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Anything could happen in a transitional year for the Big 12

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Baylor

It’s a matter of days before the new college football season gets underway and there are plenty of opinions flying around as to how it will pan out. The truth is, this is one of the hardest seasons to call in some time. The off season has seen some big changes, and with more to come next year, 2023/24 is going to be a one-of-a-kind football season with its one-off 14-team format in the Big 12.  

New arrivals will strengthen the competition 

The Big 12 welcomes four new teams for the upcoming season, with the BYU Cougars, UCF Knights, Houston Cougars and Cincinnati Bearcats joining the league.

UCF Athletics Director Terry Mohajir has seen it all before. He told CBS Sports that change is the only constant, and he has learned to be ready. Mohajir has certainly witnessed plenty of transformation in the Big 12 over the years. During past stints at Arkansas and Houston, he was involved in both the Big 12’s inauguration in 1996 and its implosion in 2011. UCF will join with the stability of John Rhys Plumlee returning as starting quarterback.

Tom Holmoe is Mohajir’s counterpart at BYU. He says that being part of the Big 12 will make his team stronger, and he added that they are already looking forward to next year, when state rivals Utah will be one of the “new” four teams to join, as the league will further expand to 16 teams. 

Online sports books favor the Longhorns 

Meantime, there is already a lot of buzz around the sports betting sites about how things will pan out as the Big 12 season gets started. We took an informal straw poll of the various US sports betting sites on GamblingSites.com and one point on which they all agreed was that Texas will be the team to beat this year. Having said that, they are not runaway favorites, with betting just hovering around the even money level for them to take the Conference title. 

Texas are three-times Conference Champions, although their last title came in 2009. 14-time winners Oklahoma can never be ruled out and reigning champions Kansas State will once again have Will Howard at starting quarterback and should not be overlooked. They are also likely to be at the sharp end of the standings when January comes around. 

However, there is a sense of “now or never” surrounding Texas. This will, of course, be their Big 12 swan song as they depart to join the SEC. The offense is certainly stable, with quarterback Quinn Ewers, wide receiver Xavier Worthy and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders an established presence. Practically the whole offensive line is unchanged, too, so this is the most proven offensive unit in the Big 12.  

Of course, this is the final season in the Big 12 for the Sooners, too, and with their incredible record over the years, the pressure to go out on a high will be even greater. Last year was a disappointment, and nobody expected them to go 6-7. That’s almost certainly not going to happen again this year. Dillon Gabriel will be starting quarterback and has a point to prove, especially with the highly regarded Jackson Arnold waiting on the bench. 

VIDEO: Sooners Quarterback Dillon Gabriel Named In Maxwell Award Watchlist 

Can anyone destroy the fairytale? 

The new season is one of transition. It will mark the departure of two teams that have defined the conference as the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners depart for the SEC. A championship showdown for one last league title seems probable. Can anyone spoil the party?  

The Athletic invited one Big 12 head coach to give an open – and anonymous – opinion. He acknowledged the respective strengths of Texas and Oklahoma. But he felt one team could spoil the party. He said: “I like Kansas State. They have their whole offensive line back. They do have people to replace, but Klieman has a phenomenal culture. And he’s won at a high level, winning national championships (at North Dakota State) and then winning the Big 12. If you take the logos off the helmet and look at the roster, the teams and the culture, I’m taking K-State.” 

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