Building the case for every Big 12 championship contender
Texas is not back, but it certainly has the best returning roster in the Big 12 from top to bottom. While starting quarterback Quinn Ewers is unproven, and could certainly nullify the roster advantage the Longhorns have, the team has a decided advantage in proven returning players.
Last season, the starting lineup for the Longhorns was among the least experienced in the league with several freshmen and sophomore players taking on significant roles. With veteran laden teams from last season losing NFL talent, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian returns the majority of his biggest contributors from last season.
If we were to rank the Top 10 players from last year’s team, Jaylan Ford, Kelvin Banks, Ja’Tavion Sanders, Xavier Worthy, Jahdae Barron, Ryan Watts, Jerrin Thompson, Barryn Sorrell, Christian Jones and Jordan Whittington would certainly be worth consideration with many in the group earning recognition.
The loss of NFL talent at TCU and at key positions at Kansas State and Oklahoma leave voids for all three teams to fill. For that reason, we give the Longhorns an edge to win.
Let’s look at the case for all nine of our Big 12 title contenders.
10 returning offensive starters.
No. 2 in the Big 12 in returning production.
Best returning left tackle (Kelvin Banks), linebacker (Jaylan Ford), wide receiver (Xavier Worthy) and tight end (Ja’Tavion Sanders) in the conference.
Top two returning pass protectors in the Big 12 (Kelvin Banks, Christian Jones).
Least pronounced weaknesses among Big 12 teams.
Kansas State Wildcats
Reigning Big 12 champions.
Return all five starters on the most experienced offensive line in Big 12.
Return arguably the best quarterback in the conference in Will Howard.
Head coach Chris Klieman’s championship track record.
Wide receiver Phillip Brooks, tight end Ben Sinnott and running backs DJ Giddens and Treshaun Ward give the offense plenty of firepower to score.
Should be favored in 11 of 12 scheduled games.
Dillon Gabriel has his own case as the conference’s best returning quarterback.
One of the best linebacker rooms in the country with Jaren Kanak, Dasan McCullough and Danny Stutsman.
Several immediate impact additions with tight end Austin Stogner, edge Rondell Bothroyd, safety Peyton Bowen, edge PJ Adepawore, tackle Walter Rouse among others.
Enough at skill positions with Stogner, wide receiver Jalil Farooq and a strong running back room to make offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby’s offense soar.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
8-5 in Joey McGuire’s first season as head coach with wins over Texas, Oklahoma and Ole Miss.
16 returning starters with 13 players who have started 10 or more games.
Proliferation of offensive coordinator Zach Kittley’s passing attack in Year 2.
Two proven quarterbacks in Tyler Shough and Behren Morton.
Returns top five pass catchers from last season including big target receiver Jerand Bradley.
TCU Horned Frogs
Played for national championship after winning the Big 12’s first playoff game last season.
Replace quarterback Max Duggan with last year’s anticipated starter Chandler Morris.
Add offensive coordinator Kendal Briles who can bring a fast offensive install.
Transfer additions of wide receiver JoJo Earle, running back Trey Sanders and tackle Tommy Brockermeyer among others, reload starting talent.
Head coach Sonny Dykes is perhaps a Top 5 head coach in college football.
Won the Big 12 championship in 2021.
Bolstered the defense through the portal with new defensive coordinator, portal upgrades like Utah State edge Byron Vaughns.
One of the top skill teams in the league with running back Richard Reese and wide receivers Monaray Baldwin, Hal Presley and Arkansas transfer Ketron Jackson Jr.
Conference championship experience and winning quarterback play from Blake Shapen.
History of a fast rebuild with head coach Dave Aranda after offseason of retrospection.
10 returning offensive starters.
85% returning production (No. 2 in the nation).
All-conference quarterback contender Jalon Daniels.
Five-win improvement last season with head coach Lance Leipold.
Productive returning skill talent with running back Devin Neal, tight end Mason Fairchild.
Should have one of the best quarterback-wide receiver combinations with John Rhys Plumlee and Javon Baker.
59-18 record over the last six seasons.
Favored by ESPN Analytics in 9 of 12 scheduled games.
Lack of familiarity in Big 12 brings element of surprise.
Head coach Gus Malzahn’s track record of leading Auburn to conference titles and national championship games.
Quarterback Kedon Slovis has been great before with 30 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 3,502 yards in 2019.
On3 Sports’ No. 43 overall player, left tackle Kingsley Suamataia.
Several upsets over major programs in recent seasons including Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee and USC.
Defeated Baylor last season in its only Big 12 matchup.
Culture is established with Kalani Sitake as head coach since 2015.