Human polls are a fun and popular way of rating the cumulative performance of college football teams throughout the season, and when it comes time to really zero in on the best teams and how they stand beyond just traditional won-lost records, strength of schedule - or who a team has played and how good those teams are - is a critical basis of measurement.
There are multiple national research services and college football blog sites that evaluate and rank teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Series (formally Division I) on the strength of the opponents on their 2012 schedule, including the NCAA itself. Based on these schedule rankings, the Big 12 has as many as six teams in the top 10 and as many as nine in the top 30. One such service (College Football Universe) ranked all ten conference schools in the top 35.
This isn't that surprising when you consider some of the other power numbers for teams from the Big 12. Seven Big 12 schools are ranked in the USA Today top-25 coaches' poll this week, and two more (Iowa State, Texas Tech) received votes:
Week 5 USA Today Coaches' Poll
8. Kansas State
22. Oklahoma State
Through at least three games, a Big 12 school leads the nation in scoring offense (Oklahoma State, 62.3 points per game), scoring defense (TCU, 4.3 ppg), total offense (Oklahoma State, 686.7 yards per game, is No. 1 and Texas Tech, 597.7 ypg, No. 2) and total defense (Texas Tech, 160.3 ypg).
Want some more supporting evidence that the Big 12 is as strong as ever? The Big 12 leads all major conferences in average total offensive yards per game (503.53) and points scored per game (41.5). The Big 12 also leads all conferences in the following other categories: most yards per offensive play (6.80), most offensive plays per game (74.0), most average pass completions per game (23.7) and fewest turnovers per game (1.47).
All of this speaks to the prolific, pass-oriented offenses that exist throughout the conference. On the defensive side of the ball, the Big 12 ranks fourth among the other BCS conferences, yielding an average of 338.31 yards per game. By comparison with the SEC, however, thought to be the conference where defense is what has won six consecutive national titles, Big 12 teams have given up only five more yards per game than the SEC through all games thus far.
Only two conference games have been played so far, but evidenced by how close Kansas played TCU through most of that game the weekend before last and how Kansas State went into enemy territory last weekend and crimson and creamed top-10 ranked and preseason conference favorite Oklahoma, the Big 12 standings are likely to take a number of different forms over the next 12 weeks.
Kansas State's victory over Oklahoma not only earned the Wildcats a spot in the top 10 and the highest Big 12 ranking in this week's Associated Press media poll but also Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week honors.
Here is this writer's Big 12 Football Power Rankings through Week 4 of the 2012 season:
1. West Virginia - Will get its first Big 12 test this weekend vs. Bayor.
2. Kansas State - Classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
3. TCU - The Horned Frogs are going to sail through the Big 12 like they did in the Mountain West, but they're still one of the best.
4. Oklahoma - When all the talent finally gets on the same page, you won't want to have this team ahead on your schedule. Until then, they're very vulnerable.
5. Texas - Has all the pieces, but how will the Horns perform in a tight game?
6. Oklahoma State - Hard to get a read on this Cowboys team. We'll have a much better idea after this weekend when Texas comes calling.
7. Iowa State - The Cyclones are a team much like Bill Snyder's K-State bunch. They play extremely hard and physical and don't beat themselves.
8. Baylor - The Bear's still have a prolific offense, but can they stop the other Big 12 offenses?
9. Texas Tech - One of the best ninth-place teams in the country, especially when they play at home.
10. Kansas - Charlie Weiss has a quarterback issue, and his defense is not good enough to win in the Big 12, despite the close score vs, TCU.
Follow Big 12 football and news coverage/commentary on all 10 conference teams, with particular emphasis on Kansas State and Kansas, all season long at SB Nation Kansas City.
To find out what's going on in Kansas State football and all K-State sports, visit the blog Bring on the Cats.