Editor’s note: Each week during the 2023 college football season, the Deseret News will release power rankings that take a look at the 16 teams that will make up the Big 12 Conference beginning with the 2024 season.

These rankings will not include Texas and Oklahoma — as those schools are leaving for the Southeastern Conference next year — but will include Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado, the four Pac-12 teams joining the league next season.

Who’s the clear leader of the 16 teams that will make up the Big 12 Conference next season?

Who knows.

There are several programs who could make that case through six weeks of the 2023 season, but there’s no runaway favorite at this point, as Week 6 showcased the unpredictable nature of determining a top dog.

1. West Virginia (4-1)

  • Poll movement: Climbed one spot.
  • Last week: Bye week.
  • This week: Thursday at Houston, 5 p.m. MDT (FS1).

The Mountaineers find themselves atop the power rankings after taking a week off, thanks to 1) West Virginia’s impressive four-game win streak heading into the bye, and 2) another top team, the previous No. 1 Kansas State, losing. Now, the Mountaineers and Oklahoma are the only current-day Big 12 teams unbeaten in conference play.

Utah defensive end Connor O’Toole (81) in action against Oregon State on Sept. 29, 2023, in Corvallis, Ore. Oregon State won 21-7, the Utes’ only loss this season. | Amanda Loman, Associated Press

2. Utah (4-1)

  • Poll movement: Climbed one spot.
  • Last week: Bye week.
  • This week: Saturday vs. California, 1 p.m. (Pac-12 Network).

The injury-ravaged Utes really, really needed a bye week. With one loss in conference play making their chances of three-peating tenuous in a difficult Pac-12, Utah opens October play at home against the Golden Bears before matchups against top-10 opponents USC (on the road) and Oregon (at home) later this month. Those games will dictate just what the Utes can accomplish in their final season in the Pac-12.  

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3. Kansas (5-1)

  • Poll movement: Climbed one spot.
  • Last week: Beat UCF 51-22.
  • This week: Saturday at Oklahoma State, 1:30 p.m. (FS1).

The Jayhawks rebounded nicely from a blowout loss against Texas, taking control against the Knights early — they led 24-0 at halftime — to roll, even with star quarterback Jalon Daniels missing another game because of back tightness. Up next is a road trip to Oklahoma State, which impressed in a victory over Kansas State.

BYU cornerback Eddie Heckard tackles Cincinnati receiver Xzavier Henderson during game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. BYU won 35-27. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

4. BYU (4-1)

  • Poll movement: Climbed one spot.
  • Last week: Bye week.
  • This week: Saturday at TCU, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN).

The Cougars come out of a bye in good shape with the program’s first-ever Big 12 conference win and some momentum in tow. The path forward is daunting, though — after playing at TCU, BYU hosts Texas Tech, then plays at Texas and West Virginia. If the Cougars don’t win any of those games, they’ll need two wins in the final three weeks to become bowl eligible.

Well-rested BYU could be facing a shorthanded TCU team Saturday in Fort Worth

5. Oklahoma State (3-2)

  • Poll movement: Climbed six spots.
  • Last week: Beat Kansas State 29-21.
  • This week: Saturday vs. Kansas, 1:30 p.m. (FS1).

Three weeks ago, the Cowboys looked like they were in big trouble after a lopsided loss to South Alabama. Oklahoma State beating the Wildcats shows just how unpredictable the Big 12 is, though, and now the Cowboys have momentum heading into their third conference game.

6. Kansas State (3-2)

  • Poll movement: Dropped five spots.
  • Last week: Lost to Oklahoma State 29-21.
  • This week: Saturday at Texas Tech, 5 p.m. (FS1).

The Wildcats were dealt their first league loss after falling behind by as many as 19 points in a game where Will Howard threw three interceptions. Kansas State, which has lost two of its past three, will need to clean up its play with a game at the Red Raiders next.

