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The Big 12 had a surprise entrant in the College Football Playoff last season thanks to TCU’s magical run to the championship game. Even more remarkable, the Horned Frogs didn’t even win the conference championship — that honor went to Kansas State.

Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of the conference from FOX Sports college football analyst RJ Young, with teams listed in predicted order of finish.


Coach: Steve Sarkisian

Last year: 8-5 overall, 6-3 Big 12

Postseason: Lost to Washington in Alamo Bowl

Key players: QB Quinn Ewers, WR Xavier Worthy, LB Jaylan Ford

What we’re excited to watch: This is Steve Sarkisian’s best roster since he first arrived in Austin. The Longhorns can make a loud statement with a win against Alabama on Sept. 9.

What success looks like: Winning the Big 12 title.


Coach: Brent Venables

Last year: 6-7 overall, 3-6 Big 12

Postseason: Lost to Florida State in Cheez-It Bowl

Key players: QB Dillon Gabriel, LB Dasan McCullough

What we’re excited to watch: A retooled defense that looks more like the kind associated with coach Brent Venables in the past — one that doesn’t give up 30 points and 461 yards a game. 

What success looks like: Ten or more wins — with wins against Texas and Oklahoma State — in the Sooners’ last year in the Big 12.


Coach: Sonny Dykes

Last year: 13-2 overall, 9-0 Big 12

Postseason: Beat Michigan in Fiesta Bowl (national semifinal), lost to Georgia in national championship

Key players: QB Chandler Morris, RB Trey Sanders, S Bud Clark

What we’re excited to watch: Prove that last year’s national title runner-up finish was no fluke.

What success looks like: Win 10 or more games, staking a claim as one of the best programs in the Big 12.

RJ Young sits down with TCU’s Sonny Dykes, Bud Clark and others Texas Tech

Coach: Joey McGuire

Last year: 8-5 overall, 5-4 Big 12

Postseason: Beat Ole Miss in Texas Bowl

Key players: QB Tyler Shough, WR Drae McCray, DB Malik Dunlap

What we’re excited to watch: Tech is on the verge of being great. If there’s a 2022 Texas Christian-style program to watch this season, it’s the Red Raiders who could announce their assault on the Big 12 with a win against Oregon at Jones AT&T Stadium.

What success looks like: Reach the Big 12 title game. The Red Raiders haven’t won a conference title since 1994, when they took a share of the then-Southwest Conference crown, and haven’t won an outright conference title since 1954. Joey McGuire’s Texas Tech squad has a chance to end that drought.

Kansas State

Coach: Chris Klieman

Last year: 10-4 overall, 7-2 Big 12

Postseason: Lost to Alabama in Sugar Bowl

Key players: QB Will Howard, RB Treshaun Ward

What we’re excited to watch: Howard can ascend into the upper echelon of the sport’s quarterbacks with a solid performance this season after leading K-State to the Big 12 crown last season.

What success looks like: Repeat as conference champions.


Coach: Lance Leipold

Last year: 6-7 overall, 3-6 Big 12

Postseason: Lost to Arkansas in Liberty Bowl

Key players: QB Jalon Daniels, RB Devin Neal, S Kenny Logan

What we’re excited to watch: A healthy Daniels is a dark horse contender for this year’s Heisman Trophy.

What success looks like: Go bowling for a second straight year.


Coach: Dave Aranda

Last year: 6-7 overall, 4-5 Big 12

Postseason: Lost to Air Force in Armed Forces Bowl

Key players: QB Blake Shapen, RB Richard Reese

What we’re excited to watch: The odd-year charm to work; In 2019 and 2021, Baylor reached the Big 12 title game, while the Bears finished with losing records in 2020 and 2022. In 2023, Dave Aranda’s squad has the best chance of any mid-tier Big 12 team to finish in the Big 12 title game for the third time in five years.

What success looks like: Nine wins.

