2024 Conference USA Football Preview

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2024 Big 12 Conference Football Preview


2024 Big 12 Conference Preview

Regular Season Win Totals

Kansas State: 9.5
Utah: 9.5
Kansas: 8.5
Arizona: 7.5
Iowa State: 7.5
Oklahoma State: 7.5
TCU: 7.5
Texas Tech: 7.5
UCF: 7.5
West Virginia: 6.5
Baylor: 5.5
Cincinnati: 5.5
Colorado: 5.5
Arizona State: 4.5
BYU: 4.5
Houston: 4.5

Coaching Changes

Arizona: Jedd Fisch Out ~ Brent Brennen In
Houston: Dana Holgorsen Out ~ Willie Fritz In

Kansas State Wildcats 9-4 ~ 6-3 Big 12 ~ 7-4-1 ATS ~ 7-5-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 4/Defense 8

Kansas St. is coming off another solid season as it went 9-4 and it could have been even better. All four losses were by one possession including two by three points, one against Texas in overtime. We say another solid season because the Wildcats have won eight or more games 10 times over the past 13 seasons and that includes a four-win COVID season. Kansas St. is loaded again on both sides of the ball and has a legitimate shot at the Big 12 Championship Game. Avery Johnson takes over at quarterback for Will Howard, who left for Ohio St., and he is one of the most significant recruits the Wildcats have landed in a long time. He has the three top receivers back in Jadon Jackson, Jayce Brown and Keagan Johnson and one of the top running back in the conference in DJ Giddens who rushed for 1,226 yards last season. Defensively, Kansas St. was right on par with the numbers from 2022 and 2023 and this season they should improve as they have six players that could legitimately be on the All-Big 12 teams. Nothing will be easy in this conference but the Wildcats schedule is not bad. They actually play 10 conference teams but Arizona will not count. They only face one team coming off a bye, Colorado, and they are coming off a bye as well to make it a wash.

Utah Utes 8-5 ~ 5-4 Pac 12 ~ 6-5-1 ATS ~ 5-7-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 6/Defense 9

Injuries took their toll on the Utes last season right from the start and while the 8-5 season was not what they envisioned, it was still something to be proud of and they gained experience from it. Utah is once again picked to finish at or near the top of the conference but this time it is the Big 12 yet they will still be squaring off against some familiar faces and barring any repeat injuries, anything short of the Big 12 Championship Game will be a disappointment. Neither quarterback Cam Rising nor his leading target tight end Brant Kuithe saw the field last season and the offense suffered as they dropped 15.4 ppg and nearly 120 ypg from their 2023 averages but both are back to full health. Utah brought in USC/Arizona transfer Dorian Singer (1,683 yards in 27 games) and while the offensive line lost three starters, they are always deep and experienced. Utah did not miss a beat on defense which has been the case every year for a while as it finished No. 14 overall and No. 20 in points allowed. The Utes bring back nine starters, needing to replace just one linebacker and one corner so an even better defense could surface this season. The Utes do not leave the state for any of its nonconference games with the only road game at Utah St. and in the Big 12, they miss Kansas and Kansas St.

Kansas Jayhawks 9-4 ~ 5-4 Big 12 ~ 7-5-0 ATS ~ 6-5-1 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 7/Defense 6

The Jayhawks have taken one of the biggest steps in all of college football over the last couple seasons as they have come close to knocking on the door since head coach Lance Leipold took over the program in 2021 and made it his own. Kansas has won eight Big 12 Conference games the last two seasons after winning eight conference games in the previous 13 seasons combined. It will be an interesting year for the Jayhawks as they have a lot of obstacles to get around but if they can stay healthy, they have the potential to play with anyone in this conference. Quarterback Jalon Daniels was on pace for a monster season and was a sneaky Heisman Trophy candidate but he ended up hurting his back after three games and never came back, electing to take a redshirt. Jason Bean was a solid backup but the offense was not as dynamic as it was with Daniels. Six players had at least 172 yards receiving last season and five of those are back that totaled 1,938 yards while leading rusher Devin Neal is back after running for 1,209 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Big 12 schedule is fairly tame as they miss four of the other top seven teams but they will be playing all of their home games off campus because of renovations taking place at Memorial Stadium which is a big disadvantage.

