Big 12 Football power rankings: no defense for old men

I love the Big 12 Conference. It’s in my sports fan DNA having grown up in Kansas. So, lovingly, I say this to the Big 12: Y’all terrible.

The current version of this conference is a far cry from the days of the 12th Man, Lynch Mob, Blackshirts and many other fearsome defenses that once helped form the respect the nation had for Big 12 football.

Remember when this was a thing in the Big 12? There may not be 12 great defenders total in the entire conference these days.
Remember when this was a thing in the Big 12? There may not be 12 great defenders total in the entire conference these days.

Granted, Baylor and West Virginia are putting up some decent defensive statistics in 2016, and K-State is solid enough much of the time, but really, there is no strong defense in this league anymore. And, there is no respect – based on the FOX Sports and ESPN talking heads already saying an undefeated Big 12 champion won’t make the College Football Playoff over one-loss or even two-loss teams from better conferences.

That’s incredible. And, as a Big 12 loyalist, it stinks. Anyways, the rankings …

1. Baylor Bears (6-0, 3-0) — Someone has to be at the top, and the Bears will likely be here until they play West Virginia at the end of the regular season. It’s hard to be excited for anything Baylor does, though, because everyone knows the end of good football is on the horizon.

2. West Virginia Mountaineers (6-0, 3-0) — Okay, fine. West Virginia is better than I thought a few weeks ago. I still feel like this team’s record is better than the actual team, but the schedule is set up for this team to make a big run with home games against both Oklahoma and Baylor should it first survive its roadie against OSU.

3. Oklahoma Sooners (5-2, 4-0) — The Sooners once were the class of the league for all the right reasons. They set the standard both in conference and nationally. Now, they’re as much of the league’s defensive problem as anyone. Winning a high-scoring game against Texas Tech isn’t unacceptable, but having to score 66 points in order to do so is.

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-2, 3-1) — The Cowboys toyed with KU until the second half when the offense kicked into gear and scored on six of seven drives (not including running out the clock at the end). This team is a great dark horse pick, especially if it can knock off West Virginia this weekend in Stillwater.

5. TCU Horned Frogs (4-3, 2-2) — There really isn’t that much exciting about the Horned Frogs at this point. Both the offensive and defensive units rank in the middle of the majority of Big 12 statistical categories, and those numbers don’t lie. There’s no thrill factor with a team that’s kinda good at most things and not really good at any of them.

6. Kansas State Wildcats (4-3, 2-2) — K-State beat Texas in Manhattan. Again. The defense looked as if it has regained its footing after getting gashed by Texas Tech and Oklahoma, but the passing offense is still the worst in the conference any way you want to examine the body. If you’re a quarterback who can throw first and also run pretty well, send your tape to Manhattan. There is a group of wide receivers who would love to recruit you.

7. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-4, 1-3) — Points. Offense. Records. Who cares? The head coach is 22-23 in the middle of his fourth year and showing no real momentum. As for standards: the coach in Austin has the same record in 2016 as the coach in Lubbock. One is for sure about to get canned. The other is just Dude Bro’ing along.

8. Texas Longhorns (3-4, 1-3) — Charlie Strong won’t be remembered for long after he’s gone… well, maybe he will, actually. He was the one who came in and decided the country club mentality set by Mack Brown and company needed adjustment. The result as Strong Year 3 winds down: the Longhorns are probably going to finish under .500 for the third straight year. That’s something the Longhorns program hasn’t done since four straight losing years from 1935-38 (9-26 over that stretch).

9. Iowa State Cyclones (1-6, 0-4) — This is the part of the year where teams with little success really start to wear down. It’ll be something to pay attention to: How does this Cyclones bunch finish up the back half of 2016? It’s especially interesting to watch since ISU gets four of its final five games in Ames. That may be enough to keep the players motivated and maybe even snag a win or two.

10. Kansas Jayhawks (1-6, 0-4) — David Beaty flipped the quarterback coin again last week as he played Montell Cozart instead of Ryan Willis, who had become a turnover machine the past few games. Cozart wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t great either, throwing two picks in the game and being mostly ineffective in the second half against OSU, even as Ke’aun Kinner turned in 145 rushing yards. Frankly, Beaty just doesn’t have a great option at QB, but such is the life of the worst teams in FBS football.

