Well folks, it's that time of year again. Actually, not really, but the talk about college football season has been ramping up over the past two weeks or so. Figured why not join in right? Not only that, but there are new teams to talk about when it comes to the Big 12. Cincinatti, BYU, UCF, and Houston will all be included in this iteration of the way too early Big 12 rankings. Let's jump on in, shall we?
Well, just one more year of dealing with Texas being overhyped only to underwhelm once again (More than likely) Look, I hate this #1 pick as much as the next Texas hater (There's a lot of them) but this may be a sort of "last dance" year for the Texas football program. They have one of their best squads they've had since the late 2000s offensively even with the Bijan Robinson departure, their defense steadily improved throughout the year and only lost one or two key pieces, and overall, their spring game tape looks pretty good. Does this mean Texas will go out and win it all? Eh, as Taylor Swift once said, "I think I've seen this film before, and I didn't like the ending." In this case though, I would relish in a patented Texas football choke. For now, I'll go with the so-called experts, I guess.
2. Kansas: Predicted Record 10-2
Oh, you thought I was done with my Kansas football hot takes??? Did you not learn from last year when I was super right about my predictions and made people eat their words regarding Kansas football? That's right folks, I'm picking Kansas to finish 2nd in the Big 12. I'd pick them #1 but I'd rather jinx Texas then my boys in Crimson & Blue. Kansas has one of the highest numbers of returning players in all of Division 1 football. They return 9 of 11 players on offense, 8 of 11 on defense, 17 of 22 starters total. That in of itself is impressive, but when you think of some of the talent that's returning. Jalon Daniels, the ENTIRE group of starting wide receivers and tight ends, Devin Neal, Kenny Logan, Jr, Craig Young, Cobee Bryant, the list goes on. Not to mention Daniel Hishaw coming back from injury and a loaded transfer class. Going bowling is no longer the main goal with this Kansas team, they have their sights set on a Big 12 title and have the arsenal to do it. It's time to prove last year wasn't a fluke, and I think KU can step up to the plate.
3. Kansas State: Predicted Record 9-3
Kansas State is a peculiar team. They lost Adrian Martinez, Deuce Vaughan, Felix Anundike-Uzomah, Kade Warner, and other key pieces. However, they still have Will Howard, Cooper Beebe, Phillip Brooks, and others. They also have transfers Treshaun Ward and Keagan Johnson further bolstering the offense, but that lack of depth at the skill player positions may hurt. Defensively, they're certainly above average, and I'd argue they're the side of the ball to watch this year. Kobe Savage, Austin Moore, Brendan Mott, and Uso Seumalo are all All-American caliber type players that could prove to make this Kansas State defense a force to be reckoned with. My only question is their pass rush, which takes a big hit with the loss of FAU. They'll still be a solid unit that will play the best of the best in the conference and country tight.
4. Oklahoma: Predicted Record 9-3
This is not last year's Oklahoma team, provided that Brett Venables can put last year behind him. That being said, he's not the only part of this team, and this team has certainly gotten better with the progression of the offseason. A few new additions along with Dillion Gabriel offensively have this team sitting pretty for a comeback year, but the major question is the defense. Brett Venables is a defensive minded coach, so why is it that Oklahoma's defense allowed an average 30 points per game last year? (Other than of course, being a Big 12 defense) Venables brought on talent to bolster this ailing defense, but it's still young talent in need of development. Luckily, this will be the first group of players fully under Venables, so there's room for optimism, that and the returning players will have that experience as well. IF Oklahoma can prove they have a defense, then I think they can certainly make a lot of noise this year and even compete for a Big 12 title. Mind you, it's OU's last dance in the Big 12 too, so expect them to make every effort to go after a final Big 12 championship.
5. Texas Tech: Predicted record 8-4
Texas Tech looks absolutely solid heading into this year, so much has improved for this squad and they look to be on the cusp of a potential run at the Big 12 title. They return a ton of starters, had an excellent transfer class, improved their offensive line, and have a potential NFL talent at QB with Tyler Shough. Their defense has a ton of talent still even with the departure of Tyree Wilson and will harass opposing quarterbacks throughout the year. Analyst Brett McMurphy predicted this team to face Alabama in the Cotton Bowl this year, and I firmly believe they could do it. They'll have stiff competition but are up to the task.
