Post-Spring Big 12 Football Power Rankings
Spring football in the Big 12 has come and gone, and teams and staffs have a little better idea of what they have going into the 2023 football season.
Sure, there are still several months between now and kickoff, but we at least have an idea of where teams stand heading into the early summer months.
Without knowing what each team has coming in for mid-year enrollees or how much things will change, here’s a look at our post-spring power rankings for Big 12 football.
1.) Kansas State Wildcats
The Kansas State Wildcats didn’t have a spring game for us to go off of, but the return of Will Howard, as well as the Big 12’s best offensive line unit, gives us enough confidence to give the Wildcats the edge for now. Chris Klieman added one of the best transfer running backs in the country in Treshaun Ward, which should help offset the loss of Deuce Vaughn. Defensively, K-State should remain strong as they have been for years. The margin isn’t huge, but the reigning Big 12 champs are atop our Power Rankings for now.
2.) Texas Longhorns
At some point Texas has got to turn a corner with all that talent in Austin, right? In Steve Sarkisian’s third season, the Longhorns need to be legitimate Big 12 contenders, and right now we believe they are. Quinn Ewers needs to show improvement from last season and made a few throws last weekend that showed some development for the redshirt sophomore. With all kinds of weapons around him, the offense should be fantastic, especially with a loaded O-line. Defensively, Texas might be even better than it was a season ago, and if it is, Texas will be good.
3.) Oklahoma Sooners
After watching Oklahoma this Saturday, the roster certainly has more playmakers defensively as several newcomers were making plays all day long. Jeff Lebby and Bill Bedenbaugh have had rave reviews about the Sooners’ offensive line, which was patchwork on Saturday. If the Sooners can run the ball, and are improved defensively, they will fare much better in one-score games, which OU was 0-5 in in 2022. Plus, with Dillon Gabriel returning, the Sooners have the pieces in place to turn things around in Year 2 under Brent Venables.
4.) Texas Tech Red Raiders
Joey McGuire has things rolling in Lubbock and it appears that he has two quarterbacks capable of taking things to the next level in Zach Kittley’s scheme. Tech does lose star defensive end Tyree Wilson, but folks around the program feel very good about the pass-rushing situation inside Jones AT&T Stadium. The upward trend that Texas Tech ended with last season should carry over into the 2023 season, and if it does, Texas Tech might just be this year’s Kansas State: the Big 12’s “Dark Horse.”
5.) Baylor Bears
Baylor’s offense needs to take steps in 2023, and with the addition of Sawyer Robertson, it might have a real quarterback controversy on its hands. Robertson is a former four-star QB transfer from Mississippi State that offers a completely different skillset than incumbent starter Blake Shapen. If Jeff Grimes can tap into that skillset and get the most out of Baylor’s run game and play-action, the Bears should be tough again. Defensively, we expect the Bears to be improved, and much of that falls on our trust in Dave Aranda.
6.) TCU Horned Frogs
The defending national runner-ups have a lot to replace after their run to the National Championship game last season. The good news is, Chandler Morris is at quarterback and will be a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators to prepare for. The bad news is that nearly 100% of the Horned Frogs’ offensive production from a season ago is gone, and so too is play-caller Garrett Riley. Kendal Briles is certainly capable of keeping this offense humming, but can he possibly approach the numbers that carried TCU through the Big 12 regular season unscathed in 2022?
7.) UCF Knights
John Rhys Plumlee returns for the Knights and gives UCF fans a lot to be excited about in their first year in the Big 12. Gus Malzahn has enough pieces to the roster to be competitive in Year 1, which puts them in the best spot of any of the newcomers. UCF will have through several of the Big 12’s toughest road environments, including Manhattan, Norman, and Lubbock, but it will have the talent to compete in almost every game it plays.
8.) Kansas Jayhawks
Look at this, a preseason power rankings list that doesn’t have Kansas at the very bottom? What is this, 2008? Nope. It’s 2023, and the Kansas football program has as much life as its had in years. Lance Leipold has folks in Lawrence thinking about back-to-back bowl berths, and with Jalon Daniels back, that is completely possible. The Jayhawks will have one of the Big 12’s top offenses in 2023, and if it can get just a little bit better defensively, the Jayhawks could be a tough out again this season.
9.) Oklahoma State Cowboys
It doesn’t feel right putting Oklahoma State this low on the list and Mike Gundy will, most likely, prove me to be a fool once the season starts. However, the facts are the facts. OSU got worst at quarterback, worse along the offensive line, and lost the vast majority of its playmakers from a defense that struggled in big moments last year. Plus, depth at several key positions, including wide receiver, took a hit. The Pokes won’t be a cellar-dweller in the new look Big 12, but it’s hard to see them as a contender either. For now, they are a middle-of-the-pack team, just like Coach Gundy likes it.
10.) BYU Cougars
Kalani Sitake brings in a group that was expected to be a New Year’s Six contender in 2022, but managed to win just eight games. BYU did win its final four games of the season, and although they lost Jaren Hall, Kedon Slovis is capable of winning football games for the Cougars. The personnel jump into the Big 12 might be tough though, and I think it might take a year for the western-most Big 12 squad to adjust.
11.) Iowa State Cyclones
Last season,.Iowa State was the worst offense in the Big 12, and it landed them dead last in the conference. If that changes in 2023, Iowa State could climb this list and quickly. J.J. Kohl is waiting in the wings if Hunter Dekkers can’t get it done, and after losing Xavier Hutchinson, it might be tough. Matt Campbell is as underrated of a coach as there is though, and can turn this squad into a bowl team if his offense could produce just a little more.
12.) West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia was hit hard in the transfer portal this offseason and with Neal Brown literally coaching for his job in 2023, he needs to reload and win some games. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers might be up agaisnt it again in 2023, Three of the Mountaineers first four games are against Penn State, Pitt, and Texas Tech. That’s an incredibly tough slate, especially for a team that will be feeling the pressure well before the first kick of the season.
13.) Houston Cougars
Dana Holgorsen is back in the Big 12, and I’m not sure how happy he is about it. The Cougars came into 2022 as the favorite to win the American, but fell short, going 8-5. This season, he will have to try and win without QB Clayton Tune or WR Tank Dell, and that might be tough given the steep rise in competition. I’m expecting a rough first seasons for the Cougars in the Big 12.
14.) Cincinnati Bearcats
If Luke Fickell was still around, Cincinnati would likely be way further up this list, but he’s in Wisconsin now, and so are a bunch of his former players. Scott Satterfield isn’t just tasked with following up one of the most decorated coaches in school history, he also has to carry them into the Big 12. It’s an impossible task, but one that he could prove capable of if given a few years. Unfortunately, it likely won’t be easy in Year 1