Big 12 Football power rankings: Bottoms up!

llbrewspage
If we have to celebrate bad football and the worst teams getting better, let’s go bottoms up with a great beer out of Weston Brewing Co. I love this beer!

This season is one long, painful reminder that with no teams in the Top 10 and only three ranked overall, there really isn’t anything great about Big 12 football in 2016. But, the bottom teams have shown signs of life the past few weeks, so there’s that.

Seriously, that’s what we are down to celebrating … in October.

1. Baylor Bears (5-0, 2-0) — Full disclosure, I hate putting Baylor here, but it feels dirty keeping the No. 11-ranked team anywhere besides on top when nobody else is playing that well. I also thought the off-the-field stuff would affect the Bears before now and result in a couple of losses. It hasn’t, however, so good for them.

2. Oklahoma Sooners (3-2, 2-0) — OU threw another log on the Charlie Strong fire, and Dede Westbrook set a school record with 232 receiving yards. After shattering their national aspirations, it looks like the Sooners are finally settling in … four weeks too late.

3. TCU Horned Frogs (4-2, 2-1) — The Frogs were lucky to beat Kansas. It took three missed field goals in the fourth quarter to do it, but Gary Patterson’s guys got the win. That’s the nicest thing I can say about that performance.

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys (4-2, 2-1) — The Cowboys are off this week, so they  can sit back and watch whatever dumpster fire is sure to happen around the Big 12. They can also bask in the fact that they have scored at least 20 points in 22 consecutive games — third in the nation behind Oregon and TCU.

5. West Virginia Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0) — There are only 11 FBS schools undefeated at this point, and the Mountaineers might be the most unimpressive among them. Oh, and their starting kicker, Josh Lambert, left the team this week, so there’s that.

6. Kansas State Wildcats (3-2, 1-1) — K-State’s offense looked pretty darn good last time out and did its part along with the defense and special teams units. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the performance came against Texas Tech, who outlawed defense somewhere about 15 years ago. Way more impressive, the ‘Cats defense held Tech to just 10 points in the second half — including a junk touchdown at the end following a bogus penalty. With the win, KSU became the third Big 12 team to reach 100 league wins since it began in 1996.

7. Texas Longhorns (2-3, 0-2) — Is Charlie gone yet? No? Okay. We’ll check in again next week for a new edition of “How long ’til he gone?”

8. Iowa State Cyclones (1-5, 0-3) — The Cyclones have scored more than 30 points per game in their last three games. All things considered, this team may be bad still, but at least it’s becoming the exciting kind of bad — which seems to work just fine in, say, Lubbock.

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-2, 1-1) — Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Offense scores a bunch — Kliff is happy. Defense gives up more and team loses — Kliff daydreams of his next touchdown. Awful.

10. Kansas Jayhawks (1-4, 0-2) — At some point, this team is going to win a conference game, and I’ll even go as far as saying it could win two this year. KU has a couple of speedy playmakers on offense and special teams that could make a key play, swing momentum and outlast an opponent. TCU lucked out. Someone else won’t be as lucky.

Kansas City Chiefs: Tyreek Hill now praiseworthy?

Man, does it feel like K-State let one get away last Saturday. The reasons for the team standing 2-2 instead of 3-1 are obvious.

– The old offensive coordinator in Bill Snyder has to be dying with the product his Wildcats are putting on the field.

– Penalties are up, indecision is common, and time of possession is the worst it has been since Ron Prince’s final season. And none of that speaks to Jesse Ertz’s 48.2% completion percentage after going 10-of-30 against West Virginia.

– Some extra perspective salt in the wound: Miami (OH) is 0-5, and its offense ranks nine spots higher than K-State’s. The Kansas Jayhawks are eight spots better.

– It’s a shame, too, because the Wildcats’ superb defense (No. 4 in FBS) and top-level special teams units collectively belong on a team ranked in the Top 10.