Arizona Wildcats 10-3 ~ 7-2 Pac 12 ~ 10-2-0 ATS ~ 4-8-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 7

Arizona was the big surprise in the Pac 12 Conference last season as many publications and polls had the Wildcats finishing near the bottom of the league but after a 3-3 start with two of those losses in overtime, they won their final seven games to close the season. While Arizona would have contended in its old conference, it will be able to contend in its new conference as well. Last season was its first 10-win campaign in a decade and just its second since 1998 so this once proud and dominant program has been stuck in mediocrity for some time. Head coach Jedd Fisch bolted for Washington but left the team in great shape for Brent Brennen who comes over from San Jose St. The offense finished No. 18 overall and No. 20 in scoring behind quarterback Noah Fifita so the offense is again in great hands. Leading receiver Tetairoa McMillan, who had 1,402 yards is back but the next three wideouts are gone so replacements are needed. Two transfer running backs from the MWC who averaged over a combined 2,000 yards take over for Jonah Coleman. The defense was a top 40 unit and is loaded outside from the line which could use help. The Wildcats have five Big 12 home games and while they have Utah on the road, the other three are manageable so they will be in the mix.

Iowa State Cyclones 7-6 ~ 6-3 Big 12 ~ 7-5-0 ATS ~ 5-7-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 10/Defense 9

After a rough start where the Cyclones opened 2-3, they closed the season 5-2 before losing in the Liberty Bowl 36-26 to Memphis so all-in-all, it was a quality year as they shook off their 4-8 season in 2022. Head coach Matt Campbell has put together six winning seasons in his eight years in Ames and this season has the potential to be the best one yet should it stay healthy because of the back loaded slate. The Cyclones have 19 starters back and are the third most experienced team in the country, trailing only Oklahoma St. and Virginia Tech. After going 21-5 at home from 2018-2021, they went just 6-7 the last two seasons so getting that home mojo back is essential. The only starter lost on offense is at tight end but they are deep at that position. Quarterback Rocco Becht was excellent as a freshman and should only get better. Not only does Iowa St. bring back nine starters on defense, they are all either juniors or seniors so the experience is even greater with the veteran presence. The Cyclones were second in the conference in defense, trailing CFP participant Texas. Do not be surprised with a 6-0 start with a game at Iowa being the real difficult test but then it really toughens up with five bowl teams from last season, plus an improved Cincinnati team and it closes with Utah and Kansas St.

Oklahoma State Cowboys 10-4 ~ 7-2 Big 12 ~ 7-5-0 ATS ~ 6-6-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 10/Defense 9

With nine teams stamped with 7.5 or higher win totals, this is a top heavy Big 12 Conference that can turn into a wide open battle and the Cowboys will certainly be a player with loads of talent and experience. Their 10 wins were the seventh time in the last 13 seasons with double-digit victories so this is a program that has been consistently above average under head coach Mike Gundy, who has only one losing season, his first one in Stillwater, in his 19 years here. Oklahoma St. is the most experienced team in the country after coming in as one of the most inexperienced last season. This offense is loaded with 10 starters back behind quarterback Alan Bowman and he cannot feel more comfortable. He has All-American and the 2023 leading rusher in the country Ollie Gorgon II behind him, five seniors on the offense line that is second in the country in combined starts with 214 and a pair of receivers that combined for 164 catches and 1,886 yards. Oklahoma St. was not good on defense as it as No. 124 overall and No. 92 in points allowed with six returning starters, right in line with 2022 when it had four starters back but now nine are back. They open the Big 12 with games against Utah and Kansas St. so we will see early on what they are made of and they avoid Kansas and Arizona.

