6) Oklahoma State (2-2, 0-1)
S&P+: 19 (Offense: 6, Defense: 41)
The Cowboys are one referee's call away from a much different spot in this countdown at 3-1 and 1-0 in the league, and probably the No. 3 overall spot. As is, the Cowboys have taken a home loss to a contending team. That hurts, but it's something Texas and Oklahoma have also experienced this season. The key will be where the Cowboys go from here. Will they be the exciting team that gets into firefights with everybody? Or will they find a way to tether together a defensive unit like last year's group, imperfect but opportunistic. That change would be enough to elevate the Cowboys into the league's top five, and potentially into Big 12 title contention. After all, the 'Pokes still have games remaining against four of the top five teams here.
Up Next: at Kansas on Saturday
7) Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1)
S&P+: 17 (Offense: 16, Defense: 22)
The Tech defense didn't quite take it on the nose as much as people are acting, allowing "just" 380 yards to Oklahoma. And one of the Sooners' scores was a defensive one. Still, Landry Jones had his moments against the Tech secondary and was never sacked, and the Sooners entered the contest struggling to find their offensive rhythm. That doesn't bode well for a team set to host rifle-firing West Virginia a week later. The key here will be whether the Red Raider offense can perform up to expectations. Seth Doege threw three interceptions last week, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Do that against the Mountaineers, and the scoreboard might start smoking. Tech has the weapons to compete in a shootout, and the defense to get a few much-needed stops. But the offense has to play up to its potential.
Up Next: West Virginia on Saturday
8) Iowa State (4-1, 1-1)
S&P+: 26 (Offense: 56, Defense: 14)
Every year, the Cyclones bite somebody that people think they shouldn't. Does a Casey Pachall-less TCU qualify? Probably not, though it certainly speaks positively that the Cyclones were able to pull off a win in Fort Worth. That puts Iowa State in a decent spot for a bowl berth. Win just one Big 12 contest at home, and beat Kansas in Lawrence, and the Cyclones are at that six-win mark. Their next chance for a home win, and a shot at pulling off the yearly Cyclone shocker, comes this week against Kansas State. Iowa State always finds a way to make those games interesting, and while they haven't won since Bill Snyder returned in 2009, maybe they're due for a ball to bounce their way. The Wildcats haven't been to Ames since 2007, and Ron Prince and Co. lost that one. Getting great play out of quarterback Jared Barnett is a must.
Up Next: Kansas State on Saturday
9) TCU (4-1, 1-1)
S&P+: 51 (Offense: 71, Defense: 38)
With Pachall out for the rest of the season, a harsh question arises: will the once-ranked Horned Frogs have enough left to make a bowl? TCU has already played, and beaten, the Big 12's consensus worst team 20-6 with Pachall at the helm. And after Iowa State, most people's pick as the No. 9 squad, knocked off TCU at TCU, it's getting difficult to find wins on the Horned Frogs' slate. Gary Patterson is an outstanding coach, and new quarterback Trevone Boykin is not without talent, so it's safe to say TCU will find themselves in a few games with chances to win. But with Texas Tech sitting as potentially the worst team left on the TCU schedule, the depth of the Big 12, and the mammoth blows to the Frogs' depth we've seen, victories will be hard to come by.
Up Next: at Baylor on Saturday
10) Kansas (1-4, 0-2)
S&P+: 93 (Offense: 92, Defense: 85)
The Jayhawks were actually pretty game for a half against the Wildcats last Saturday, keeping it within a score at halftime, and only trailing by 12 points after a second-half safety. But then true freshman Tre Parmalee fumbled the ensuing kickoff, starting an avalanche of errors that buried the Jayhawks before the third quarter was over. Don't expect Kansas to be as close this week. The Cowboys have way too much offensive firepower, and should put a hurting on the Jayhawks by halftime. Kansas's only chance is to perform offensively the way it did in the first half against Kansas State. But even then, it's unlikely the Jayhawks have the depth to take that effort a full four quarters and pull off the win. The Iowa State game in Lawrence still looms large later as the Jayhawks look for their first conference win.
Up Next: Oklahoma State on Saturday