– Is it a shame many seemed to have moved on and decided Kansas City Chiefs rookie Tyreek Hill is worthy of praise?

– Even on television, you can hear an excited buzz every time Hill touches the ball, and I don’t think the buzz is remnant mock outrage over his getting drafted following his domestic violence charge.

– Not surprised, but I also am not sure how these things are supposed to work in today’s age. So, someone help me understand.

– I’ve given up trying to understand what the Big 12 wants regarding expansion.

– I once believed Dan Beebe was the biggest factor in the Big 12’s inability to think progressively.

– Watching the Conference during this latest round of expansion discussions made it crystal clear to me, however, that no commissioner could fix the unpredictable dysfunction regularly injected into things by the school presidents.

– The Sooner someone reminds the group that this is a “sum greater than the parts” deal, the better.

– Trying to keep all the parts together in 2017 worries me when it comes to the Kansas City Royals.

– Maybe everybody comes back healthy and on fire.

– Or, maybe they all come back another year older and even less capable of repeating 2014 and 2015.

– Or, maybe they all come back, are capable, and have to watch Joakim Soria pitch.

 

Big 12 Football power rankings: Burnt Up

 

Oh, how the not so mighty have fallen. Bevo is headed to the slaughter house, and Bob Stoops magicked his way to a win that kept his own seat cool for the time being. Past that, the Big 12 last weekend was a T.S. Elliot special … “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” but another weekend of bad but somewhat exciting football. 

1. Nobody. Seriously, not one team in the Big 12 deserves to top these rankings. The most talented team in the conference is .500. There are several bouts of identity crises occurring (TCU, Baylor, K-State), and … no. Nobody deserves to be No. 1 because we don’t believe in entitlement around here.

2. Oklahoma Sooners (2-2, 1-0) — How the Sooners managed to overcome a horrendous start against TCU – down 21-7 after the first quarter – only to nearly lose anyways in a shootout is the stuff that makes coaches go bald. This team is so talented it can’t help but wind up winning 9 or 10 games per season, but it is doing so while shaving years from its fans’ lives. #becausewecan

3. TCU Horned Frogs (3-2, 1-1) — If there was any doubt that TCU’s defense is stout in memory only, last Saturday sealed the deal. After getting its early lead, the Frogs were run over by the Sooners in the second and third quarters to the tune of 42-3. Even worse, of OU’s six touchdowns in that stretch, only one drive was shorter than 53 yards, and only one took longer than 2:48. Overall, TCU is giving up 31.4 ppg, the second worst mark under Gary Patterson, trailing only his 2004 squad (33.9). #forgettingwhoyouare

4. Baylor Bears (5-0, 2-0) — If the Bears were a souped up hot rod the past couple of years, they are about to pay the price for redlining the engine past morality and good judgment. Off the field, things keep going south for a program that, by a growing number of increasingly damaging accounts, did everything it could to trade morals for victories. All of it makes this year’s wins feel really hollow, and moving ahead … the future looks bleak as Baylor is dead last in Big 12 recruiting currently with only two … TWO … commitments. #wheelsfallingoff

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-2, 1-1) — Thrashing Texas did a lot for Mike Gundy’s group in terms of getting some national run. We know this team can score points (41.2 ppg), and the defense seems to be serviceable. The Longhorns found out how dangerous ol’ Pistol Pete is in Stillwater this year. If he figures out how to be consistent on the road, look out. #comingtogether?

6. West Virginia Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0) — WVU looked as dead as the possum in a Mountaineer’s stew before it came from behind to beat K-State 17-16 at home. Credit goes to a gutty comeback against a good defense, but that won’t happen against teams that have any offense at all. Undefeated? Yes. Impressed by it? Not really. #donoteatpossumstew

7. Kansas State Wildcats (2-2, 0-1) — Since 1990, the Wildcats are 178-7 when leading at the half. Loss No. 7 was purely awful against West Virginia, where a 16-3 lead bled out and died in a 17-16 loss. The Big 12’s worst offense (109th of 125 nationally) again looked indecisive and mostly inept to such a level that blame goes all around, while one of the best defenses in the nation again goes unrewarded. But hey, Winston Dimel was held scoreless, so you know someone is probably unhappy and finally spurred to actually fix things … right Dana Dimel? #figureitout