6. Baylor: Predicted record 7-5
Baylor is the most "above average" team in the nation, I feel like. Are they good? Kind of. Can they really, really stink sometimes? Once or twice in a blue moon. This year is not a whole lot different than last year. They bring back their entire solid running back corps along with Blake Shapen, who showed flashes his first year starting multiple games last year. Defensively though? This team could be in for a rough go if they do not improve from last year. They struggled against the big-time offenses of the Big 12, however with Dave Aranda being a former defensive coordinator I doubt he lets that go on for too much longer. They didn't really add anybody of note via transfer or recruiting, but don't count them out. I still think if this team gets hot, they'll get going and make a push.
7. Cincinatti: Predicted Record 7-5
We finally see our first newcomer. I'm not gonna sugarcoat it: The newcomers are in for a culture shock. I think Cincinatti is the most prepared out of all of them to take it on. A team that just 2 years ago was competing in the College Football Playoff, Cincinatti has seen the bright lights before. They also have a cake walk of a debut Big 12 schedule. No Texas, no Texas Tech, no Kansas State, literally their toughest opponent is either Oklahoma or Kansas, both at home in Cincy. With a serviceable offense and an above average defense, Cincy could certainly make a case if they can adjust quickly, but that's up to chance. For now, I have them steadily in the middle of the pack.
8. UCF: Predicted Record 6-6
UCF has John Rhys Plumlee, which is a major plus. He's a dual-threat, NFL-caliber talent that can allow this team to go far. That's about it for pure star power though. They'll have a decent offensive line with Marcellus Marshall and Lokahi Pauole. They lack in skill players which will hurt. They'll have a solid pass rush with Tre'mon Morris-Brash and Ricky Barber, but that's it for defense. Overall, UCF is another team that has certainly seen the bright lights before as well, but they'll need to adjust to regularly playing Power 5 talent. It's an adjustment I think they make, but not as easily as some might think.
9. TCU: Predicted Record 6-6
Wait, you mean to tell me the team that made it all the way to the National Championship falls this hard. Yup, and I'll tell you why. First and foremost, they were absolutely gutted by the Draft, players graduating, and players transferring. They didn't do much to remedy that either, which lands them here. Don't get me wrong, they still have talent on the roster. A few key defensive players in the back six as well as Trey Sanders, but offensively Sanders is just about it in terms of playmakers. Max Duggan is gone, Quinton Johnston is gone, and this offense looks completely different than it did last year. TCU may not be nearly as good as they were last year, but they'll still grab a few wins and more than likely be bowl eligible. They didn't do a good enough job keeping up with the horses of the Big 12 though, and they'll suffer for it.
10. Oklahoma State: Predicted Record 6-6
Oklahoma State looks...well...OK (Get it?) I don't expect much to change from last year. Mike Gundy, I think is on his last legs in coaching and will retire soon, the roster didn't change too much from last year, and overall, this team really doesn't have a ton of star power. They'll improve, certainly, but not by much. They lost key pieces in the offense that so desperately needed them and will have to make do with what they have. Defensively, it's gonna be much of the same, unfortunately. Another chronically average year for the Pokes is on the horizon, I fear, and it may mean happy trails to one of my favorite personalities in college football, Coach Gundy.
I'll hold off on talking at length about the others on this list, as I fear this list is getting a bit long with each explanation. The rest goes as follows (With a short explanation):
11. BYU: Predicted Record 5-7. Not enough star power, has looked average even when playing group of 5 competition, doesn't have the defense to hold down high-powered offenses. Offense still solid, but will not be able to keep up with most of the offenses on this list.
12. Iowa State: Predicted record 5-7. Will take a step up from last year, but not by much. Defensive losses will prove costly but offensively there's promise. Could shock a few people but don't count on it.
13. West Virginia: Predicted record 4-8. I couldn't name a single player on their roster off the top of my head...that should say enough. Could prove me wrong, but don't expect much sans a couple of potential shockers.
14. Houston: Predicted record 3-9. Boom or bust team and I predict bust. Doesn't have the horses to keep up with the rest of these teams and has proven to really underperform against Power 5 competition. Their offense could prove to be solid, but way too many questions on defense.
And there you have it, my full Big 12 predictions for the 2023 football season. What are your thoughts? Anything you agree with? Disagree with? Any potential risers or fallers? Let me know in the comments below!
Burn Notice: 7/10 Sparking up some hot takes 3 months before the season.