Kansas State is third this week in both the AP media poll and the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, but the Big 12-leading Wildcats are No. 2 in the ranking that counts the most: the BCS standings.
The Wildcats stand a perfect 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the conference with three games remaining in the 2012 regular season. Their chances of running the table and going undefeated heading into the bowl season are actually greater than the other three undefeated teams that are battling with K-State for one of the top two spots in the BCS standings, which determines the two teams that will play for the national championship.
The broader question, however, is: Will Kansas State's overall body of work be enough to keep the Cats No. 2 in the BCS if Alabama, Oregon and Notre Dame, all still undefeated, also win out? That's a question that might be harder to answer than who will win the 2012 presidential election. One thing is certain, though: A perfect record will keep the Wildcats very much in the conversation.
Besides Kansas State, Oklahoma is the only team in the Big 12 with fewer than two losses and the only team with a chance to share or capture the conference crown, assuming the Wildcats win at least two of their next three games.
Four Big 12 teams are ranked in the BCS top 25 through Week 10: 2. Kansas State, 12. Oklahoma, 17. Texas, 22. Texas Tech. West Virginia, TCU and Oklahoma State had been previously ranked in the top 25 this season in the human polls.
Looking back to the preseason polls, it is interesting that most of the college football analysts and preview publications, including the Big 12 coaches, picked Oklahoma as the conference favorite and had Kansas State somewhere in the middle of the pack. In the Big 12 coaches' preseason poll, OU garnered 32 of the 41 first-place votes, West Virginia received seven and TCU and Kansas State one apiece.
Yours truly had Kansas State to finish fifth, with Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU and Texas rounding out the preseason top five. West Virginia and Texas Tech have been the biggest surprises so far. The Mountaineers have fallen five positions, while the Red Raiders have exceeded preseason expectations, moving up five spots.
The intersection of West Virginia's and Texas Tech's opposite-direction movement in the standings as well as in the power rankings is their Oct. 13 matchup in Lubbock, when the Red Raiders torched the Mountaineers, 49-14, handing them the first of what turned out to be three consecutive defeats, two of them by more than four touchdowns, after the Mountaineers started the season at 5-0
At the three-quarter pole mark in the 2012 Big 12 football season, here are the conference power rankings - based on how overall teams strength and how good the teams are at this point in the season, not just on where they sit in the standings. Following the power rankings is a look at Big 12 football by the numbers.
Big 12 Power Rankings (as of Nov. 5)
1. Kansas State - Stands out in all facets of the game and doesn't beat itself.
2. Oklahoma - One of the country's best teams, but only when it plays error-free heads-up football, which isn't all of the time.
3. Texas - Best overall talent in the conference, but not well coached.
4. Texas Tech - When the Red Raiders finally get consistently good defensive play, watch out!
5. Oklahoma State - Mike Gundy's team is very young, but very talented and well coached. A year away, perhaps, from regaining elite status in the league.
6. TCU - Losing their starting quarterback hurt, but this is far from one of coach Gary Patterson's better Horned Frog teams.
7. West Virginia - What a free fall the last three weeks. Explosive offense, but they can't stop anybody, which doesn't play well in the offensive-minded Big 12.
8. Iowa State - Very well coached with a good defense. Coach Paul Rhoades gets the most out of the talent he has. He just doesn't have enough of it.
9. Baylor - Sound offensive punch, but no defense.
10. Kansas - There's a big drop off between the Jayhawks and ninth-place Baylor. Kansas has lost 18 consecutive Big 12 games and 29 of the last 30.
Big 12 football by the numbers
0 - Points scored this season off of Kansas State turnovers.
5 - Texas Tech has played five consecutive ranked opponents (Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State and Texas) in the past five weeks.
5 - Five Big 12 teams (Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, TCU and Texas Tech) are already bowl eligible for this postseason, having achieved six or more wins.
4 - Victories needed for Kansas State to have the winningest season and first unbeaten football season in school history.
7 - The Big 12 has seven of the top 17 teams in the country in scoring offense.
20 - Since Bob Stoops took over the head-coaching job at Oklahoma, the Sooners are 20-0 in games immediately following a loss.
36 - Thirty-six percent of Big 12 scoring drives this season have taken five or less plays
81 - Big 12 teams have scored on 81 percent of their possessions inside the red zone this season.
87 - Since 1990, Kansas State has scored 87 non-offensive touchdowns, the most in the nation over that time frame.
111 - Points scored off of opponents' turnovers by Kansas State this season.
500 - Oklahoma State has exceeded 500 yards in total offense in six out of eight games this season.
3,298 - Baylor quarterback Nick Florence has 3,298 yards of total offense (3,019 passing, 279 rushung) through eight games this season to lead the Big 12. That's 725 yards more than Kansas State's Collin Klein, who ranks sixth in the conference in total offense.
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For complete news coverage, analysis and statistical information, visit the Big 12 Conference website.