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Way-Too-Early Big 12 Football Power Rankings For 2024 Season

Jan 3, 2024, 12:00 PM | Updated: Jan 5, 2024, 10:03 am

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Big 12 Football Power Rankings for the 16-team era that is set to kick off in the 2024 season. (Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – One Big 12 football season is over. So, it’s only natural to begin counting down the days to the next one.

Suddenly, the state of Utah is a hub for Big 12 football as the 2024 season ushers in the 16-team era for the league, with the University of Utah joining BYU in the same conference again.

Utah, along with Arizona, Arizona State, and Colorado, are in the Big 12 after the Pac-12 couldn’t land a media rights deal last summer.

One significant change for the legacy members of the Big 12 is that Texas and Oklahoma are officially on their way to the SEC. Everyone involved with that move was ready for the Longhorns and Sooners to move on. But now that it’s here, it will be fascinating to see what the identity of this league becomes.

Since the Big 12 was established in 1996, the storylines have resided at the Palace on the Prairie and the Forty Acres. Who becomes the new Big 12’s mega-brand?

In a way, there’s a case to make for any of the 16 members. That alone makes this conference one of the more fascinating races to forecast for next season.

Way-Too-Early 2024 Big 12 Football Power Rankings

To get a head start on this new era of Big 12 football, 19 individuals from the KSL Sports Team (KSLsports.com, KSL Sports Live, and the KSL Sports Zone) who wished to participate submitted ballots for how they see the new Big 12 stacking up as we get into the thick of the off-season.

The following is how the way-too-early Big 12 football power rankings from the KSL Sports team shook out.

1. Arizona Wildcats

2023 Record: 10-3 (7-2 in Pac-12)

Notable games in 2024: at Kansas State* (Nonconference game), West Virginia, at Utah

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 1 (Eleven times)

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 3

The combination of QB Noah Fifita and WR Tetairoa “T-Mac” McMillan have people believing the Wildcats are built to win the title in the Big 12 in their first season. Arizona had the nation’s No. 20 offense, averaging 448 yards and putting up 34.6 points per game.

The defense was no slouch in its own right, allowing opponents to only 21.1 points per game.

When Jedd Fisch took over as head coach in 2021, he inherited a program that was a complete teardown rebuild. He’s built it to national heights that the Wildcats haven’t experienced since the late 1990s when Dick Tomey was the coach.

2. Oklahoma State Cowboys

2023 Record: 10-4 (7-2 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: Arkansas, at Kansas State, at TCU

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 1 (Three times)

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 6

What a bizarre year 2023 was for the Cowboys. From getting thumped by South Alabama to playing in a Big 12 Championship Game with the nation’s best running back.

Oh, by the way, that Doak Walker Award winner Ollie Gordon is back. That alone gives Oklahoma State an excellent opportunity to succeed in the new Big 12. Plus, wide receiver Brennan Presley announced he’s returning.

Mike Gundy doesn’t appear to be slowing down after another double-digit win season.

There’s a big question at quarterback. Alan Bowman has applied for a waiver for a medical redshirt year to the NCAA that could potentially give him a seventh year. If it’s not him, a pair of freshmen appear to be the next in line.

3. Utah Utes

2023 Record: 8-5 (5-4 in Pac-12)

Notable games in 2024: at Colorado, BYU, at Oklahoma State

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 1 (Three times)

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 6

Utah is one of the most stable and reliable programs in the new Big 12. As long as Kyle Whittingham is on the sidelines, the Utes will be one of the toughest outs in the league. But the way 2023 ended for the Utes leaves some questions about the offense.

The good news is that Cam Rising is back at quarterback. Who’s behind is probably just as important. Heralded four-star signal-caller, Isaac Wilson joins the mix after receiving a late push on the recruiting trail from SEC programs.

Idaho transfer running back Anthony Woods has the potential to be the top running back next season, with Ja’Quinden Jackson now in the portal and Sione Vaki moving on to the NFL.

As always, the bread and butter of Utah is on defense. The Utes return a bunch of talent from a group that was No. 4 nationally in rush defense.

4. Kansas Jayhawks

2023 Record: 9-4 (5-4 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: UNLV, Iowa State, at Kansas State

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 1 (Once)

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 11

Another coaching carousel is in the rearview mirror and Lance Leipold remains the headman at Kansas. It seems Leipold is committed to staying in Lawrence for the long haul. Honestly, it’s a smart move as Kansas, in a 12-team Playoff era, has big dreams of contending on the national stage.

The Jayhawks return injured quarterback Jalon Daniels who only played three games last season. They got a big boost on the defensive side as one of the Big 12’s best cornerbacks, Cobee Bryant, announced he was returning as well.

Former Baylor and BYU OC Jeff Grimes replaces Andy Kotelnicki as offensive coordinator after Kotelnicki left for the same position at Penn State. Many of the assistants who worked around Kotelnicki remain on the staff, as it should be a smooth transition with one of the league’s best quarterbacks returning.

