Big 12 News

Phil Steele Lists Three Big 12 Teams as ‘Suprise Teams’ in 2024

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

While predicting which teams will break out each season and advance to the college football playoff is never easy, college football guru Phil Steele released his preview magazine, which features 10 teams capable of making the leap.

Out of Steele’s 10 surprise teams, three members of the Big 12 Conference were mentioned with Utah, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State earning some praise.


Steele’s No. 1 surprise team in the upcoming season is none other than Kyle Whittingham and the Utah Utes.

Utah joins the Big 12 Conference in 2024 alongside three other members of the “Four Corner” schools, including Arizona, Arizona State, and Colorado, and while Arizona has received some praise in preseason rankings, Kyle Whittingham’s program appears to be the front-runner of the four newest additions.

Utah returns veteran signal-caller Cam Rising after he missed the previous season due to a lingering knee injury. The caveat to Steele’s pick hinges on Rising’s health, but if the team can avoid the injury bug in 2024, they should be a major factor in the race toward Arlington.

Phil Steele mentioned a second team in the Big 12, Mike Gundy and the Oklahoma State Cowboys, at No. 4. The Cowboys are fresh off of a 10-4 season that was capped off by a 31-23 win over the Texas A&M Aggies in the Texas Bowl thanks to a dominant performance from Rashad Owens and Brennan Presley.

The Cowboys return the bulk of their roster in 2024, including Doak Walker award winner Ollie Gordon, veteran quarterback Alan Bowman, almost their entire wide receiver core, and the Big 12’s leading tackler, Nickolas Martin. With a manageable schedule ahead of them, the Cowboys have become a trendy pick to win the league in the upcoming season.


Phil Steele highlighted the third and final Big 12 team, the Kansas State Wildcats, at No. 6 on the list. The Wildcats have a favorable schedule in the fall and filled the bulk of their portal departures with highly skilled players at the Power Five level.

The biggest change in Manhattan is the quarterback under center, with the program’s all-time touchdown passes leader, Will Howard, departing for Ohio State. Chris Klieman’s group saw flashes from true freshman quarterback Avery Johnson in 2023, which helped contribute to the Kansas native taking over for the Wildcats offense as a rising sophomore.

While all three teams have the capability to go on a run, in a conference like the Big 12, a case can be made for just about everyone in the top half of the league.

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