While college football fans across the country must wait another 52 days for Week 0 of the 2023 season to officially begin, many exciting storylines are on the horizon as media days draw ever closer.
In fact, the Big 12 Media Days are just around the corner and will be held July 12-13 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
With BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston all set to join the Big 12 next season, and Texas and Oklahoma beginning their final year in conference before heading off to the SEC, it should be an action-packed two-day event filled with plenty of intrigue and excitement.
FOX Sports college football analyst RJ Young took a look at six pressing questions facing the conference in a recent episode of his podcast: “The Number One College Football Show with RJ Young.”
Here’s a look at his questions and why he’s interested in finding out the answers.
The biggest questions of the Big 12 in 2023
FOX Sports’ RJ Young explores the pressing questions ahead of the Big 12 Media Days.
1. Who will bring a quarterback?
The Big 12 recently announced the player attendees for the media days, as a total of nine quarterbacks are expected to headline the event. Three of those QBs will be from new Big 12 programs, but UCF’s John Rhys Plumlee is the group’s only returning starter, as both Emory Jones (Cincinnati) and Kedon Slovis (BYU) are new to their respective schools.
Young: “I always thought that the programs of all of our 131 FBS teams that bring a QB to media days had a really good chance for the season because: A. You know who the guy is. B. We know who the guy is.” and C. You want this guy to get some sparkle.
“If Dillon Gabriel and Quinn Ewers are two of your top quarterbacks and you look around the country, that’s not necessarily indicative of the sport’s top 10 quarterbacks for the last year.”
2. Do coaches think the Big 12 are fat from top to bottom?
While TCU enjoyed a Cinderella season in 2022, finishing the year 13-2 and earning a berth in the College Football Playoffs, the middle of the Big 12 and more than half of the conference were deadlocked ended the year with six, seven or eight wins. That includes the Texas Longhorns, who are bringing back a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball and are likely to be among the top 15 teams in last season’s AP Top 25 poll.
Young: “I think anyone in the Big 12 can win the Big 12 championship. That includes West Virginia, who may be the worst team in the Big 12 this year, but they’re not terrible. Kansas returns Jalon Daniels… they will be.” Good.
“I look at other programs, like Oklahoma, which had its first losing season in the 21st century last year and turned to the transfer portal to rectify something like that, and Kansas State, which came out of nowhere to get the big- 12 championship against a team that ended up playing in the TCU national championship.”
3. Do BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston feel like they can come in, beat Texas and Oklahoma and win the league?
All four Big 12 freshmen recorded eight or more wins last season. Meanwhile, Texas finished 2022 8-5, while Oklahoma finished 6-7 in Brent Venables’ first season at the top. Both the journey and playstyle are customized for the newcomers, but all four programs have the talent and coaching needed to compete in the Big 12.
Young: “I’m very excited to see if BYU — finally playing a true Power 5 game plan — can keep up because Provo is nowhere near Orlando. By the way, Orlando is nowhere near Provo. Houston has a good football program with it.” Central Florida Dana Holgorsen has proven it’s a good football program through Gus Malzahn, Josh Heupel and even Scott Frost, and Cincinnati played in the CFP two years ago.
“These are good football programs that will probably come up and think, ‘Well, if TCU can play in the CFP at this conference, why can’t we?’ And they’re right in thinking that way, because Texas Christian was one of those programs a few years ago.”
4. What’s the mood like as we talk about Oklahoma and Texas one last time?
The Big 12’s most prominent programs sent shockwaves across the college football universe in July 2021 when they accepted invitations to join the SEC. The plan called for them to leave the Big 12 and join the SEC before the 2025 season, but both schools agreed to an early exit with the Big 12 to join the SEC after the 2023-24 season.
Young: “In July it’s going to be 100 degrees in Dallas, Texas, but if we talk about Oklahoma and Texas, it’s going to be chilly.
“Last year Mike Gundy sat in on it [Media Days] and asked: why do we let them talk at all? Why are you here? This is Peak Mike Gundy. He’s probably the only coach in the Big 12 who would do something like that, but I think that was the feeling too.
“I think nothing would please Oklahoma or Texas fans more than topping the league table, winning the Big 12 title, and then playing in the College Football Playoffs in elimination. They also need the boost to go to a conference that’s better. “Honestly…it’s just better.”
5. Were coaches and players surprised that TCU made the college football playoffs?
TCU put together an unforgettable campaign for 2022 that ended with a trip to the CFP Championship Game. But after a 5-7 season and with a new head coach at the helm, the Horned Frogs weren’t expected to contend for a Big 12 title, let alone make the college football playoffs.
Young: “I’m really curious about that, because Oklahoma is usually in that spot… sure, we’ll give them the nod when in doubt. So for TCU to lose that game to Kansas State but still qualify for the college football playoffs… I found that really interesting. Do you think that’s an indication that the CFP selection committee genuinely respects the Big 12, or do you think it’s an indication that they only respect the history that was Texas Christian?
“There wasn’t anything about Texas Christian that said ‘dominant.'” They won a bunch of football games, but they had to come back in a bunch of football games, too. No one expected them to start the fight like they did against Michigan, let alone win it, 51-45. And then they came back to earth against a juggernaut in Georgia.”
6. Which program will take control of the league?
Five Big 12 teams appear in FOX Sports’ post-spring football top 25 ranking, but not a single one ranks in the country’s top 12. Kansas State is the highest ranked program on the list at 13th, closely followed by 16th Texas and 18th TCU. Oklahoma (24) and Kansas (25) round out the Big 12 programs in FOX Sports’ preseason top 25.
Young: “Texas Christian assumes he’s the one taking control of the league, but I can’t put a name to it. If you go 5-7 in 2021 and then play in the national league game, it’s all out the window.”
“If it’s not Texas Christian, it could be Iowa State, it could be Baylor, it could be Texas Tech, it could be Oklahoma State. Kansas will be good and Kansas State will be Kansas State. You could see that.” someone is taking control of this conference, and that’s before I get to the newbies.
“Houston will be able to recruit, Central Florida has shown it will be there, BYU has shown they are good, Cincinnati has shown they are good. It will be fun. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that.” Look who takes control of this conference for five to seven years, and even then we could have seven different conference champions because they’re so heavily represented, even if Oklahoma and Texas are the leave conference.
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