7. Arizona (3-3)

  • Poll movement: Climbed two spots.
  • Last week: Lost to USC 43-41.
  • This week: Saturday at No. 19 Washington State, 4 p.m. (Pac-12 Network).

The Wildcats had their chances to beat then-No. 9 USC, but their upset hopes ended in triple overtime of a gutty performance. That is two straight games where the Wildcats have given a top-10 team a run — what follows next is a matchup against a Cougars team coming off its first loss.

8. Colorado (4-2)

  • Poll movement: Dropped one spot.
  • Last week: Beat Arizona State 27-24.
  • This week: Friday vs. Stanford, 8 p.m. (ESPN).

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Buffaloes snapped a two-game losing streak with a three-point road victory over one-win Arizona State. Colorado should be the favorite again when it hosts moribund Stanford next weekend.

9. Texas Tech (3-3)

  • Poll movement: Climbed one spot.
  • Last week: Beat Baylor 39-14.
  • This week: Saturday vs. Kansas State, 5 p.m. (FS1).

The Red Raiders have rallied from a slow start to the season that included losing their starting quarterback, Tyler Shough, to injury and are on a two-game winning streak with a pair of convincing wins. The next challenge comes from a suddenly reeling Kansas State program.

10. Iowa State (3-3)

  • Poll movement: Climbed three spots.
  • Last week: Beat TCU 27-14.
  • This week: Saturday at Cincinnati, 10 a.m. (FS1).

The Cyclones’ roller-coaster season hit another high last Saturday, with Iowa State taking care of the Horned Frogs. Road games at Cincinnati and Baylor (after a bye) loom, a stretch that could help Iowa State get on a roll heading into the season’s final month.

11. TCU (3-3)

  • Poll movement: Dropped five spots.
  • Last week: Lost to Iowa State 27-14.
  • This week: Saturday vs. BYU, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN).

The Horned Frogs are reeling a bit, with their second straight Big 12 loss to drop to 1-2 in conference play. TCU has questions at QB heading into its matchup with BYU, as Chandler Morris left the loss with an injury.

12. Baylor (2-4)

  • Poll movement: No change.
  • Last week: Lost to Texas Tech 39-14.
  • This week: Bye week.

After the largest comeback in program history in a victory over UCF gave the Bears some hope, the Red Raiders brought them back to Earth regarding Baylor’s current predicament. The Bears avoid both Oklahoma and Texas this year and have some winnable upcoming games, but things aren’t right in Waco. 

13. UCF (3-3)

  • Poll movement: Dropped five spots.
  • Last week: Lost to Kansas 51-22.
  • This week: Bye week.
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The Knights are finding some tough sledding in the Big 12, as they sit at the bottom of the league standings with an 0-3 conference mark. When UCF returns to action in two weeks, it’ll face No. 5 Oklahoma, which just knocked off No. 9 Texas. Good luck.

14. Arizona State (1-5)

  • Poll movement: Climbed one spot.
  • Last week: Lost to Colorado 27-24.
  • This week: Bye week.

Despite being on a five-game losing streak, the Sun Devils have looked much more competitive over the last three weeks and even took a lead into halftime against the Buffaloes. Following the bye week, though, Arizona State faces a juggernaut of a stretch that includes games against Washington, Washington State and Utah.

15. Cincinnati (2-3)

  • Poll movement: Dropped one spot.
  • Last week: Bye week. 
  • This week: Saturday vs. Iowa State, 10 a.m. (FS1).

Like several other teams in these power rankings, the Bearcats were in need of a well-timed bye week, having lost three straight. Cincinnati is still searching for its first conference win as a member of the Big 12, with the Cyclones coming to town.

16. Houston (2-3)

  • Poll movement: No change.
  • Last week: Bye week.
  • This week: Thursday vs. West Virginia, 5 p.m. (FS1).

The Cougars have lost their first two Big 12 conference games by an average of 22 points. It doesn’t get any easier any time soon, either, as Houston has home games against West Virginia and Texas next on the schedule.

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