Oklahoma State

Coach: Mike Gundy

Last year: 7-6 overall, 4-5 Big 12

Postseason: Lost to Wisconsin in Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Key players: QB Alan Bowman, RB Braylin Presley, LB Collin Oliver

What we’re excited to watch: Which quarterback is the starter? Mike Gundy has Michigan transfer Bowman, Garret Rangel, Gunnar Gundy and freshman Zane Flores competing for the starting job, and he’s said he could play multiple quarterbacks this season. Expect Bowman to win the job.

What success looks like: Put together a winning record in the Big 12 play. The Cowboys finished 7-6 for the season, but just 4-5 in conference play.

AP Preseason Top 25: Is the AP disrespecting the Big 12? BYU

Coach: Kalani Sitake

Last year: 8-5 overall as Independent

Postseason: Beat SMU in New Mexico Bowl

Key players: QB Kedon Slovis, LB Ben Bywater, DE Tyler Batty

What we’re excited to watch: BYU’s first season as a Power 5 program. The Cougars would like nothing more than to prove they belong.

What success looks like: A winning record.

[Related: Ex-USC quarterback Kedon Slovis comes full circle at BYU]


Coach: Gus Malzahn

Last year: 9-5 overall, 6-2 American

Postseason: Lost to Duke in Military Bowl

Key players: QB John Rhys Plumlee, WR Javon Baker, DE Tre’Mon Morris-Brash

What we’re excited to watch: UCF, like BYU, has sought Power 5 recognition for its Group of 5 schedule. Now, the Knights have a chance to show the sport they’re one of the teams to be reckoned with among the leagues with automatic qualifiers for the New Year’s Six bowl games.

What success looks like: A winning record.


Coach: Scott Satterfield

Last year: 9-4 overall, 6-2 American

Postseason: Lost to Louisville in Fenway Bowl

Key players: QB Emory Jones, RB Corey Kiner, DB Deshawn Pace

What we’re excited to watch: The Bearcats made history as the first Group of 5 team to make the College Football Playoff in 2021. Now, head coach Scott Satterfield has the task of trying to build the program back to those heights in a tougher conference.

What success looks like: A winning record.


Coach: Dana Holgorsen

Last year: 8-5 overall, 5-3 American

Postseason: Beat Louisiana in Independence Bowl

Key players: QB Donovan Smith, OL Patrick Paul, DL Nelson Ceaser

What we’re excited to watch: Houston’s first opportunity to play in a big-time conference since the dissolution of the Southwest Conference, and the Cougars’ first game against Texas since 2002.

What success looks like: A winning record.

Iowa State

Coach: Matt Campbell

Last year: 4-8 overall, 1-8 Big 12

Postseason: None

Key players: QB Hunter Dekkers, WR Jayden Higgins, DB T.J. Tampa

What we’re excited to watch: The next great Iowa State offensive product. Matt Campbell has produced Brock Purdy, Breece Hall and Xavier Hutchinson in recent years. It will be interesting to see which player is the next star in Ames, Iowa.

What success looks like: A winning record. 

West Virginia

Coach: Neal Brown

Last year: 5-7 overall, 3-6 Big 12

Postseason: None

Key players: RB CJ Donaldson, OL Zach Frazier, DL Sean Martin

What we’re excited to watch: Year 5 for Neal Brown feels like a make-or-break year for his tenure at WVU. After winning 10-plus games for three straight years at Troy, Brown has never won more than six but he’s never lost more than seven in a single year in Morgantown, West Virginia.

What success looks like: A winning record through the month of September. 

The Mountaineers open at defending Rose Bowl champ Penn State, take a breather against Duquesne at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium then face a Texas Tech team that’s coming off wins against Oklahoma, Texas and Ole Miss last year before finally traveling to Fort Worth, Texas to battle the defending national title runner-up Horned Frogs.


TexasOklahomaTCUTexas TechKansas StateKansasBaylorOklahoma StateBYUUCFCincinnatiHoustonIowa StateWest VirginiaRJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

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