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Ranking the Big 12 Conference: September 23, 2012

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Big 12 Rankings

Big 12
Jerome Miron: US Presswire

A year ago, it appeared that the Big 12 Conference was on the quick path to extinction. Nebraska, seemingly tired of playing second fiddle to some of the other teams in the conference, departed for the Big 10 while Colorado set their sites on the Pac 12. The following year, both Missouri and Texas A&M bolted for the SEC. Rumors swirled that some of the top remaining teams in the conference were looking elsewhere as well. Yet here they are, months later, and the Big 12 conference is back and quite possibly better than ever with the West Virginia Mountaineers and the TCU Horned Frogs joining the ranks.

The newly-realigned Big 12 conference has had arguably the best season of any of the other college football conferences so far this season. Nine out of the 10 teams in the conference are ranked in the top 40, and 7 conference teams are ranked in the Top 25 USA Today/Coaches poll.

Some claim that, top-to-bottom, the Big 12 could be the strongest conference this year. Throughout the first quarter of the season, the Big 12 holds the best out-of-conference record thus far, sitting at 25 wins to just 3 losses, and holds the best OOC winning percentage with an impressive 89.3%

Here is an early look at how the Big 12 conference is shaping up this season.

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No. 1 West Virginia Mountaineers

James Lang: US Presswire

One of the newest members in the conference, the No. 7 West Virginia Mountaineers, seem to be sitting in the driver's seat to win the Big 12 during their first season. Led by Heisman hopeful senior quarterback Geno Smith, the Mountaineers head into conference play with a 3-0 record, averaging 47 points per game. In their Big 12 debut next weekend, they will host the No. 25 Baylor Bears. Though it's still early in the year, the Mountaineers seem to be the team to beat in the Big 12 this season.

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No. 2 Kansas State Wildcats

Matthew Emmons: US Presswire

Fresh off wins over Missouri State, Miami, and a closer-than-it-should-have-been victory over North Texas, the Kansas State Wildcats stormed into Norman on Saturday ready to take on the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners. They left with a 24-19 upset victory over the Sooners to move their record to 4-0 on the season, 1-0 in conference play. Some argue that the Wildcats could possibly be the best team in the conference as it stands now, with both their offense and defense looking strong, plus they have a signature win over a Top 10 team under their belts. Next week they have a bye weekend before taking on their in-state rivals, the Kansas Jayhawks, in Manhattan.

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No. 3 Texas Longhorns

Brendan Maloney: US Presswire

After a win over Ole Miss in Oxford last Saturday which could be considered the 3-0 Texas Longhorns most complete game in the last two seasons, they had a bye this weekend. With the offense, led by David Ash, finally firing on all cylinders, all that remains is for the defense to live up to their expectations. If that happens, and if the offense can continue to improve from week to week, Texas could really surprise some people this year. However, next weekend, they will travel to Stillwater to kick-off a brutal three-game stretch during which they will face Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Oklahoma . Heading into the season, many thought the Horns were a year away from getting back to the top, and they still likely are, but if their offense continues to improve at the rate it has, they could be ahead of schedule.

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No. 4 TCU Horned Frogs

Jerome Miron: US Presswire

The TCU Horned Frogs won their Big 12 conference debut two weeks ago with a 20-6 win over the Kansas Jayhawks, which they followed up with a 27-7 win over the Virginia Cavaliers. The 3-0 Horned Frogs are No. 1 in the country in points against, allowing just 4.3 points per game so far. Up next, they take on their cross-town, non-conference foe, the SMU Mustangs before resuming conference play on October 6th against the Iowa State Cyclones in their Big 12 home opener. It looks like the Horned Frogs could have another solid season this year.

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No. 5 Oklahoma Sooners

Richard Rowe: US Presswire

The Oklahoma Sooners suffered an upset at the hands of the Kansas State Wildcats Saturday, sending them plummeting from the No. 6 spot in the country down to No. 16. For whatever reason, the Sooners' offense does not appear to be clicking as well as it did last season. But the Sooners are not done. They have enough talent to claw their way back into the Big 12 title race, and they certainly won't go down without a fight. They are off next weekend before heading up to Lubbock to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders the first weekend of October before their Red River Showdown vs. the arch rival Texas Longhorns the following Saturday.

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No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys

Richard Rowe: US Presswire

After beginning the season with a resounding 84-0 win over Div. 1-AA Savannah State, the Oklahoma State Cowboys fell to the Arizona Wildcats, giving up 59 points in the loss. They followed their first loss of the season with a convincing 55-24 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, but lost their starting quarterback, Wes Lunt in the process. However, J.W. Walsh stepped in for the freshman QB, and it appeared that the Cowboys' offense didn't miss a beat. Yet if OSU hopes to repeat last year's Big 12 title this season, their defense needs to find a way to step up. Though they led the country in scoring, they are 81st in points scored against them, giving up nearly 28 per game. They will host the Texas Longhorns in Stillwater next weekend in a game that could determine the way the rest of their season unfolds.

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No. 7 Texas Tech Red Raiders

Michael Johnson: US Presswire

The Texas Tech Red Raiders have started the season off 3-0 with convincing wins over Northwestern State, Texas State, and New Mexico, but through three games we still can't be sure what to expect from the Red Raiders. Their offense and defense both rank in the top 10, but those lofty numbers came against weaker competition. Up next they travel to Iowa State to take on the Cyclones, which could prove to be an interesting match-up.

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No. 8 Baylor Bears

Jerome Miron: US Presswire

The Baylor Bears had the monumental task of replacing Heisman trophy winner, Robert Griffin III this season, and it appears that their offense is still going strong. However, since a convincing win over SMU in their season-opener, the Bears have had played a couple of games that were much closer than the final score indicates. They outlasted Louisiana-Monroe this weekend, which pushed them into the top 25 for the first time this season. It will be interesting to see how the Bears fare against stiffer competition, and their trip to Morgantown to take on West Virginia next weekend will show us what they're really made of. The offense will score points this year; the question is, will their defense be able to stop offenses that are just as strong?

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No. 9 Iowa State Cyclones

Reese Strickland: US Presswire

The Iowa State Cyclones are another Big 12 team which we don't yet know much about, though it seems that head coach Paul Rhoades could have them headed in the right direction. They started the season 3-0, including a 9-7 win over in-state rival, the Iowa Hawkeyes. Next weekend they will host the Texas Tech Red Raiders, a team that will be a good test for the Cyclones and should tell us more about them.

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No. 10 Kansas Jayhawks

John Rieger: US Presswire

The Kansas Jayhawks have started the season with a 1-3 record, but in all fairness, they are breaking in first-year coach Charlie Weiss. Their sole win this year came against South Dakota State in their season opener, followed by losses to Rice, TCU, and Northern Illinois. It looks like it could be another tough season for Jayhawks fans, who may already be counting down to basketball season, especially with a trip to Manhattan, KS in two week looming on the horizon.