1) Nebraska 4-0, 0-0 (last week's ranking, No. 3)
So why do the 'Huskers assume the top spot on the heels of their weakest game of the year? Largely because Nebraska has been the Big 12's most consistently elite team to this point, and a squad that seems to match up well with the other top teams in the league. It's difficult to blame the Cornhuskers for taking a week off in their unimpressive victory over South Dakota State, but be sure of this: when Nebraska travels to play Kansas State next Thursday, the Cornhuskers won't lack for emotion or motivation. Taylor Martinez appeared only human against the Jackrabbits, completing just six of 14 passes and hurling two interceptions. But he averaged more than 23 yards per completion, while running for another 75 yards.
Last time out: W 17-3 vs. South Dakota State
Next time out: at Kansas State (Oct. 7)
2) Oklahoma 4-0, 0-0 (LW 2)
The Sooners are a difficult team to figure out. At times, they look like the conference's strongest team. At others, they don't appear to want to play football. Developing a killer instinct would be a nice start, as the Sooners often find themselves up big, only to let teams back into the game. Consistency on defense is also needed. Against Cincinnati, Oklahoma allowed the Bearcats to pass for more than 300 yards, while also allowing 150 rushing yards. Even with this week's opponent struggling offensively, that's a trend that Oklahoma will have to get past when playing offensively elite teams like Oklahoma State. Oklahoma has also struggled at times to run the ball, but with Landry Jones passing for 370 yards, the Sooners are going to win a lot of games. If he isn't the top receiver in the country, Sooner Ryan Broyles is on the short list for that honor.
Last time out: W 31-29 at Cincinnati
Next time out: Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas
3) Texas 3-1, 1-0 (LW 1)
Figuring out where to place the Longhorns ranked as the biggest challenge in this week's power rankings. But I tried to look at it this way: is there any team below them that you would feel comfortable beating the Longhorns say, six out of 10 games? I don't think so either. Texas laid an egg against UCLA, exposing some problems that we knew they had all along (the offense), but also struggling in some areas where they previously had been strong. Don't expect the Longhorn rush defense to struggle this season, as many of those problems came from busted assignments and missed tackles when trying to make a play. They'll be tested again this week, on one of college football's biggest stages. A win is a must, because the Longhorns next take the field at Nebraska.
Last time out: L 12-34 vs. UCLA
Next time out: Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas
4) Oklahoma State 3-0, 0-0 (LW 4)
Is there a better offense in the country than the one built in Stillwater? Right now, it would be difficult to find one. The Cowboys' O is firing on all cylinders, from the running game built around Kendall Hunter to deep balls tossed around the lot by 26-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden to the catches made by Justin Blackmon. Even in their lone close game, the Cowboys put up 41 points and 522 yards of offense. And therein lies the problem: while Oklahoma State is busy putting up Playstation numbers, an inconsistent defense means that the opponent might also light up the scoreboard. The Cowboys get a chance to make a statement tonight when they take on Texas A&M. The result should at least start the discussion about whether OSU is a top tier Big 12 team, or if they're closer to the middle of the pack.
Last time out: W 65-28 vs. Tulsa
Next time out: Texas A&M (tonight)
5) Texas A&M 4-0, 0-0 (LW 5)
The last time the Aggies took the field, they were lucky to pull out a late win over visiting Florida International. That's the bad news. The good news is that the Aggies have had nearly two weeks to address whatever issues they had in that game. Holding onto the ball would be a great start. The Aggies turned it over five times against the Panthers, a trend that has to stop tonight if they're going to beat Oklahoma State in a likely fight for the South's third-place spot. Turn it over five times against FIU, and you have a chance to recover. Turn it over five times to the Cowboy offense, and you're staring at a 20-point (at least) deficit. Take heart though: quarterback Jerrod Johnson is too good to have too many more 11-for-31 (with four interceptions) nights. The Aggies entered the season believing that they had a chance to do some great things in conference play. Now's the time to prove it.
Last time out: W 27-20 vs. Florida International
Next time out: at Oklahoma State (tonight)
6) Missouri 4-0, 0-0 (LW 7)
After barely beating San Diego State at home, Missouri returned to its usual non-conference form Saturday in blowing out Miami (Ohio). The Tigers were up 44-3 with more than five minutes left in the third quarter, and largely asserted their dominance through on the ground, rushing for 236 yards at 6.2 yards a pop. No back truly stood out for Missouri in the game (none rushed for more than 63 yards), which is a testament to the Tigers' strength along the offensive line. Missouri is very likely the Big 12 North's second-best team, and while there appears to be a gap between the Cornhuskers and the Tigers for the No. 1 spot, there might be a similar gap between the Tigers and whichever North team emerges as No. 3.
