With Big 12 Football Media Days right around the corner on July 12-13, the official preseason poll is just around a week from being announced.
However, the Heartland College Sports staff has already recorded its polls, giving you a sneak peek at how we see the conference playing out this season.
Our poll includes votes from: Pete Mundo, Bryan Clinton, Matthew Postins, Derek Duke, and Joe Tillery.
With that being said, here’s the HCS Big 12 Preseason Poll for the 2023 football season.
1. Kansas State
The HCS staff has picked K-State to defend its title as Big 12 champion in 2023, narrowly edging out the Texas Longhorns for the top spot in our poll. With Will Howard and an entire offensive line group returning in 2023, plus a stingy defensive track record under Chris Klieman, the Wildcats should be near the top of the conference once again.
Undoubtedly the public’s pick to win the Big 12 in 2023, the Texas Longhorns have as high of expectations as they’ve seen in years heading into the season. Quinn Ewers is surrounded by NFL talent and the defense should be stout again. Can Sark put the pieces together to get Texas back to the mountaintop in the Big 12?
After a 6-7 debacle in Brent Venables’ first year, there is quiet optimism in Norman ahead of the 2023 campaign. Oklahoma returns Dillon Gabriel at quarterback and has added several of the nation’s top transfer portal targets. Will it be enough to get them over the hump after going 0-5 in one-score games last season?
4. Texas Tech
There is tangible excitement in Lubbock that this could be the year that Texas Tech announces itself as one of the true powers of the future Big 12. Joey McGuire’s squad returns virtually everyone on offense and several contributors from the defensive side of the ball from an 8-5 team last season. Watch out for the Red Raiders in 2023.
After finishing the 2022 regular season at 12-0, TCU stumbled in the Big 12 title game before rebounding to make a National Championship appearance. Now, with several key pieces from that team gone, the Horned Frogs have a lot of questions to answer. The good news? The roster is chock-full of talent for Sonny Dykes to work with.
6. Oklahoma State
After losing five of its last six games in 2022, Oklahoma State saw several starters enter the transfer portal. However, Mike Gundy and staff retooled the roster in the transfer portal and looks to have one of the more manageable schedules in the conference. Sleep on the Pokes at your own risk, because its typically the “down years” when Gundy’s teams shine.
Despite a 12-2 season in 2021, Dave Aranda is just 20-16 through three seasons at Baylor. The Bears entered last year as the preseason favorite to win the Big 12, but managed just a 6-7 finish. In 2023, BU will have to replace a veteran offensive line, as well as several pieces on the defensive side of the ball, making them a relative mystery for now.
UCF enters the Big 12 as the perceived top newcomer ahead of the 2023 season, but can they adjust to the Power Five level from the start? Gus Malzahn has certainly spent enough time coaching at this level to know what it takes to win, but is his roster ready to compete right away. The HCS staff thinks they’ll be competitive, but also take their lumps in Year 1.
After reaching a bowl game for the first time since 2008, the Kansas Jayhawks are among the nation’s leaders in returning production. With Jaylon Daniels and Devin Neal returning behind a veteran offensive line, KU’s offense should be explosive again. The question is, will their defense improve enough to get them back to the postseason once again?
10. Iowa State
After finishing 10th in the Big 12 race in 2022, the Cyclones find themselves in the 10-spot in our preseason poll. Luckily, it’s now four spots from the bottom with the new additions, and we do expect Iowa State to be better in 2023. If the offense can run the ball more effectively, Iowa State’s defense will keep it in plenty enough games to get to a bowl.
After playing an independent schedule every year since 2011, BYU will now face 10 Power Five teams this season, up from just five such games in 2022. Kedon Slovis transferred in to replace Jaren Hall, the do-it-all playmaker for the Cougars over the past couple of seasons. Kalani Sitake has his work cut out for him in Year 1 in the Big 12.
Scott Satterfield is tasked with leading the Bearcats into the Big 12 in his first year in Cincinnati, and that likely won’t prove an easy task. While the defense is expected to be solid, Cinci has several questions on the offensive side of the ball. Emory Jones could answer a lot of those, but it has yet to be seen if that will be the case.
In Dana Holgorsen’s return to the Big 12, he appears ahead of his former team, the West Virginia Mountaineers. The bad news is, that is the only team Houston is ahead of in our poll. Several key losses in the transfer portal combined with Clayton Tune and Tank Dell moving on makes Houston a tough sell as a Big 12 contender in 2023.
14. West Virginia
Neal Brown’s seat is about as hot as it gets heading into 2023, and with a gauntlet of a schedule, it appears the road ahead might be tough. Games against Penn State and Pitt appear before Big 12 play even starts, and the Mountaineers will be breaking in plenty of new pieces. Getting to a bowl game this season should be more than enough for Brown to keep his job.