Big 12 power rankings settle with two weeks left

Here's a look at the Big 12's power rankings after last week.

1. Texas: The Longhorns didn’t have to sweat much against Baylor, jumping to a 40-0 halftime lead and cruising from there to another easy victory. Cody Johnson and Tre’ Newton both emerged in their new roles as the team’s featured running backs. And the second- and third-stringers on defense struggled enough late to endure the wrath of Will Muschamp in practice this week. The defense will get a challenge over the next two weeks as it faces two teams ranked among the top 17 in passing in the nation in Kansas and Texas A&M. That might be best for their hopes for a Big 12 title -- and beyond.

2. Oklahoma State: After struggling in the first half, the Cowboys turned to a bruising running game to subdue Texas Tech. Zac Robinson paid the price for that and might not be ready to go this week. But Kendall Hunter is getting better every week, adding another weapon to the conference’s best ground attack. And Bill Young’s defense is growing into a determined unit. The Cowboys have a short work week heading into the Colorado game before Bedlam. Win them both and OSU might have better BCS at-large hopes than most might expect.

3. Nebraska: Roy Helu Jr.’s return has finally given the Cornhuskers an offensive weapon they can lean on and Niles Paul gives them an emerging game-breaker. The results have pushed them into the driver’s seat for the divisional championship. The Bo Pelini vs. Bill Snyder rivalry will have an intriguing first matchup when they meet Saturday with the North title at stake.

4. Oklahoma: Nothing like a couple of big special-teams plays to help jump-start a sputtering offense. The Sooners got that and more and were able to use those breaks to spark a feeding frenzy against Texas A&M with 51 unanswered points. Landry Jones bounced back from his struggles against Nebraska to throw five touchdown passes and DeMarco Murray showed why he is the most versatile running back in the league. A tough battle at Texas Tech looms, but the Sooners should be heading to Lubbock with a lot of confidence after their skewering of the Aggies.

5. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders’ quarterback controversy continued as Taylor Potts started against Oklahoma State before he was pulled in favor of Steven Sheffield, who played until his injured foot gave out. The Red Raiders played well in the first half before their defense wore out under the pounding against Oklahoma State in the second half. They won’t face nearly the inside running challenge against Oklahoma, a team they have beaten in Lubbock in their last two tries there. The winner of this game likely is headed for San Antonio with the loser ticketed for El Paso.

6. Missouri: Danario Alexander has emerged in the nick of time to boost the Tigers to a bowl trip. He’s playing like the Big 12’s most explosive offensive weapon after back-to-back 200-yard receiving games. But just as impressive against Kansas State was a determined defense that limited the Wildcats to four field goals. And the Tigers finally converted turnovers into points with three KSU miscues turned into touchdowns. Before Saturday, the last time the Tigers had turned a turnover into a touchdown had come Sept. 25 against Nevada.

7. Kansas State: Bill Snyder’s team threw their first home clunker in an embarrassing 38-12 loss to Missouri. But they can turn those bad memories around quickly in a Big 12 title game-or-bust matchup at Nebraska. If the Wildcats win, they qualify for their first Big 12 title game since 2003. If they lose, they are eliminated from bowl contention.

8. Texas A&M: Special-teams mistakes were a killer for the Aggies against Oklahoma, along with a litany of other mistakes. Troubles fielding kicks, running and passing helped lead to the blowout loss to Oklahoma. The Aggies had three fumbles and an interception that all led to touchdowns against the Sooners. And they struggled offensively, producing season lows in passing yards and total yards in their worst loss of the season. But they can put all those demons behind them by beating Baylor and qualifying for a bowl game on Saturday.

9. Iowa State: Paul Rhoads put a capper on his remarkable first season by earning bowl eligibility. A defense that had been blistered for an average of 34.5 points in its last two games limited Colorado to a season-low 10 points, with only three points in three trips inside the ISU 10. These Cyclones aren’t the most talented team, but they have played with grit and determination all season long for Rhoads. And the practices around the bowl trip will be important in developing his team for the future.

10. Baylor: The Bears still have slim bowl hopes if they can sweep Texas A&M and Texas Tech in their final two games. But they looked outmanned against Texas in a blowout loss where a couple of late touchdowns made the score look a little less embarrassing. If the Bears have any hope at Texas A&M, they need to be able to take advantage of the Aggies’ weak secondary with their underrated passing attack.

11. Kansas: What happened to these guys? Only a month ago, they were ranked No. 16 in the nation after starting the season 5-0. Coach Mark Mangino hyped starting quarterback Todd Reesing as a potential Heisman candidate. Five losses later, the Jayhawks are struggling mightily and will be challenged to even make a bowl trip. One of Mangino’s most talented teams will be remembered more for its late-season swoon, taking away from what the Jayhawks have accomplished in recent seasons.

12. Colorado: Remember when this team was going to “win 10 games with no excuses” before the season? Instead, Dan Hawkins’ boast rings hollow as the Buffaloes were the first team in the Big 12 eliminated from bowl consideration with their seventh loss. The Buffaloes have the conference’s longest road losing streak with 12 games. And it won’t get any easier as they face a huge challenge heading into Oklahoma State on a short week.