8. Texas Longhorns (2-2, 0-1) — Egad, Charlie. Notre Dame seems so long ago. Rumors of your demise have been rampant, and all you have to do is get a win this weekend … wait, what? … you play Oklahoma? Aw man, if you thought the seat was hot this week, let’s see what the temperature is like after a third-straight loss. #overcookedsteak

9. Iowa State Cyclones (1-4, 0-2) — So. Damn. Close. So close to knocking off Baylor (and being everybody’s friend in the Big 12 this week). Maybe this team can stay focused on the positives that come with what was an unexpected and pretty remarkable effort until the end. And, though it won’t last, I don’t think, Cyclones fans can also sidle up to the fact that they are tied with Oklahoma State with the current No. 2 recruiting class in the Big 12, according to Rivals.com. #reddawn

10. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-1, 1-0) — Here’s the thing with Texas Tech: It’s not even that much fun anymore to watch the Red Raiders play. They score points in bunches, but there’s no intrigue because you know they can’t stop anybody either (KU doesn’t count). It’s like playing EA Sports NCAA Football back in the day and finally getting too bored to care when your team racked up 60 points every simulation. This team will win a handful of games, but this iteration will maybe finish a game above .500 just because it gets every tough opponent at home in 2016. #dudebrohatesdefense

11. Kansas Jayhawks (1-3, 0-1) — The Jayhawks want to believe they are getting better, and maybe they are on a minuscule level. However, improving a play or two here or there isn’t nearly enough, and getting torched by a team’s backup QB wipes out all good vibes. Three ranked opponents await Kansas in the next five games before facing Iowa State. #noendinsight

K-State football: The Dimel phenomenon

Neither opposing defense nor weather has stopped the Kansas State Wildcats from putting up points in bunches the past two weeks.

dimel
KSU Co-Offensive Coordinator Dana Dimel

With 63 against Florida Atlantic and 35 in two quarters against Missouri State, there have been plenty of scoring chances for everyone.

Well, more so for one more than others.

After scoring six touchdowns in the past two games and matching his total from 2015, sophomore fullback Winston Dimel has bulldozed his way to the top of the Big 12 scoring list and is tied for 13th in Division I FBS – averaging 12 points per game. Through three games, he has 60 percent of K-State’s 10 rushing touchdowns. Nobody else has more than one.

Usually, this would just be kind of fun and worth celebrating the fullback still has a place in a college game bastardized by things like Kliff Kingsbury. But, this situation has a slight film on it to me, maybe because I’ve been on teams in my life where you knew plays were called because so-and-so was a coach’s favorite or a coach’s son. And, I know the reaction to those situations in those locker rooms were never a unanimous “it’s all good.”

The hard part about all of this, of course, is that calling Dimel’s number largely has worked the past two games. His success, plus the lopsided scores, have left some fans asking me why I would question something that’s worked so well. Usually, I would 100-percent agree with that line of thinking. However, that the calls worked isn’t really applicable here because any call should work against K-State’s recent opponents, and that’s the point: If you know that, why not spread the love?

In three games, the Charles Jones/Dalvin Warmack/Justin Silmon trio has combined for 265 yards on 45 rushes (5.9 ypc) and one lonely touchdown.* Inside the red zone, Dimel has had 13 plays called for him, outpacing the trio’s total of 5 play calls. Outside of the red zone, it’s the opposite. The trio has had 52 times where the ball was intended for them through rush or pass, with Dimel recording just 3 opportunities. My takeaway: It’s interesting that the weapons of choice up and down the field aren’t Dimel, who then reaps the reward.

*After three consecutive Dimel runs inside the five-yard line were stopped short of the goal against Missouri State, Charles Jones finally got the running backs a touchdown in the season’s third game … but nearly didn’t before replay had to prove he crossed the goal line before dropping the ball. Seriously dumb stuff, Charles, but hey, when you hardly ever get the chance to score, I can appreciate the want to celebrate.