TCU Horned Frogs 5-7 ~ 3-6 Big 12 ~ 5-7-0 ATS ~ 4-8-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 7/Defense 9

After making the College Football Playoff in 2022, it was an expected down season in 2023 as the Horned Frogs had only 10 starters back, including just three on offense, and a 1-5 midseason run did them in. It was only the sixth losing season since 1997 as head coach Gary Patterson created a dynasty with 11 double-digit win seasons and six final Top 10 rankings. He left in 2021 after four mediocre campaigns and Sonny Dykes was one win away from a National Championship in his first season. TCU should be better off with a much more experienced team and after nearly the same averages on defense in 2023 with seven starters back as it had in 2022, the Horned Frogs bring back nine starters this season. Additionally, they hired former Boise St. head coach Andy Avalos to serve as defensive coordinator. Quarterback John Hoover was pretty solid as a freshman but there is a lot of room for improvement and losing three starters along the offensive line will not help. 1,272-yard rusher Emani Bailey is gone so someone has to step up but Hoover gets his two top receivers back. The conference schedule is a brutal one as they do avoid Kansas St. but have games at Kansas and Utah to go along with home games against Texas Tech, Arizona, and Oklahoma St.

Texas Tech Red Raiders 7-6 ~ 5-4 Big 12 ~ 5-7-0 ATS ~ 5-7-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 9/Defense 5

It was a third straight winning season for Texas Tech, including its third straight bowl win but as has been the case for the last 14 years, it was nothing special. The Red Raiders defeated only one team with a winning record, Kansas, and they have not surpassed eight victories over that 14-year stretch. To their credit, or to at least give them a little justification, they did play nine teams that went to bowl games and five of their six losses were against teams that finished with nine or more wins but to become a team to compete for championships, some of those losses need to become wins. It all starts with the offense that finished No. 65 overall last season with 387.1 ypg, the first time since 2000 that it tallied fewer than 400 ypg. Quarterback Behren Morton was hurt on and off and is fully healthy but there will be a mostly new receiving corps in place so it may take time. They will again depend on Tahj Brooks who rushed for 1,538 yards behind a strong offensive line. The defense was not great but limited opponents to under 400 yards, the first time since 2012 that has happened. They avoid Utah and Kansas St. but the three toughest conference games against Arizona, Iowa St. and Oklahoma St. are all on the road so taking the first five winnable games is important.

UCF Knights 6-7 ~ 3-6 Big 12 ~ 5-6-1 ATS ~ 6-6-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 7/Defense 8

The first season in the Big 12 did not go well for UCF as it went 3-0 in its nonconference games but opened conference action with five straight losses. The Knights did rally to win three of their last four games to become bowl eligible but lost to Georgia Tech 30-17 in the Gasparilla Bowl. It easily could have been a better season as they were on the plus side in yardage differential in Big 12 games despite being 3-6 as three of the losses were by a combined four points. The offense was one of the best in the country as UCF finished No. 3 with 527.7 ypg and this was with quarterbacks John Rhys Plumlee and Timmy McClain splitting time because of injuries. Taking over will be KJ Jefferson who comes in from Arkansas after starting 38 games for the Razorbacks and his duel threat ability will fit well. They lose their top receiver but two starters are back and UCF will rely on running back RJ Harvey who rushed for 1,476 yards but the offensive line brings back only 58 starts, second fewest in the conference. Defensively, the Knights could not stop the run as they were fifth worst in the country has to improve in front of an elite secondary. The Knights miss Kansas, Kansas St. and Oklahoma St. and get Utah and Arizona at home so the Big 12 schedule is on their side, they just have to execute.

