Big 12 News

Greg McElroy Favors Utah Over Kansas State as Big 12 Favorite in 2024, But Should He?

Sep 17, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) runs the ball against the San Diego State Aztecs in the second quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Talking season has arrived as we creep into the middle part of June, and the 2024 college football season is just 11 weeks away.

Right now is the time for college football experts to start laying the groundwork for who should be favored to compete for conference titles and, as a result, should be taken seriously as contenders to make the 12-team College Football Playoff.

The odds market in Vegas does a pretty good job of bringing together a look at who those teams might be based on whatever formula allows the oddsmakers to nail the win totals for several teams around the country (proof of time travel?) nearly every year.


This year, in the Big 12, there are two teams considered as favorites to win the conference, with Utah and Kansas State checking in with win totals of 9.5, both of which tie for the lead in the new-look 16-team league.

The Utes and Wildcats are also co-favorites to win the Big 12 title, with both listed as +350 (per BetMGM) to be the last team standing atop the heap in December.

However, ESPN’s Greg McElroy does lean one way a little more than the other when picking this conference race, and that’s no slight to the Wildcats. In fact, McElroy is high on K-State, with Avery Johnson leading what could be a potent offensive attack and a defense that should be near the top of the league.


“It’s gonna be a new look Kansas State, new offensive coordinator, but Avery Johnson, I think, is prepared at the quarterback spot to elevate this offense to a new level,” McElroy said on Always College Football.

“They have a terrific one-two punch at running back with Colorado transfer Dylan Edwards and DJ Giddens. I also know that they have to replace three players along the offensive line, including Cooper Beebe, which is of significant concern, especially if you’re going to lean so heavily on the run game. But you look at the defense that returns seven starters, it should be one of the better units in the Big 12.” 

However, it’s the Wildcats’ schedule that gives McElroy pause when it comes to picking them over the newcomers from the Beehive State.

“They go to Iowa State in the final week of the year. That’ll be a very tricky game,” McElroy said. “UT Martin, at Tulane, be careful with that Tulane game but one that I still think Kansas State will have an advantage, Arizona comes to them, at BYU. Be careful with the BYU game on the road especially, but I think at this point, Kansas State’s program is on a little bit more solid footing to BYU, at least at the moment. Oklahoma State is at home like they should be in a pretty good spot to at least challenge Oklahoma State.


“Oklahoma State got them last year. Maybe they get revenge this year on September 28. October 12, they’re at Colorado, October 19, they’re at West Virginia. West Virginia replaces an awful lot, you know they’ll be able to run the football but you have to think Kansas State will be prepared to slow down the run game that West Virginia will throw at them.” 

After taking on Oklahoma State in the first month of the season, the final five games of the year are where the start pitfalls show up, according to McElroy—and both of them come in the form of rivalry games.

“Kansas is at home on October 26; they’re at Houston, Arizona State, and Cincinnati come to them,” McElroy said. “Like I said, they finish up on the road in Ames against the Cyclones of Iowa State, and how many games on that list are really losable? Okay, Oklahoma State. I think that’s losable. Kansas, sure, that’s losable; it’s a rivalry game on October 26. And they go to Iowa State. They might have three games that are legitimately losable.

“Either way, I feel really good about both Kansas State and Utah. But based on the schedule. I think Utah’s schedule is a lot more manageable than Kansas State’s. So I would lean in favor of Utah in their first year in the Big 12.”

So, with McElroy siding with the Utes, let’s take a look at both schedules side-to-side.


Aug 31 | vs. UT Martin

Sep 7 | at Tulane

Sep 13 | vs. Arizona (Fri)

Sep 21 | at BYU

Sep 28 | vs. Oklahoma State

Oct 12 | at Colorado

Oct 19 | at West Virginia

Oct 26 | vs. Kansas

Nov 2 | at Houston

Nov 16 | vs. Arizona State

Nov 23 | vs. Cincinnati

Nov 30 | at Iowa State


Aug 29 | vs. Southern Utah (Thu)

Sep 7 | vs. Baylor

Sep 14 | at Utah State

Sep 21 | at Oklahoma State

Sep 28 | vs. Arizona

Oct 11 | at Arizona State (Fri)

Oct 19 | vs. TCU

Oct 26 | at Houston

Nov 9 | vs BYU

Nov 16 | at Colorado

Nov 23 | vs. Iowa State

Nov 29 | at UCF (Fri)

Note: Big 12 Games in Italics

McElroy points out games vs. Oklahoma State, vs. Kansas, and at Iowa State as the losable games for Kansas State in 2024.

What do you notice about Utah’s schedule?

Well, the Utes open up Big 12 play at Oklahoma State, while K-State gets them in Manhattan. They follow that game up by hosting Noah Fifita and the Arizona Wildcats the very next week, and its worth noting that their matchup vs. Arizona counts as a conference game, while K-State’s does not.

Then, just like K-State, the end of the year is rather tricky for Kyle Whittingham’s group. On November 23, they’ll play host to Iowa State, which is never easy late in the year. Then, on a short week the Utes will make a trip to Orlando—the longest trip in program history for a conference matchup—to take on UCF on a Friday night.

Just by glancing at Utah’s slate, it’s easy to see they have the more difficult finish to their season, especially over the last two weeks.

What do you think? Should Utah get the edge over Kansas State as the Big 12 favorite due to the Wildcats’ schedule? Let us know in the forums!

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