The Big 12 Conference Is Undergoing Its Greatest Transition in Quite Some Time, incorporating four new members – BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF – that have joined to expand membership from 12 teams to 14 for the 2023 football season. At the same time, two powerful states – Texas and Oklahoma – will depart for the Southeastern Conference (SEC), signalling that realignment has begun. These significant developments mark an extensive realignment process that will change both its landscape and odds for 2023 – it will certainly be an exciting year!
Last season, Kansas State Wildcats demonstrated their mettle by defeating national runner-up TCU to claim victory in their conference title game; yet, even after this impressive feat they remain third best bet to take home this championship at +500 odds for this season.
Texas and Oklahoma boast rich football programs with long histories that lead the odds to win the Big 12. Texas offers odds of +105, while Oklahoma can claim odds of +380 to secure their respective place as Big 12 contenders before moving onto SEC competition in 2025.
As the Big 12 transitions to its new era with an expanded membership and prepares to bid farewell to longstanding members of Texas and Oklahoma, its dynamics will undergo significant transformation. New teams will introduce fresh energy and challenges that make this season exhilarating for college football enthusiasts.
A familiar tale in Texas football – a team with tremendous promise on paper that shows up favorably in Big 12 odds and everyone proclaiming them back, is unfolding once again. Led by receivers like Xavier Worthy and AD Mitchell (transfer from Georgia), and led by Quinn Ewers’ performance (who displayed glimpses of brilliance against Alabama but struggled later with decision-making issues).
Texas Longhorns’ offensive line remains one of the top units in both Big 12 and nationally, ranking fourth overall and as such, is fully intact and provides a solid basis for their offensive efficiency. Last season they finished 22nd in points per drive; Texas hopes to maintain or improve that figure this season. While replacing Bijan Robinson may prove challenging, Jonathan Brooks, Jaydon Blue and CJ Baxter make for a competent running back trio that should serve them well throughout 2023.
Texas showed its defensive strength in 2022 by ranking 20th in points per drive allowed. Most of their production came back, including standout linebacker Jaylan Ford and three of five starters from their secondary unit. Texas recently made another strategic addition to bolster their defense by signing Wake Forest corner Gavin Holmes, an esteemed transfer. The Longhorns hope to build upon last season, when they allowed significantly fewer points and yards per play, than in 2021. Longhorns defensive coach Mark Garza and top tackler and sack leader Barryn Sorrell return with high hopes, giving their unit renewed optimism. However, to advance further and take a significant step forward, they will need improved secondary performance as well as an emphasis on creating turnovers.
Texas appears poised for success entering the 2023 season. All the pieces seem to be present for everyone to say, “yes, Texas is back”. With an explosive offense, top offensive line, and promising defense combining to form an intimidating duo, Texas could contend for the Big 12 title in its final year in league competition. Armed with high aspirations and a talent-packed roster, the Longhorns aim to compete at the highest level once more.
The Oklahoma Sooners were nothing but dismal in 2022. Following Lincoln Riley’s departure as head coach, their season took an unfavorable turn, with them only managing to post a disappointing 6-7 record, their worst since 1998. New coach Brent Venables’ defense struggled poorly, ranking 74th in points per drive. At the same time, overall talent challenges persisted for this team led by Venable, who is widely recognized as an expert at leading powerful units at Clemson but which were far less effective against them this time around.
Venables has made efforts to address this problem by recruiting Indiana transfer Dasan McCullough to bolster a unit that finished 91st in EPA per rush allowed last season; however, overall defensive depth may still pose challenges and create obstacles on this side of the ball.
The Sooners must improve their physicality in the front seven and increase sack production; they ranked outside of the top 60 in 2022 in this area. Furthermore, new faces will need to emerge in their secondary, as only one of their returning defensive backs was ranked amongst the top 100 for pass coverage in 2022.
Offensively, the Sooners will rely on Dillon Gabriel, their veteran quarterback, who returns as starting quarterback. Unfortunately, several key offensive weapons such as wide receiver Marvin Mims, running back Eric Gray, and three key offensive linemen have left. Their replacements — transfers or freshmen alike — have yet to demonstrate game-breaking abilities at the college level, raising doubts about their overall potential.
Oklahoma’s 2023 schedule offers several advantageous matchups early on in the season. But a lot of questions surround this team headed into the 2023 season.
Kansas State, the defending Big 12 Champions, are faced with the daunting challenge of replacing key departures such as Deuce Vaughn, Julius Brents and Felix Anudike-Uzomah – leaving noticeable holes on both sides of the ball that need filling to reclaim glory. While nearly half of the defensive production returned from an effective unit that ranked 44th in points per drive (PSD), gaps must be filled on both sides.
Chris Klieman will continue his leadership of the Wildcats by signing an extended contract. Quarterback Will Howard took over for Adrian Martinez last season and hopes to build on his success this time. He will be supported by an experienced offensive line that boasts all five starters back, offering solid protection. Howard will be joined in the backfield by Florida State transfer running back Treshaun Ward, who will complement DJ Giddens while helping fill in for Deuce Vaughn after his departure. While Howard lacks experience and track records as wide receivers, tight end Ben Sinnott provides him with a reliable target, having caught four touchdowns and ranking among Power 5 tight ends with 20 or more targets at being among the top 10 for yards per reception per catch rate per target.
On defense, only about 50% of production returns, making replacing Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Eli Huggins and Julius Brents difficult.
Kansas State football program is in an evolving period with significant changes on both offense and defense. QB Will Howard will play an instrumental role in maintaining offensive momentum; on defense, new leaders must emerge to fill critical vacancies left by key departures – this is where Chris Klieman can provide invaluable guidance as it continues building its trajectory forward.
The Kansas Jayhawks enter the 2023 college football season with high hopes, as over 90% of their offensive production from 2022 returns. Kansas placed in the top 25 in points per game and explosiveness last season; both quarterbacks Jalon Daniels and Jason Bean contributed heavily to Kansas’ offensive success last year, and Kansas ranks amongst the top 5 returning offensive production from their 2022 campaign.
Although Kansas Jayhawks’ offense looks poised for another successful campaign, their defense must improve to be competitive for a Big 12 championship.
Lance Leipold has proven to be an exceptional leader for the Kansas football team, optimizing the potential of their roster and realizing its full potential. However, 2023 presents the Jayhawks with a more challenging schedule ranked as 27th-most difficult nationally – notable matchups include Illinois on Friday evening and Nevada as road games – to build on past successes, their high-scoring offense must maintain high production rates, as will their defensive efforts to prevent opponents from scoring freely and maintain low scoring numbers against them if Kansas wishes to continue improving overall record and possibly break into Big 12 contention again!
I know everybody has seen this before, but Texas is back! I mean it this time, as the Longhorns look to be the most talented all-around team in the Big 12 this season.
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