At the end of last season, the Big 12 knew it was going to play only one season with 14 teams in it. That will still be true because in 2024. That’s because they are going to have 16 conference members, even while losing two programs to the SEC. This 2023 season is going to be unique for a few different reasons. Naturally, we can all expect it to be just another ho-hum year in the Big 12 then. Right?!?! Of course not. Undoubtedly, the Big 12 is going to provide plenty of jaw-dropping moments this year. But where will those moments come from? Good news, Last Word is here to provide the college football world with some 2023 Big 12 bold predictions to prep the masses for the madness.
2023 Big 12 BOLD Predictions
Texas Beats Alabma And Loses To Houston
“Texas is back” jokes aside, if we take away the logo on the helmet the combination of talent and experience paints a picture of a team that should be the favorite to win the Big 12. The history of Texas football, since Mack Brown, has a pretty similar experience year in and year out. The elite-level talent, which the Longhorns have never had a problem getting, plays to its potential when they face a team with similar or more talent. It was very clear last year, even with Quinn Ewers getting knocked out, that Texas simply just got Bryce Young-ed and was the better team against Alabama last year. But the ‘Horns big downfall has been stubbing their toe to Kansas or Iowa State which has kept them from getting out of third gear.
Even with Texas having to travel to Tuscaloosa this season, this should be a team with plenty to prove. Alabama still has relatively big question marks at the quarterback position. Texas will take advantage of the Tide still trying to figure itself out offensively. The ‘Horns will get their season off to a start required for a championship run. And while Texas will continue to build momentum, it will all come crashing down when they go to Houston. The scheduling gods bless fans by sending the Longhorns to Houston in what will no doubt be a charged-up atmosphere. The other factor is Houston’s quarterback, Donovan Smith, will not be intimidated by Texas. In fact, Smith has made a habit of erupting for one-to-two game-changing performances that single-handily win games. Ask the Texas Longhorns and they are very familiar with Smith’s best performances.
UCF Finishes Ahead of Oklahoma In Final Big 12 Standings
Given Texas’ history, maybe the roller coaster ride of beating Bama and losing to Houston is more of a tepid Big 12 bold prediction. But make no mistake, this next one is going to the moon. This is appropriate for a school that contends they truly are Astronaught U. It is no secret that Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables had a rough first year in Norman. Most surprising was how awful a Venables-coached team was defensively. The Sooners should be much better in year two. This is a team that still has plenty of talent on the roster. They still signed a top-10 recruiting class. This is Oklahoma after all. In fact, with one or two breaks, Oklahoma could find itself in Arlington playing for a Big 12 championship.
Oklahoma is going to improve on its six-win 2022 campaign. However, there is a wildcard member joining the conference in the way of the UCF Knights. Excluding 2020, UCF has won at least nine games in five consecutive seasons. They are led by Gus Malzahn, who is no stranger to coaching in big games and navigating a competitive schedule. He coached at the one program that is the premier chaos agent in college football. There is no doubt he can bring that same chaotic nature to the Big 12. Both the Sooners and Citronauts will finish with nine wins, but with a UCF win over the Sooners, the tiebreaker bumps them just in front of Oklahoma.
Big 12 Sends Another Quarterback To New York
The Pac-12 right now is getting all of the attention when it comes to returning quarterback play heading into 2023. However, the quarterbacks coming back to the Big 12 this season should not be overlooked. Just last year, the Big 12 had a Heisman-finalist quarterback in Max Duggan. It is worth noting Duggan didn’t even win the job coming out of camp last year and didn’t take over until week two. There are very simple cases to be made for a number of Big 12 quarterbacks to find themselves in New York at season’s end. If Texas lives up to expectations, Ewers is going to be a big part of that. It won’t be a stretch for voters to gravitate toward the Texas quarterback.
While Kansas could be in for a bit of a regression from a win-loss record, the ceiling on Jalon Daniels is as high as any quarterback in the league. If the Jayhawks have another surprise season, it will only be possible if Daniels plays at an elite level all year. That would certainly warrant Heisman discussions. Texas Tech is the darling dark horse pick to win the conference. A trip to Arlington will only be possible if Tyler Shough stays healthy and plays at a very high level. The Shough and Duggan comparisons would be undeniable to Heisman voters. Oh, by the way, the defending Big 12 champs have Will Howard leading them in a title defense. With no Deuce Vaughn to grab the attention of voters, Howard would be the focal point if the Cats have another excellent season.
Oklahoma is desperate for a bounce-back season. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel, if healthy, will put up monster numbers for the Sooners. If Oklahoma looks like, well Oklahoma again, Gabriel will get plenty of that credit. And rounding out just the top part of the conference, UCF has an electric playmaker at quarterback in John Rhys Plumlee. If the Knights surprise everyone this year, Plumlee’s play will be at the heart of that rise to the top of the conference.
West Virginia Ruins A Contender’s Season
When it comes to Big 12 bold predictions, there might not be a coach who plays bolder all season than West Virginia’s Neal Brown. He entered 2022 on a pretty warm coaching seat and after a missing bowl season, that seat is now scorching hot. His Mountaineers were picked to finish dead last in the media poll to start the season. Brown can coach this team without any reservations. He should not leave a single trick play left on the shelf this season. Opening the season at Penn State, and then home for three straight against Duquesne, Pitt, and Texas Tech is the toughest opening stretch in the Big 12 in 2023. He may not make it to October.
But whether he does or doesn’t, the Mountaineers are in a prime position to play spoiler. College football history has plenty of examples of a desperate team rising up to bite someone to salvage an otherwise dumpster fire of a season. West Virginia fans should not have high hopes for this season. But there will be one victory they can hang their hats on as they welcome in a new head coach for the 2024 season.