Texas and Oklahoma, once known as the flagship programs of the Big 12, are both headed to the SEC in 2024 and appear to be in over their heads in doing so.
But don’t expect their Big 12 ex-partners to feel any kind of sympathy for them. No, the Longhorns and Sooners have made lifelong villains of themselves to anyone around these parts, and that makes the 2023 one that Big 12 fans, and players, just can’t wait for.
ESPN’s Greg McElroy says it best when he calls every Big 12 game against Oklahoma or Texas a “must-win” in 2023.
“In the event that Oklahoma and/or Texas is in the Big 12 Championship Game, do you think Brett Yormark will be real fired up about handing the Big 12 Championship trophy to a team that is going to be leaving the league here in 2024?” McElroy asked. “No, sir. No chance whatsoever. … Anyone that is playing against Texas or Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, you better carry the torch for the conference.”
McElroy thinks its a bit of a longshot for Oklahoma to turn things around in 2023 after a 6-7 year in 2023, but if they were to do so, would owe Brent Venables a major debt of gratitude.
“I know that people will say, ‘Well Oklahoma wasn’t that good last year,’ but look at the additions they’ve made in the portal. Look at the talent. You’ve got a quarterback that’s going to be even more comfortable running Jeff Lebby’s system. You have a wide receiver core that’s probably going to be pretty good across the board… The defense should be better, especially up the middle. They’ve attacked the defensive and offensive lines in the portal and on the recruiting trail, so I happen to think Oklahoma’s going to be a lot better here in 2023.
“Are they ultimately gonna be within striking distance of winning the Big 12? That, to me, seems a little bit far-fetched. I’m not sure they can grow that much in just one year. If they do, Brent Venables needs to be strongly in the mix for coach of the year there in the Big 12.”
On the other hand, McElroy says that Texas might just be the favorite to win the conference in 2023, with one of the best rosters in college football.
“Texas has the best pound-for-pound roster in the Big 12. With the additions of the portal, the guys that were injured last year are coming back, like Isaiah Neyor. An excellent wide receiver corps that will be scattered across the middle. Quinn Ewers looks to have regained some of the confidence that he played with earlier in the season. The offensive line is bigger and more physical this year with the addition of a couple of key pieces. And the defensive front seven, which has long been an area where they haven’t had crazy difference-makers, appears like it has finally taken the steps necessary to be a legitimate force.
“So, I think Texas, if I had to pick a Big 12 favorite right now, they would be under strong consideration.”