We’ve gone through four weeks of the 2023 college football season and are starting to get an idea of what the Big 12 race might look like.
It’s still too early to draw final conclusions, but we can identify some trends that seem to have carried us into conference play. Is Oklahoma a legitimate contender to make the College Football Playoff? Can Kansas really challenge for a Big 12 crown? Will teams like Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech miss bowl season?
Let’s overreact to what we saw in Week 4.
Oklahoma is a Legit CFP Contender
Oklahoma is now 4-0 and has looked like one of the best teams in the country through four weeks. With one of the most efficient offenses and defenses in the nation to this point, the Sooners are starting to gain some steam as a trendy pick to make the College Football Playoff, but let’s pump the brakes a bit here. Yes, the OU defense certainly appears to be fixed. Last season, we saw the unit out of sorts in the second half of almost every game, but that hasn’t been the case at all this season. However, the running game is a concern for the Sooners right now, and that’s a big deal. Oklahoma is averaging 157.8 yards per game on the ground, which ranks eighth in the Big 12 and 65th nationally, which is well below what we’ve grown used to from the Sooners. Until that gets fixed, this team isn’t quite ready to be in that kind of conversation.
Kansas is a Legitimate Big 12 Contender
Not an Overreaction
Kansas’ offense exploited the BYU defense on the ground this week in a 38-27 victory, riding a 221-yard performance on the ground. On the flip side, the Jayhawks held the Cougars to just nine yards rushing on the day, which is very promising if you are a KU fan. On top of that, Kansas won the turnover battle 3-0, and ultimately moved to 4-0 and ranked No. 24 in this week’s AP Poll. Just like last season, Kansas has started 4-0 and looks like a legit contender. However, the play from their defense at times gives me more hope for this team in 2023. This week, KU heads to No. 3 Texas and will face its biggest challenge of the season against the Longhorns. While they’re 17-point underdogs in this one, I’m still confident that Kansas is a legit conference contender this season. With teams like Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech seemingly down this year, there’s a void to be filled.
Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State Will Miss a Bowl Game
Not an Overreaction
What in the world is going on with this trio? Baylor (1-3), Texas Tech (1-3), and Oklahoma State (2-2) are all coming off bowl seasons, and the Red Raiders in particular were coming into 2023 as a dark horse to make the Big 12 title game. However, through the first four weeks, none of these teams look primed to make a bowl this season. Baylor looked like the worst team in the Big 12 this week after a 38-6 whooping at the hands of Texas. Tech going to Morgantown and mustering 13 points is hard to understand after they put up 30 against a good Oregon team. Oklahoma State just gave up 34 points to Iowa State, and still can’t get over the 27-point mark. These three just haven’t looked right, and with tougher games coming up, they’d better get it figured out if they want to see the postseason.
West Virginia is Going Bowling
Not an Overreaction
If I’d have told you that the West Virginia-Texas Tech game would leave one team 3-1, and the other 1-3, you’d have said that West Virginia was probably just one more loss from moving on from Neal Brown. However, the Mountaineers are now 3-1 (1-0 Big 12) and look like a team that is in great shape to make a bowl game. With how they’ve looked to this point, I really think WVU is going to find a way to get to that magical six-win mark. Looking at their remaining schedule, West Virginia has very winnable games against Houston, Oklahoma State, UCF, BYU, Cincinnati, and Baylor. Winning half of those games gets them to a bowl, and anything more than that could be job security for Brown. It’s still early, but this WVU team looks better than expected.
The Newcomers are In Over Their Heads
BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF have all officially played their first Big 12 games, and unfortunately, they all started off with a 0-1 record. There are several ways to look at that, and many folks are jumping to conclusions that the newcomers are simply in over their heads. However, I’m not ready to go there just yet. Right now, I think all four of those teams could beat Baylor or Oklahoma State. Sure, it might take some time for them to be legitimate contenders to win the conference, but I don’t see them as the bottom-four teams this season. Plus, it’s not as if they started off their schedules with favorable matchups. Cincinnati drew Oklahoma. BYU went to Kansas. UCF traveled to Kansas State. Houston hosted TCU last week. Those are four of the top five teams in the conference right now. So let’s give them some time to get their bearings, and once they do, they’ll be just fine.