Lindy’s Preseason Picks: The Big 12 Staff

July 08, 2023 at 10:56 am.

It’s hard to imagine the Big 12 Conference being any more entertaining than it was last season. But, with four new incoming members set to join for the 2023 season, the league could produce even more chaos.

BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF will all make the jump to the Power Five level to create a new 14-team league stacked top to bottom with quality teams. This is also the last season Oklahoma and Texas will compete in the Big 12 before moving to the SEC in 2024, meaning the Big 12 will eventually return to numerically accurate membership for the first time since 2010.

But while to Big 12 is undergoing some changes, many of the top teams from last season are poised to make another run at a conference title.

Once again, Texas has all the necessary pieces in place to earn its first Big 12 title since 2009. The Longhorns have been in this position as a preseason favorite many times before and will need to yield better results if head coach Steve Sarkisian wants to stay on The Forty Acres.

Many forget it was actually Kansas State that won the Big 12 Championship in 2022 despite TCU making a surprise run to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Wildcats’ head coach Chris Klieman is a proven winner with four FCS national titles at North Dakota State. He returns a full stable of experienced offensive linemen and senior quarterback Will Howard.

Big 12 Coach of the Year Sonny Dykes and the Horned Frogs used the transfer portal to restock all the offensive production lost and should have an improved defense with linebacker Johnny Hodges and defensive back Josh Newton returning. Departed quarterback Max Duggan garnered loads of hardware after the 2022 season and left the job to Chandler Morris, who was the starter in Week 1 before suffering an injury.

Brent Venebles’ first season back in Oklahoma was rough, to say the least, as the Sooners finished with a losing record for the first time since 1998. A healthy Dillon Gabriel has an arsenal of targets and young backs to work with in an offense that ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 for total yards per game last season, but returning production is a concern. Surprisingly, the bulk of the issues for Oklahoma were on defense, despite that being Venables’ strong suit. Those will be fixed.

Texas Tech could be the dark horse to watch out for – similar to what Kansas State was in 2022. Quarterback Tyler Shough is 8-1 as the starter for the Red Raiders, but he has had trouble remaining healthy. Second-year head coach Joey McGuire must overcome a demanding schedule if Texas Tech wants to assert itself as a legitimate contender.

Baylor took an unexpected step back with a 6-7 finish in 2022, especially on defense where the Bears now welcome new coordinator Matt Powledge, who spent last season as the co-coordinator at Oregon. Running back Richard Reese is the face of the offense after earning Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. Baylor will need more consistency from second-year starter Blake Shapen, whose 10 interceptions ranked second-most in the conference.

Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma State addressed a crop of glaring concerns in hopes of reaching bowl eligibility in 2023. Lance Leipold guided the Jayhawks to their first winning season since 2008, even with star quarterback Jalon Daniels missing four games. If Daniels stays healthy, Kansas could rack up wins early in the season again.

Mike Gundy, the longest-tenured heach coach in the Big 12, had his roster decimated with more than half-a-dozen starters leaving via the transfer portal. The Pokes attempted to reload, but likely will not know if they came out even until Big 12 competition.

No seat is hotter in the Big 12 than Neal Brown’s at West Virginia as he fights to keep his job.

There will be obstacles for the four new comers to overcome in Year 1. A top-half finish in the new league should be considered a success as BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF transition to Power Five status.


Our picks:

Champion: Texas

Player of the Year: Jalon Daniels, QB, Kansas


  1. Texas
  2. Kansas State
  3. TCU
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Texas Tech
  6. Baylor
  7. Oklahoma State
  8. UCF
  9. Kansas
  10. BYU
  11. Iowa State
  12. Houston
  13. Cincinnati
  14. West Virginia


Full picks and team-by-team breakdowns are available in Lindy’s College Football 2023 National Preview.

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