Oklahoma football: Who’s the top team in Big 12 after Week 2?

Oct 23, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; A general view of the Big 12 Conference logo on the field after the game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Oklahoma Sooners at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 23, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; A general view of the Big 12 Conference logo on the field after the game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Oklahoma Sooners at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /

The Big 12 is a collective 16-4 through the first two weeks of the college football season, and Oklahoma football is one of seven teams that remain undefeated at 2-0.

It’s intriguing that two of the best teams in the conference have already lost a game, but to a couple of very good opponents, and a team that hasn’t won more than three games in the past 12 seasons has two impressive wins already two games into the season.

The Big 12 Preseason Media Poll picked Baylor to repeat as conference champion in 2022. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas were the next in line. A couple of weeks ago, yours truly also posted a projected order of finish for Big 12 teams this season. The two forecasts are markedly different.

There was a time in college football history when an entire season was comprised of two games. The game is much different today, of course, which is why no one throws in the towel or holds a celebration after a couple of games in a 12-game regular season.

The reason every team looks like a champion this time of year is because teams like Oklahoma typically schedule just one Power Five opponent, if that, in the nonconference portion of the season schedule.

The Sooners have played two teams that compete in the upper division of college ball (known as the Football Bowl Subdivision or FBS), but both are considered mid-major teams and because Oklahoma took care of business rather handily against both opponents, the jury is still out on how good this Sooner team might be.

Texas, on the other hand, is coming off arguably the most difficult opponent you could schedule at this stage of the season. The Longhorns hosted No. 1-ranked Alabama last Saturday. Only Ohio State or Georgia would perhaps be a more difficult challenge. Texas lost the game, but only by one point on an Alabama field goal late in the fourth quarter.

There had been questions all offseason about how good the Longhorns would really be in head coach Steve Sarkisian’s second season. The game against Alabama gives us a pretty good idea.

Baylor also played a top-25 opponent over the weekend, going on the road to play BYU in Utah. The top 10-ranked Bears also lost, 26-20, but they took it into overtime before they did, and winning on the road is difficult for any team.

And don’t look now, but the Kansas Jayhawks lead the Big 12 heading into Week 3 of the full college schedule, courtesy of a 55-42 win at West Virginia.

It’s still far too early to get excited about where we’re at today in the Big 12 conference race, but if the season were to end today, what would the pecking order look like based on what we know about the Big 12 teams after just two games. Here is my take and, importantly, why I see it this way:

1. Texas Longhorns

The Longhorns proved their mettle going toe to toe with arguably the best team in college football for a full 60 minutes. And they did so with their backup quarterback. The offense wasn’t as sharp after Quinn Ewers went down with an injury in the opening half, but the defense was nails against a good Alabama offense. This Texas team appears to be for real. We’ll find out for sure on Oct. 8 in the Red River Showdown.

2. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys have a four-year starter, Spencer Sanders, at quarterback. That’s going to win you a lot of games to start with. OSU is averaging 46.0 points in its two wins, but the defense is also allowing 30.5 points. The Cowboy defense isn’t as good as it was a year ago, but it’s still good enough to win most of its Big 12 games.

3. Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners have two wins of over 30 points each. Yet there are critics that say the two wins are against mid-major teams that aren’t very good, and the perennial high-powered OU offense of past seasons may not be its old self. Some of this is still lingering doubt and uncertainty about OU under Brent Venables that has carried over from the offseason.

We’ll find out a little more about this team after the Nebraska game this weekend, although the Huskers aren’t really that good either, evidenced by the fact they fired their coach, a former Husker player and alum, after the team’s second loss of the season last weekend. The week after, Kansas State comes to Norman. We’ll see OU’s real identity and promise after the next two games.

4. Baylor Bears

The reigning Big 12 champions were exposed a little by a good BYU defense and having to travel to the higher elevation in Utah to play an early season road contest against a top-25 team. The Bears will be able to get back on track when they host Texas State on Saturday to close out their nonconference schedule. There’s a better than good chance they’ll be there at season’s end just as everybody expected.

5. Kansas State Wildcats

Kansas State has what could be the best running back in the country in Deuce Vaughn. His low center of gravity and quick acceleration make him a major breakaway threat and a real-time nightmare for defensive coordinators. As always, this Wildcat team plays stingy, tough-minded defense. They make you earn wins, and they don’t beat themselves.

6. TCU Horned Frogs

TCU is off this weekend after going 2-0 the first two weeks of the season. The Horned Frogs are second in the conference in both scoring (48.5) and total offense (521.5). Longtime head coach Gary Patterson has left the program, so some drop off in defensive performance in expected, but the offensive firepower they’ve shown thus far is good enough to mask any defensive deficiencies. TCU opened the season with an impressive 38-13 win at Colorado. Three weeks from now, Oklahoma will pay the Horned Frogs a visit.

7. Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State took some heavy personnel losses from last season, but the Cyclones appear to have reloaded nicely, and they picked up a big rivalry win last weekend beating Iowa, albeit narrowly, on the road. ISU is capable of beating any team in the Big 12 and is especially tough when playing at home, which is where the Cyclones will be when they face Oklahoma on Oct. 27 this season. Iowa State is one of the seven Big 12 teams that is off to a 2-0 record to start the season.

8. Kansas Jayhawks

The Jayhawks may be the most underrated team in the Big 12 this season. They’re off to a 2-0 start that includes an eye-opening 55-42 overtime win at West Virginia. At one point in the West Virginia game, Kansas trailed 21-7. The KU offense is averaging 55.5 points a game in the two victories. This Jayhawk team is legit. Coach Lance Leipold has Kansas believing in themself and living up to it. Kansas has another big test this weekend, traveling to play Houston, and then is back home to close out the nonconference schedule against Duke. The Jayhawks open the Big 12 season at home on Oct. 1, hosting Iowa State.

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech blew out Murray State 63-10 in its season opener at home, but it took two overtimes for the Red Raiders to dispose of visiting Houston, 33-30. The Red Raiders are going to win some games in the Big 12, and are capable of pulling off an upset, but they just aren’t as good as at least seven other teams in the league. Tech has a tough assignment this week at North Carolina State, and it gets even tougher the following week, when Texas comes to town for the conference opener.

10. West Virginia Mountaineers

Kansas may have caught West Virginia at the right time last week. The Mountaineers were coming off a heartbreaking 38-31 defeat to Pittsburgh on national television. I don’t envision the Mountaineers finishing last in the conference this season, but the fact is they are winless after two games and one of those losses was a Big 12 home game.