Berry’s Big 12 rankings: Surprise team is No. 1 after Week 1

Berry’s Big 12 rankings: Surprise team is No. 1 after Week 1

Too many pollsters make decisions based on what they think teams will do, not what they have done.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Sep 4, 2023, 2:08pm CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Sep 4, 2023, 2:08pm CDT

The Big 12 had a rough opening week. Big 12 teams combined for four losses — twice as many as games played against fellow power-conference schools. The Big 12’s 14 members played just nine games against Division I-A opponents, going 5-4 in those games.

The Big 12 played two games against Power Five conference opponents, going 0-2; seven against mid-majors, going 5-2; and five against Division I-AA foes, going 5-0. So how in the world do you rank the Big 12’s 14 teams?.

Ranking college football teams has become a lark in the age of the College Football Playoff. The Associated Press poll doesn’t matter. The week-behind coaches poll doesn’t matter. Your neighbor’s power rankings don’t matter.

The only poll that matters is the playoff committee’s. It debuts in late October, then is updated weekly leading up to the day after the conference championship games. 

The committee is steadfast in its tenants, including this one: the committee does not project.

The committee does some things that drive me batty, like maintaining a reliance on the eye test, especially for the old football coaches in the room, of whom there are many. The eye test can lead you down the road of thinking about what a team should do, not what it did do.

But the committee largely focuses on three things: Who did you play? Where did you play? How did you do? No looking ahead. 

The Monday ScissorTales in autumn will use that method to rank the Big 12 teams each week, and hopefully the rankings can be instructive on how to gauge teams. My No. 1 team this week is not likely to finish No. 1 or anywhere close to it. But my No. 1 has done the most so far in this one-week season.

Early rankings are dicey no matter the method. For example, who deserves more status — a team that routed a lesser opponent, or a team that lost to a more heralded opponent?

And who knows yet who is a lesser opponent and who is more heralded. 

But ranking teams this early can teach us how to view teams and to quit projecting. Judge teams based on what they’ve done, not what we think they will do.

Here are my initial Big 12 rankings:

  1. Houston 1-0: Why the Cougars No. 1? Houston is the only Big 12 team that beat a team that figures to be good. The Coogs beat Texas-San Antonio 17-14. 
  2. Oklahoma 1-0: The Sooners are ahead of Texas because they led Arkansas State 45-0 at halftime (73-0 final), while UT led Rice 16-3 at halftime (37-10 final).
  3. Texas 1-0: If anyone wants to drop the Red River rivals about six spots, I’ve got no great rebuttal. 
  4. Central Florida 1-0: The Knights routed Kent State 56-6, but the Golden Flashes were picked last in the Mid-American Conference East.
  5. West Virginia 0-1: The Mountaineers hung tough at Penn State before losing 38-15. The Nittany Lions led 14-7 at halftime and just 21-7 after three quarters.
  6. Texas Tech 0-1: Losing to Wyoming (35-33 in double overtime) is not a badge of honor, but no one else is signing up for a game in Laramie.
  7. Texas Christian 0-1: Losing at home to a team coming off an 1-11 season generally is frowned upon. But TCU was wrong place/wrong time. The Horned Frogs got caught in Prime Time. Colorado stunned TCU 45-42; it’s Deion Sanders’ world, and the rest of us are just living in it.
  8. Brigham Young 1-0: The Cougars were unimpressive in beating Sam Houston State 14-0, but at least the Bearkats are eligible to give out 85 scholarships, having just moved up to Division I-A.
  9. Kansas State 1-0: Opening against a I-AA opponent guarantees you’re starting at the bottom. And five Big 12 teams opened against I-AA foes. KSU routed Southeast Missouri State 45-0.
  10. Cincinnati 1-0: UC blasted Eastern Kentucky 66-13, and Eastern was picked to win the new United Conference.
  11. Iowa State 1-0: The roster-ravaged Cyclones whacked Northern Iowa 30-9, and ISU usually has much more trouble with the Panthers.
  12. Kansas 1-0: The Jayhawks beat Missouri State 48-17 but led just 17-10 at halftime.
  13. Oklahoma State 1-0: The Cowboys beat Central Arkansas 27-13, but UCA was within 13-7 in the fourth quarter. Central was picked second in the United Conference, behind Eastern Kentucky.
  14. Baylor 0-1: The Bears lost 42-31 to Texas State, which is Division I-A but was 23-73 since 2014.
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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].
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