5. West Virginia Mountaineers

2023 Record: 9-4 (6-3 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: Penn State, at Arizona, Kansas

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 1 (Once)

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 11

Neal Brown called his shot at Big 12 Media Days and he delivered in 2023. Last July, he was visibly upset over being picked last in the preseason Big 12 poll. West Virginia quarterback Garett Greene kept the number “14” as the wallpaper on his phone throughout the year as motivation, and it served him and the Mountaineers well as they reeled off a nine-win season.

Was it a byproduct of a weaker Big 12 schedule that featured games against all four of last year’s newcomers? That’s part of it.

But West Virginia has an identity with Greene at quarterback as a powerful running team. The stable of running backs is among the best in the league, with Jahiem White, CJ Donaldson, and Greene at QB.

Before official dates are released, the matchups West Virginia landed in the 2024 Big 12 schedule appear to be among the toughest in the league.

6. Kansas State Wildcats

2023 Record: 9-4 (6-3 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: Oklahoma State, Kansas, at West Virginia

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 2 

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 13

It can be easy to forget, but Kansas State had Texas on the ropes in Austin and took them to overtime. Despite being one of the top performers in the Big 12 since Chris Klieman, the Wildcats always have it to prove it to people. That might be the case again.

K-State fans saw the future with Avery Johnson at quarterback during the Pop-Tarts Bowl. He needs to improve as a passer, but he’s a dynamic playmaker on the ground.

Klieman has to replace Wildcat legend Colin Klein as offensive coordinator. Klein took the Texas A&M OC job. Reports have indicated that K-State will bring in former Utah State and Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells to call the plays. Wells was an analyst at Oklahoma this past season.

7. Iowa State Cyclones

2023 Record: 7-6 (6-3 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: at Iowa, at Kansas, at Utah

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 6

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 11

Inside Big 12 play, Iowa State was one of the toughest teams in the Big 12 in 2023. Away from league play, they were a mess.

The Liberty Bowl performance against Memphis was shocking as they finished zero rushing yards for a team with Abu Sama at running back. But the good news is that Iowa State was a young football team last year and they qualified for a bowl game.

They return the Big 12’s Freshman of the Year at quarterback in Rocco Becht, who passed for 3,120 yards.

Iowa State loses star defensive back TJ Tampa to the NFL, but most of their starters return next season.

8. TCU Horned Frogs

2023 Record: 5-7 (3-6 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: at Baylor, Oklahoma State, at Utah

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 5

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 13

It’s hard to believe, but a year ago, the college football world was buzzing about TCU and “Hypnotoad.” Then, a beatdown at the hands of Georgia in the National Championship set the tone for an underwhelming 2023 calendar year for the Horned Frogs.

TCU was the first team since Texas in 2010 to not go to a bowl game one season after reaching the National Championship Game. It was a steep fall from the mountaintop for Sonny Dykes’ program.

Help appears to be on the way with one of the nation’s best transfer portal classes led by Notre Dame wide receiver Braylon James and Cal Poly cornerback Donovan Saunders.

Dykes hired former Boise State head coach Andy Avalos to be TCU’s new defensive coordinator.

The loss of quarterback Chandler Morris was surprising as he has been the week-one starter for the past two seasons for TCU. But now it’s all-in on QB Josh Hoover to operate TCU’s high-tempo offense.

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders

2023 Record: 7-6 (5-4 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: at Arizona, Colorado, Baylor

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 3

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 15

Texas Tech had sky-high expectations entering the 2023 season, but they stumbled out of the gate, losing their first three games against FBS competition. They closed the season strong, winning four of their last five, including a 34-14 win over Cal in the Independence Bowl.

Then star running back Tahj Brooks announced that he is coming back for one final season in 2024.

There’s a lot of positive momentum building for Tech at the moment. They have a state-of-the-art training facility being built that’s set to open in August. Head coach Joey McGuire has pieced together another Top 25 recruiting class and one of the nation’s top transfer portal classes.

But the big question is, will it translate to wins in the fall?

10. UCF Knights

2023 Record: 6-7 (3-6 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: at Florida, BYU, Colorado

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 5

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 16

Despite a five-game losing streak, UCF found a way to grind out three wins to reach bowl eligibility last season. The Knights were the only newcomer to reach the Bowl Season.

Now having a year under their belts, is UCF due for a big jump? Possible.

They scored a big win in the Transfer Portal, landing former Arkansas star KJ Jefferson at quarterback. But offense wasn’t the problem last year for the Knights, as they were eighth nationally in total offense, averaging 487 yards per game.

The key to UCF improving in 2024 will be on defense, where they were 122nd in rush defense, allowing opponents 194.3 yards on the ground.

11. Colorado Buffaloes

2023 Record: 4-8 (1-8 in Pac-12)

Notable games in 2024: at Nebraska, Kansas State, at Kansas

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 4

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 13

Colorado back in the Big 12 seems right. Now, you add the star power of Coach Prime. The Buffs will be the main national attraction in the Big 12 next year.

