. QB Josh Freeman is a physical specimen to view in awe, and his stats would show that he is a top-tier quarterback, right?
Completing 66 percent of his passes, for 250 yards per game, 12 touchdown matched up to only 2 interceptions, seems stellar right? Add in his 12 rushing touchdowns, and the answer is obvious, isn't it?
Sure, Freeman is a good player, and has the size and skill set to be a first day NFL prospect. But from watching him, you can still see the flaws in his game rather easily. He has a rocket arm, but lacks accuracy, and with only one playmaker on the offense other than him, WR Brandon Banks, the hail mary doesn't go far. He becomes flustered too easily, and struggles when the defensive scheme changes.
The Wildcat running game is nearly non-existent, and consists mostly of short 1-2-3 yard gains to calm Freeman down. The defense is at the bottom of the Big 12, and looks only to be shredded more the deeper we head into conference play. Until Kansas St. can surround Freeman with talent on both sides of the ball, this will not be a contender.
They may still go bowling this season, needing only two wins to reach eligibility. With home games remaining against Nebraska and Iowa St, plus a visit to Colorado, reaching a low-tier bowl game is not that far-fetched.
High Point- Josh Freeman's playmaking ability. He is a special athlete, let's hope he hones his skills enough to parlay it into an NFL career.
Low Point- Everything else. Giving up five touchdowns to Graham Harrell in the first half, it could have easily been 10 for the game had Tech not pulled off.
What's Ahead?- Hopefully a new defensive coordinator? A midseason recruiting class? This team needs a lot of work, perhaps Freeman will figure out a way to pass to himself... Josh Freeman Drops back, throws it deep, to... Josh...?
No. 10 Colorado Buffaloes
Cody Hawkins, bless his soul, is the worst quarterback in the Big 12, yet most likely better than most of the SEC quarterbacks. He is still young, so he has time to improve, but right now, it just isn't working. You can't blame him though. The Colorado running game is poor, very poor, like third-world country ghetto poor.
Colorado's running backs have combined for one rushing touchdown this season. You read that right, one rushing touchdown in 170 rushes, with no carry going for more than 22 yards... No wonder Hawkins is struggling so much, whenever they actually want to score, defenses can drop 11 into coverage and still not be vulnerable to the run.
At least they still have that early season win over West Virginia to celebrate. If nothing else, they can celebrate that win when they're left home from bowling.
High Point- One of three wins against a ranked opponent out of conference. I'm sure they'll rub that in later.
Low Point- Father/Son Relations. You know you have to feel bad when you bench your son.
What's Ahead?- You think Dan Hawkins is going to ground Cody if he ends up losing him his job? "Son, no football for 3 years!" "But dad, I wanna be a 7th round draft pick!" "I said NO SON!" "Dad, what are you gonna do with that belt?" Dad...?
No. 11 Iowa St. Cyclones
Well, at least they still have their academics, right?
Austen Arnaud isn't a bad quarterback, and I will guarantee that Iowa State wins one of their remaining games, most likely at home against Texas A&M. They had a meltdown against Kansas, but still showed that they can compete, even if only for a half. They fought hard even trying to come back, which does count for something.
Arnaud is good on his feet, but tries to force it too often. He doesn't have the big play ability of a Robert Griffin, but is still a danger to take off just for the hell of it.
High Point- The first half against Kansas.
Low Point- Missing jeopardy due to actually staying in the game against Kansas into the second half.
What's Ahead?- The Science Fair. Hey coach, is this lava coming out of this volcano supposed to burn my hand? Coach...?
No. 12 Oklahoma Sooner Scout Team
Hey, I have more faith in them, without a coach, than I do in the Aggies, with a highly-touted one.
High Point- Once picked off Sam Bradford.
Low Point- The interception came in the shower when they snagged a soap toss from across the room. Accidental meatgaze, 15 yard penalty.
What's Ahead?- We get to suit up, woohoo! Hey Sam, when do I get to see you in the shower again? Sam...?
No. 13 Texas A&M Aggies
Believe it or not, they could actually be 0-6 right now. Without trying to be rude, or make jokes, they are making the Big 12 look bad. I was talking to a casual fan the other day, telling him who A&M's first loss was to, and he was like, what!? Arkansas?!
They suck this year. Until I corrected him, no, not Arkansas, Arkansas State... That is where the conversation stops.
Jerrod Johnson is really coming into his own as a quarterback while McGee heals, and I hope that they let him play out the season. It would be a mistake to take the job away from him now as he continues to try and gain confidence.
The Aggies have the No. 1 pass defense in the Big 12 so far this season, but that is understandable, seeing as how even Jovorskie Lane could run on them. I kid, I kid. The run defense isn't THAT bad.
Needs a win at Iowa St. to keep themselves out of the cellar.
High Point- The day they hired Mike Sherman.
Low Point- The day after.
What's Ahead?- This weekend at Texas Tech. A win could salvage their season and give them trash-talking subject matter for years to come. The following exchange between a reporter and Jovorskie Lane... "Hey Jovorskie, wanna guarantee any victories this season?" Jovorskie...?
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