West Virginia Mountaineers 9-4 ~ 6-3 Big 12 ~ 7-5-0 ATS ~ 8-4-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 5

West Virginia was picked to finish bottom three or four in the Big 12 Conference last season with head coach Neal Brown firmly on the hot seat. But the Mountaineers did not listen to the naysayers as they put together their first nine-win season since 2016 when they won 10 games and they look to build upon that. They got blown out in the opener against Penn St. before reeling off four straight wins prior to a brutal last second loss to Houston and they closed the season with five wins in their last six games, the only loss coming against Oklahoma. The job is safe for Brown barring a complete implosion and that should not happen with this offense which finished No. 27 overall with 434.6 ypg, the most since 2017. Most of the pieces are back, led by quarterback Garrett Greene, while the top three running backs and four of the top five receivers return. Defensively, the numbers were not great but West Virginia led the Big 12 in sacks and the secondary was another strength. Their leading tackler is gone and the secondary needs to replace three of four starters but the Mountaineers used the transfer portal to reload and should be just fine. They open with Penn St. again but this time at home while the conference schedule is a bear as they play all of the top teams expect for Utah.

Baylor Bears 3-9 ~ 2-7 Big 12 ~ 3-8-1 ATS ~ 6-6-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 10/Defense 9

The Bears have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the country over the last few years and it has been extreme. They went from three straight 10-win seasons from 2013-2015 to one win in 2017. Baylor then went back up to 11 wins in 2019 and 12 wins in 2021 only to have a losing season in 2022 and then fell back further to only three wins last season. Since 2009, Baylor has had four or fewer wins four times and the previous three follow up years, it came back with a winning season so 2024 is ready for another bounce back season and it looks possible. Baylor is the fourth most experienced team in the Big 12 Conference and the highest ranking of all teams that did not make a bowl games last season. Baylor struggled on offense last season, finishing No. 72 but the only replacement needs to be made at tight end so it should improve considerably. Six of nine losses last year were by double digits as the defense imploded when the offense was average but nine starters are back so there should be improvement on this side of the ball as well. Baylor misses Arizona and Kansas St. and the game against Utah counts as a nonconference game and while the rest of the Big 12 slate is no cakewalk, the Bears do get Oklahoma St. and Kansas at home.

Cincinnati Bearcats 3-9 ~ 1-8 Big 12 ~ 4-8-0 ATS ~ 8-4-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 7

The Bearcats were one of the three teams that came over from the AAC and all three struggled in their new conference while Cincinnati was the most likely for that to happen. They had only eight starters coming back along with a new head coach and the uptick in strength of schedule led to their fewest wins overall since 1999. Now in the second year in the system of head coach Scott Satterfield while bringing back close to double the number of returning starters, we should see some positive progression. Cincinnati was very good offensively, averaging 426.1 ypg which was No. 34 but it could not get into the endzone as it was just No. 84 in scoring. Indiana transfer quarterback Brendan Sorsby comes into a good situation with the top rusher and receiver back along with all five starters on the offensive line returning. Averaging 24.1 ppg will not get it done as turnovers killed some good ball movement last season so mistakes have to come down. The defense allowed its most yards and most points since 2017 which happened to be its last losing season and Cincinnati hit the transfer portal hard along all three levels to improve their unit as a whole. The Bearcats have a good conference slate by avoiding Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma St. and Kansas but the tougher games are on the road.

Colorado Buffaloes 4-8 ~ 1-8 Pac 12 ~ 7-4-1 ATS ~ 6-6-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 8

The Buffaloes were the story of college football heading into last season whether looking for the good or the bad and we were treated to both. Colorado opened the season 3-0 and jumped into the AP Poll at No. 18 but then things went south quickly. The Buffaloes were blown out by Oregon by 37 points which started a 1-8 run to end the season, the lone victory against 3-9 Arizona St. There were certain factors compounding the skid including injuries and a defense that could not stop anyone. Head coach Deion Sanders make his mark, which was his goal, and his coaching style from the go was not for everyone as after an unprecedented 53 transfers coming in last season, 40 players took off at the end of the year. The Buffaloes have one of the best playmakers in quarterback Shedeur Sanders who led the No. 15 ranked passing offense and also have the dynamic two-way player Travis Hunter, part of eight starters but the Buffaloes were dead last in rushing and they need to find some balance. Eight starters are back on the other side to improve the defense that finished No. 129 overall and No. 124 in scoring. The good news from the Colorado schedule is that it gets Baylor and Cincinnati. The bad news is that the other seven conference games are against teams with win totals of 7.5 or higher.