Last time out: W 51-13 vs. Miami (Ohio)
Next time out: Colorado (Oct. 9)
7) Kansas State 4-0 1-0 (LW 6)
The Wildcats remain something of a mystery, one that didn't really gain any traction when Kansas State had to pull out a close win at home against Central Florida. On one hand, it's difficult to argue with a 4-0 record. But the Wildcats were seriously tested by a trio of teams with .500 records in UCLA, Iowa State and Central Florida, and just as easily could be staring 1-3 in the face. The UCLA win looks better now, though the Bruins weren't truly the same team when Kansas State hosted them. One thing the Wildcats do have going for them is a great running game behind Daniel Thomas, somebody who can keep the Wildcats in any game. But UCF found a way to slow Thomas down considerably, something that should make Kansas State fans nervous. Thomas has received a boat-load of carries so far, so the bye week certainly comes at a good time for the senior star.
Last time out: W 17-13 vs. UCF
Next time out: Nebraska (Oct. 7)
8) Texas Tech 2-1, 0-1 (LW 8)
The last time Texas Tech saw the field, the Red Raiders were overwhelmed by the athletes on a fast and furious Texas defense. Tech should be the team with the best athletes when it travels to play at Iowa State this week. The two teams technically sit in the cellar of their respective divisions, since they're the only two squads to have played a conference game and lost. But while Iowa State might end up there, Tech still has a chance to impress and put itself in the middle of the South standings. To do so, the Red Raiders will have to re-find their offensive explosion while continuing to get after the quarterback at a high rate. Finding a way to stop committing turnovers would also help in a big way.
Last time out: L 14-24 vs. Texas
Next time out: at Iowa State
9) Baylor 3-1, 0-0 (LW 9)
The Bears rebounded well from their crushing loss to TCU by defeating Rice on the road. The performance wasn't necessarily a dominating one, though it was nice to see quarterback Robert Griffin III get his mojo back. The signal caller put up more than 300 combined rushing and passing yards, while throwing for three touchdowns. The Bears also had a nice performance from Terrance Ganaway, who rushed eight times for 79 yards, while Kendall Wright pulled in seven passes for 106 yards and a score. The defense allowed Rice's top two backs to rush for more than 100 yards and average more than four yards per carry, though the Owls only scored six points through the first three quarters. They have a winnable game Saturday, when the Bears host Kansas, which has lost its last two trips to Waco.
Last time out: W 30-13 at Rice
Next time out: Kansas
10) Colorado 2-1, 0-0 (LW 10)
Every major media outlet fingered Dan Hawkins for the hot seat heading into the season. Saturday, he'll meet a coach who can relate. Georgia's Mark Richt has undoubtedly smelled some smoke after Georgia's rough start, and the Bulldogs will look to get back on track against the up-and-down Buffaloes. The good news? Colorado probably isn't as bad as the Buffs looked against California. The bad news is that the Buffs aren't exactly a great team either. But if the Buffaloes can play strong defense and avoid turning the ball over, they're capable of playing over their head and taking advantage of a shell-shocked visiting team. If Colorado does neither, the Buffs are also capable of sending their own home fans to the exits early.
Last time out: W 31-13 vs. Hawaii
Next time out: Georgia
11) Kansas 2-2, 0-0 (LW 11)
Many Kansas fans thought the Jayhawks would be 2-2 at this point. But nobody figured that Kansas would be 2-2 with a victory over Georgia Tech and a loss to an FCS team. In that respect, Kansas's victory last Saturday was impressive. Sure, it was a game that Kansas should have won by that manner. But don't forget that the Jayhawks only put up three points against (at best) a similar level team earlier this year. Kansas has found a different quarterback, running back, playmaking receiver and center since then. Against NMSU, quarterback Jordan Webb threw for almost 250 yards, running back James Sims ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns, while receiver D.J. Beshears scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one on a kick return). The Jayhawks will attempt to continue that development against a dangerous Baylor team.
Last time out: W 42-16 vs. New Mexico State
Next time out: at Baylor
12) Iowa State 2-2, 0-1 (LW 12)
The Cyclones entered the season fresh off a victory in the Insight Bowl and had visions of making it back-to-back bowl trips, though it doesn't appear that Iowa State will be making the postseason this year. A loss to beatable Kansas State hurts, but it's a wound that could heal quickly if the Cyclones beat Texas Tech. That's a tall order, as Iowa State will be outclassed at most positions. But they were last year as well when the Cyclones pulled out a shocker over Nebraska. But this is as close to a must win as the Cyclones will see this season. Win, and the Cyclones have some positive momentum heading into a home game against Utah next week. Lose, and the Cyclones could well have a four-game losing streak heading into their next truly winnable game against Kansas at the end of the month. Games against Oklahoma and Texas also loom this October.
Last time out: W 27-0 vs. Northern Iowa
Next time out: Texas Tech