But will Colorado have some sustained success throughout an entire season? They have one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Shedeur Sanders. But his offensive line let him down a lot last season.

Colorado gave up 4.7 sacks per game last season. That’s not going to get it done in any conference. But having Sanders back and cornerback/wide receiver sensation Travis Hunter is a strong foundation for entering the Big 12.

What makes Colorado fascinating again in 2024 is the talent he’s bringing in. No other team in the league, besides Texas Tech, to a lesser extent, can say they have five-star talent at the top of the roster. Coach Prime landed a letter of intent from five-star offensive lineman Jordan Seaton from IMG Academy.

Then, he has pieced together the nation’s number two transfer portal class.

We’re already counting down until Big 12 Media Days with Coach Prime at the podium.

12. BYU Cougars

2023 Record: 5-7 (2-7 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: at SMU, at Utah, Kansas

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 7

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 13

BYU struggled in its first year as a power conference team. That was to be expected. But the blowout losses they experienced were a tad bit surprising.

Despite closing the season on a five-game losing streak, players never quit and battled until the end, as displayed in close losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Head Coach Kalani Sitake has built a culture in his program that players want to be part of. That’s why you didn’t see any notable exits from key BYU players into the transfer portal.

Will it lead to more victories in 2024? That’s a big question.

BYU has a significant question mark at quarterback. Jake Retzlaff, who started the season’s final four games, returns in 2024. They also return Cade Fennegan, Ryder Burton, and Nick Billoups outside him.

Sitake wants one veteran transfer portal quarterback added to the mix.

Defensively, BYU is trending up after a Signing Day that saw the Cougars add reinforcements from the JUCO ranks along the defensive line. Plus, All-Big 12 performer Tyler Batty announced he is returning in 2024 at defensive end.

UPDATE: BYU lands former Baylor, USF QB Gerry Bohanon out of Transfer Portal

13. Baylor Bears

2023 Record: 3-9 (2-7 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: at Houston, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 11

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 16

There was so much that went wrong for Baylor this past season. Two years removed from winning a Big 12 Championship, Baylor only produced three wins and those victories were against LIU, UCF by one after being down by four touchdowns, and Cincinnati by a field goal.

The struggles forced head coach Dave Aranda to retool his staff by letting go of Jeff Grimes and bringing in Jake Spavital as the new offensive coordinator. Along with his head coaching duties, Aranda will call the defense.

Baylor picked up a dynamic dual-threat quarterback out of the portal to ignite the offense in Toledo’s Dequan Finn. Finn has passed for 7,079 yards in his career and rushed for an additional 1,837.

14. Arizona State Sun Devils

2023 Record: 3-9 (2-7 in Pac-12)

Notable games in 2024: Mississippi State, at Arizona, Utah

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 10

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 16

Head coach Kenny Dillingham inherited a tough job last year. He navigated his first season with the school placing the program on a self-imposed bowl ban. Despite that lack of postseason opportunity as a goal, Dillingham’s team competed and gave Washington, Colorado, Cal, and UCLA close games.

Still, the offense had a lot of struggles. Jaden Rashada returns at quarterback, along with the addition of Michigan State’s Sam Leavitt at the transfer portal.

The Sun Devils also added former USC playmaker Raleek Brown at running back.

Defensively, one of the bright spots for last year’s team was defensive lineman BJ Green. But he entered the portal and signed with Washington.

ASU’s rivals down south in the desert showed that things can turn around quickly with some patience. Dillingham might take another year or two to get things trending up.

15. Houston Cougars

2023 Record: 4-8 (2-7 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: at Oklahoma, Baylor, at TCU

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 12

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 16

The Dana Holgorsen era came to a close after the 2023 season. It was time for the Coogs to make a change at the headman spot. They then went and made a sound hire, landing Willie Fritz from Tulane.

Fritz turned Tulane into one of the best Group of Five programs and led the Green Wave to a Cotton Bowl victory over USC. He also has strong recruiting ties in the Houston area dating back to his days as a head coach at Blinn JC.

This job has all the potential in the world due to its location to win at a high level in the Big 12. Looking at 2024, they return quarterback Donovan Smith who tossed 22 passing touchdowns a season ago.

16. Cincinnati Bearcats

2023 Record: 3-9 (1-8 in Big 12)

Notable games in 2024: West Virginia, Houston, at UCF

Highest vote on KSL Sports ballots: No. 13

Lowest vote on ballots: No. 16

Year one under head coach Scott Satterfield went as many expected for Cincinnati. The Bearcats finished last in the Big 12 with an overhauled roster.

Next season should be improved, but they still have a long way to go to climb up the league standings.

The Bearcats return running back Corey Kiner, who announced he was returning for the 2024 season. Plus, superstar defensive lineman Dontay Corleone. They also added former Indiana starting quarterback Brendan Sorsby.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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