Arizona State Sun Devils 3-9 ~ 2-7 Pac 12 ~ 5-6-1 ATS ~ 5-7-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 6/Defense 4

Last season was chalked up as a likely rebuilding season for Arizona St. under first year head coach Kenny Dillingham and that is what it turned into. It was the second straight 3-9 season for the Sun Devils following four straight winning campaigns, not counting the COVID season, and this was the first time they finished with fewer than four wins in consecutive seasons since 1946 so to say this can be considered rock bottom would not be false. Arizona St. was the only Pac 12 team that lost to Colorado but five of their losses were to teams ranked No. 18 or higher and they did have a stretch of three straight losses by one possession so they were not the worst team around. Still, it will be tough to vastly improve this season with just 10 starters back and facing the No. 3 toughest schedule in the country. There will be a quarterback battle between incumbent Trenton Bourguet and Michigan St. transfer Sam Leavitt and they have to replace their top two receivers so they will rely on leading rusher Cameron Skattebo early on. The defense was not much better but was skewed by three of the last four games where they allowed 55, 49 and 59 points when they were already toast. The nonconference slate is doable but 0-3 in still out there while the Sun Devils face five of the top six teams in the Big 12.

BYU Cougars 5-7 ~ 2-7 Big 12 ~ 5-7-0 ATS ~ 7-5-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 6

Life as an Independent treated BYU well as it could formulate its own schedule and in 12 seasons, it came away with a winning campaign in 11 of those and that was after five straight winning seasons in the MWC. So last season was one of two losing slates since 2005 as the Big 12 showed its teeth and the conference will be just as good if not better this season. The Cougars did have major injury issues midway through the season which attributed to their 0-5 finish so they are starting fresh with a good amount of experience coming back. Quarterback Kedon Slovis brought talent and experience but he struggled through eight games and missed the final four games due to arm injuries. The Cougars brought in Gerry Bohanon, who made 19 starts at Baylor and USF and they have six of their top seven receivers back as well as their leading rusher and it ultimately comes down to the offensive line to make a bigger push. The defense was good the first two games but they did hardly anything good after that, finishing No. 108 overall and No. 99 in points allowed. Injuries crushed the secondary and they are now healthy and the front seven has three real playmakers. The schedule does them no favors as they face five of the top six teams in the Big 12 but BYU does get four of those at home.

Houston Cougars 4-8 ~ 2-7 Big 12 ~ 5-6-1 ATS ~ 5-7-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 5/Defense 5

It has been a revolving door on the Houston sideline, whether it be a voluntary departure or a forced one, as the Cougars are now on their eighth head coach since 2000 as they parted ways with Dana Holgorsen following a 4-8 season and brought in Willie Fritz who led Tulane to a 23-4 record including a split in the two ACC Championship Games. He definitely has his work cut out for him as the Cougars were all over the place, losing games they could have won, getting blown out in others and winning three games by a combined six points. The offense showed flashes but it was too inconsistent and there were too many mistakes. Quarterback Donovan Smith threw for 2,801 yards and 22 touchdowns while he ran for 428 yards and six scores but he threw 13 interceptions and a new system should do him good. He has two solid veteran receivers returning along with leading rusher Parker Jenkins but the offensive line needs work. Defensively, Houston ranked No. 101 or worse in scoring defense, rushing defense, passing defense and overall defense, its worst total output in five years. Only five starters are back on this side as well with the transfer portal needing a big impact. Houston is another team facing five of the top six teams in the Big 12, avoiding only Oklahoma St.