Nobody legitimate is going to think less of Winston Dimel if he only scores two touchdowns instead of six. He was a preseason All-Big 12 selection, after all. And, to the argument that showing the entire Dimel playbook will give defenses more to think about in goal situations … maybe? But, how often is K-State really going to put Dimel in the Wildcat during Big 12 play?*

*I mean, they won’t do that, right? Someone tell me no … please? Please tell me no.

In the interest of sanity, let’s say this isn’t what the game plan will be in higher-leveraged situations. So, if that’s that’s the case, then why shy away from rewarding your running backs and giving them the satisfaction that comes with capping a great drive they played a direct role in?

Or don’t …

Don’t reward other guys and hope like hell in the short term that wins keep coming. And hope long term that future (legitimate) running back recruits aren’t paying that close of attention to how the scoring scales obviously have been tipped toward the sophomore son of a coach who likely will be in Manhattan for a couple of more years.

 

Big 12 Football power rankings – Power? What power?

All the sads, Big 12.

There have been seasons where the Big 12 unfairly took heat for not being a true contender on the national stage. 2016 is not one of those seasons.thumb-440352_960_720

After a second-consecutive weekend of getting put in its place, it is clear the Big 12 doesn’t belong in the College Football Playoff discussion. (Unless … we maybe pretend some other teams like Houston are part of the Big 12, kind of a “just the tip” deal, you know, with all that Big 12 expansion stuff happening.)

Yep, three weeks in and that’s where we are already. That’s nice.

*Houston* (3-0) — The Cougars have swag. They have support from J.J. Watt. They *appear* to have a good track on getting a Big 12 invite if and when that step is finally reached. That said, is it too late for the Big 12 to claim Houston as its own? 

1. Texas (2-1) — The Longhorns will need an immediate recovery to bounce back after losing to a Cal team it shouldn’t have. Tough performance, and with Notre Dame getting manhandled for most of its game with Michigan State, it looks like Texas may be just as Big 12 average as the rest.

2. Oklahoma (1-2) — Keeping Oklahoma at the No. 2 spot in these rankings – despite getting dominated at home by Ohio State – is a full indictment on the non-strength of the Big 12. More than a few times, Baker Mayfield looked like he was pressing, and after going 1-2 in the non-con, it’s too late for Bob Stoops to press the panic button. This season’s big potential is gone.

3. Baylor (3-0) — Remember that one time when programs would build excellent seasons by eating cupcakes? Baylor has found a way to screw that up like Baylor normally finds ways to Baylor things up. After slow-cooking Rice, the Bears have three wins, some questions after multiple slow starts against inferior opponents, and zero prestige — a championship-killing calling card of recent years.

4. TCU (2-1, 1-0) — The Frogs opened Big 12 play with a business-minded performance against Iowa State. It won’t wow anybody, but it’s a tough, efficient, unsung showing that never gets enough appreciation — kinda like Gary Patterson’s khakis on a hot day.

5. Kansas State (1-1) — Had the competition been a little better, the Wildcats would have jumped a spot or maybe even two in these rankings. Penalties aside, this was the most dominant effort from K-State in some time. If quarterback play continues to improve game-to-game, the skill positions are flush with talent, the defense is good to great, and special teams are again some of the best in the nation. It’s enough to legitimately put K-State up against anyone in the Big 12.

6. West Virginia (2-0) — The Mountaineers were off this past weekend, giving them some extra time to prepare for a BYU squad that has a stingy defense but isn’t nearly at the level it was overall two years ago when it smoked Texas.

*North Dakota State (3-0) – The Bison stampeded No. 13 Iowa to the tune of 239 rushing yards while only giving up 34 yards on the ground and 231 offensive yards overall. Yes, the game came down to a field goal in the final seconds, but that’s still some heavy domination that half of the Big 12 would love to be able to dish out but flat can’t.

7. Oklahoma State (2-1) — The Cowboys used a six-shooter’s worth of big plays, plus some, to out-gun Pitt. James Washington put up freak numbers with nine catches totaling 296 yards and 2 TD. He had a 91-yard grab, Jhajuan Seales had an 86-yarder, and the Pokes pulled out the win in the end.

