Pokes Move Into Top 10; Dust Clears On Big 12

Baylor (second), TCU (third) and Oklahoma State (10th) are all ranked in the top 10 in the USA Today Coaches Poll

The aftermath of Saturday's action in the Big 12 and in college football is this, Oklahoma State is ranked in the top 10 of at least one of the major polls for the first time since Dec. 7, 2013 and a Bedlam showdown with OU that could have landed OSU as the Big 12 champion for the second time in two seasons.

The Cowboys could be surging toward that opportunity again as they have climbed to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big 12 following the 58-10 homecoming win over Kansas on Saturday. OSU is now ranked 10th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The AP Poll, which almost always ranks the Cowboys lower than the coaches, is consistent and has them ranked 12th. Loses on Saturday to top 10 teams in unbeaten Utah of the Pac-12 and Florida State of the ACC made room for some upward mobility by the Cowboys.

Ohio State is still tops in each poll, garnering 49 of the first-place votes among the coaches and 39 among the media. Baylor is second in each poll with 10 and 7 first place votes, respectively. TCU is third in the coaches poll but fifth in the media poll. The coaches have it Ohio State (49), Baylor (10), TCU (2), LSU (1), Michigan State, Clemson (1), Alabama, Stanford, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State in the top 10. The AP has it Ohio State (39), Baylor (7), Clemson (6), LSU (5), TCU (3), Michigan State, Alabama (1), Stanford, Notre Dame, and Iowa in the top 10.

Oklahoma is the only other Big 12 Conference team showing up in the top 25 or in the votes received for the polls. The Sooners are ranked 14th in the AP and 13th in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

So many of us that cover the Big 12 had November designated this past summer as the month of decision in Big 12 football and that by the time that month arrived with its scheduled round-robin matchups with preseason favorite TCU, second favorite Baylor, third pick Oklahoma, and fourth pick Oklahoma State all playing each other that would be the all-out attention getter for last year's playoff deprived Big 12.

The dust has cleared and a week early as the separation is there. Baylor, Oklahoma State, and TCU are all 4-0 in conference play and all 7-0 overall. Oklahoma is 3-1 in the league and 6-1 overall with clear separation as only Texas has a .500 record or better at 2-2 in the conference.

This week, TCU hosts West Virginia on Thursday, Baylor is off, and Oklahoma State travels to Texas Tech in pursuit of having three unbeaten teams going to November's battle royale on the schedule.

The conference may have further opened up with the neck fracture to Baylor quarterback Seth Russell on Saturday. The Bears have become the front runner through the season to win the Big 12 and have displayed an almost blitzkrieg style of offensive attack. Carrying the ball on a third-and-five in the fourth quarter with some five minutes remaining, Russell ran for four yards but at the end of the run bowed his neck and smacked helmet to helmet with an Iowa State defender.

Russell never returned to the game and postgame X-rays and MRI revealed the fracture in a bone in the neck. Without Russell, Baylor would have to turn to freshman Jarrett Stidham to play quarterback. That could bring the explosive Baylor offense down just enough to make the situation more competitive for the Big 12 Championship.

Just glancing at a crystal ball I happen to keep around my office, I would favor Baylor in all three matchups, hosting OU, at OSU, and at TCU. I would consider TCU a toss-up at OSU and at OU. I would make OSU a toss-up with TCU, an underdog as stated with Baylor, and a favorite hosting OU.


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