As 2005 rolls along, some of the Big 12 picture is coming into focus. Texas remains the frontrunner by a mile while teams are beginning to solve Mike Leach's pigskin shell game. Baylor stood toe to toe with the Red Raiders for three quarters last weekend but didn't have the talent to close the deal. Oklahoma continues to improve dramatically; in fact, in case you haven't noticed, the three teams to whom the Sooners have lost this year have a combined record of 23-1. Colorado, for all of Joel Klatt's brilliance, is still barely clinging to respectability. Nebraska appears to be heading towards either a 7-4 or 6-5 season and a mediocre bowl game. Remaining somewhat out of focus are Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas and Texas A&M, all promising albeit unpredictable teams. Kansas and Baylor have improved but are still bottom-feeding. And Oklahoma State is, well, still Oklahoma State.
1. Texas (8-0, 5-0) Talk about embarrassing…the game of cat-and-mouse that Vince Young played with OSU in 2004 continued in 2005. After spotting the feckless Cowboys a 16 point first half lead, Vince clocked in and went to work, tallying a grand total of 506 total yards all by himself (267 rushing, 239 passing) as the Horns rallied from a 28-12 deficit to beat the Stillwater Whack-a-Moles, 47-28.
Next up: November 5th – Baylor at Waco.
2. Texas Tech (7-1, 4-1) "This was probably the worst game of my life," stated Tech quarterback Cody Hodges after the Red Raiders wrapped up a singularly unimpressive 28-0 win over a simmering Baylor team. Hodges statement may be a fact, but it's also a fact that Baylor had much to do with Tech's offensive impotence. The game speaks more to the quality of Baylor than to Tech's simply having a "bad day."
Next up: November 5th – Texas A&M in Lubbock.
3. Oklahoma (5-3, 4-1) Are the Sooners back? Not quite, but they're working on it. Although the '05 Nebraska squad is but a shadow of the powerful teams who have historically graced Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, it is seldom an easy task for a visiting team to win in that venue. But the Sooners made it look easy, at least for the first half. With Adrian Peterson performing at about 85% and Rhett Bomar continuing to tease us with the promise of things to come, the Sooners amassed an impressive 21-3 halftime lead before the Huskers shook off the doldrums in the second half. Both of Oklahoma's lines logged in personal bests for 2005 as the offense appeared steady and confident for most of the afternoon and the defense choked the Nebraska ground game. However, on the downside, the Sooner secondary continues to play as though it is already Halloween, scaring the bejesus out of the folks back in Oklahoma.
Next up: November 12th – Texas A&M in Norman.
4. Colorado (6-2, 4-1) After blowing a ten point first half lead and being shut out in the second half until the final six seconds, the Beefaloes should be relieved to be occupying the fourth position in this week's Big 12 Power Rankings. Colorado entered the final minute of last Saturday's game tied with KSU, 20-20 before the Wildcat's Jermaine Moreira fumbled John Torp 's punt and Terry Washington recovered for Colorado at the Wildcats' 26 with 55 seconds remaining. Forty-nine seconds later, Colorado's Mason Crosby sailed a fifty-yarder through the uprights to seal the victory.
Next up: November 5th – Missouri in Boulder.
5. Nebraska (5-3, 2-3) Although the '05 Huskers continue to show signs of improvement (but wait…was that second half offensive blitz merely an indication of what they coulda and shoulda done against the OU defensive secondary in the first half or a true indication that improvement is being made by Taylor et. al.?), they are still staring down the barrel of a rough finish this year. Nebraska still must play a stubborn Kansas team in Lawrence, KSU in Lincoln and Colorado in Boulder so a 6-5 finish is not an unrealistic expectation. Still and all, after last year the prospect of spending December in Shreveport may be reasonably attractive to this team.
Next up: November 5th – Kansas in Lawrence.
6. Iowa State (5-3, 2-3) Dan McCarney put on a coaching clinic in College Station last weekend that should serve as a textbook example of how to win a big football game. Zero turnovers, a balanced attack and a determined defense equally effective against the run and the pass stood the Cyclones in good stead against Franchione's stunned Aggies. Question is, where were these Cyclones the first three weeks in October?
Next up: November 5th – Kansas State in Ames.
7. Missouri (5-3, 3-2) It's as if Gary Pinkel was daring the Missouri administration to fire him. His Tigers entered Lawrence with a very respectable 5-2 overall record last Saturday. And furthermore, they should have been riding an emotional high from their huge home victory over Nebraska on October 22nd. But instead of riding an emotional high they were riding a roller coaster as they bottomed out against a determined Jayhawk defense. Brad Smith's week-in and week-out performance chart with all its ups and downs is difficult to understand.
Next up: November 5th – Colorado in Boulder.
8. Texas A&M (5-2, 3-1) Franchione continues to delight Alabama fans with his devil-may-care, nutty approach to coaching down in College Station. The Aggies were facing an Iowa State team that has struggled in 2005. The Cyclones, after an impressive victory over their in-state rival Iowa, started the month of October by losing in Lincoln, at home against Baylor and then at Columbia, Missouri. After spending their bye weekend in Stillwater, Iowa State traveled to what is arguably the toughest stadium for visiting teams in the Big 12 – Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. The Aggies were facing a Cyclone team with virtually no experienced rushing attack and still managed to not only lose the game, but to be embarrassed by Iowa State.
Next up: November 5th – Texas Tech in Lubbock.
9. Kansas State (4-4, 1-4) If Bill Snyder's team could ever manage to put four consecutive quarters of football together on the same afternoon… The Kitties didn't stop purring and start clawing until quarter number three last weekend and by then, it just wasn't enough.
Next up: November 5th – Iowa State at Ames.
10. Kansas (4-4, 1-4) Mangino just won't go down without a fight. Historic grudge match notwithstanding, the annual fight between Missouri and Kansas should have gone to Missouri this year. They had the edge in motivation and talent. But unfortunately for the Tigers, Kansas had the edge in coaching.
Next up: November 5th – Nebraska in Lawrence.
11. Baylor (4-4, 2-3) In spite of their record, these Bears continue to impress. Baylor out first-downed the Red Raiders (20-17), out rushed them (121-111) and very nearly matched them in passing yards (204 – 264), but still lost convincingly on the scoreboard. The big question looms as to whether or not Guy Morriss can continue to keep his team's chin off their chests after each tough loss.
Next up: November 5th – Texas in Waco.
12. Oklahoma State (3-5, 0-5) Never let it be said that Mike Gundy didn't learn a thing or two from his predecessor, LESS Miles. Miles' Cowboys stunned Texas in the first half last year by running up a passel of gaudy, unanswered points before trading in their cleats for ballet shoes in the second half. Gundy must have taken a page out of Miles' '04 playbook last Saturday as his Cowboys went belly-up in quarters three and four.
Next up: November 12th – Texas Tech in Stillwater.
Wann Smith has served two years as national columnist for the Pigskin Post, contributed to the College Football News (a contributor to Fox Sports and the Sporting News) and is currently the editor of the College Football Gazette. Smith lives in St. Louis with his family.
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You can also contact Wann Smith at email@example.com
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