8. Texas Tech (2-1) — If you poked your head into the defensive coaching staff’s office, would it be empty? Or, would it be filled with additional offensive coaches? Tech continues to be allergic to defense, and I continue to be amazed by it.

9. Iowa State (0-3, 0-1) — Wins will be few this year for the Cyclones, so it’s important to celebrate little steps of progress — like, for example, ISU won the fourth quarter, 10-3, against TCU’s backups. Little things, guys. Little things.

10. Kansas (1-2) — It was one play, but it was beautiful. A 3rd-and-1, 66-yd breakaway by freshman running back Khalil Herbert provided the lone bright spot in a six-turnover day. The game left head coach David Beaty trying to accept the blame, saying he had to do a better job in getting his guys ready to play. I watched the turnovers. NO coach can make up for quarterbacks handing the ball to the other team.

Big 12 Football power rankings – A WTF weekend

It feels too early in the year to have to have this talk, Big 12, but seriously, what in the ever-loving hell was that collective performance on Saturday?big_12_conference_logo-svg

Central Michigan (Mid-American), Ohio (Mid-American), Arkansas (SEC), Arizona State (Pac-12), and Iowa (Big 10) all proved better than their Big 12 opponents, and Youngstown State (Missouri Valley) was on the verge of doing the same. Overall the Big 12 went a putrid 4-5 in non-conference contests.

Aside from the top Big 12 teams, it was a deplorable showing, but it won’t stop us from ranking the conference this week and trying to say nice things — even if we feel as dirty as Elisabeth Schu in Leaving Las Vegas.

1. Texas (2-0) — Shane Buechele completed 71.7 percent of his passes through two games, and the Longhorns showed no letdown a week after knocking off Notre Dame. UTEP was shorthanded, but it wouldn’t have mattered even with a Miners full deck.

2. Oklahoma (1-1) — So begins the long, 11-step road to recovery. OU led Louisiana Monroe 42-0 at halftime and coasted the rest of the way. One win down, 10 more to go for a group that wants to believe it belongs in the College Football Playoff.

3. Baylor (2-0) — The final score didn’t look all that out of whack, but if you paid attention, the Bears struggled pretty hard with SMU’s defense. BU quarterback Seth Russell said SMU provided some looks that the Bears hadn’t seen before. Gotta believe Big 12 defensive coordinators are scrambling to secure that film, even more than normal.

4. TCU (1-1) — The Horned Frogs have given up 82 points in two games. They were getting shut out at halftime against Arkansas before mounting a big, but short, fourth-quarter comeback. Two weeks does not a season make, but things feel a little too unsettled for comfort right now in Fort Worth.

5. Kansas State (0-1) — Everybody else in the Big 12 played games this weekend. Bill Snyder Family Stadium played host to a concert. People showing up to Bill Snyder Family Stadium in September for something other than football? Some things aren’t wrong, but it doesn’t mean they feel right.

6. West Virginia (2-0) — Slow start, but the Mountaineers were much stronger in the second half against a game Youngstown St. In any other week, WVU probably doesn’t move up a spot in the rankings based on that performance, and that takes us to the next team on the list …

7. Oklahoma State (1-1) — Did OSU get screwed? Yes. Should they never have been in that position to begin with? Taking on an inferior opponent in Stillwater? Yes. Bad form, Mike Gundy’s guys. Real bad.

8. Texas Tech (1-1) — It’s flat amazing how predictable Texas Tech has become in terms of fun offense and zero regard for defense. And, like so many years before, that combination will mean another season of the “L” standing for Loss in Lubbock.

9. Iowa State (0-2) — Matt Campbell already has indecision at quarterback — just two games in. That’s not the hard part, Coach Campbell; it’s the constant heartburn and eventual apathy in Ames that become the real doozies.

10. Kansas (1-1) — On a positive note, the Jayhawks defense was better. The only thing about that is the improvement came after Ohio racked up the majority of its 329 rushing yards in the first half. On offense, dreadful was the word. KU had 26 rushing yards on 15 carries, to go along with 0-11 combined on third  (0-9) and fourth (0-2) downs.