The Five Best Big 12 Coaches Returning for 2024

Week Four Big 12 Power Rankings

Editor’s Note: This is the next in our series on the “Best Returning in the Big 12.”

Who are the best Big 12 coaches returning for 2024? The Big 12 is one of the largest and most competitive conferences in college football. The programs are not in the largest media markets. it can be overlooked as the SEC and Big Ten continue to spin the realignment carousel. Before we get to the list, we’ve got a little story for you with the help of Pearl Jam. The story tells how the Big 12 entrenched itself as the third-best conference in college football.

In July 2021, Texas and Oklahoma, who we all thought were the Big 12’s daddies, announced they were heading to the SEC in 2024. The Longhorns and Sooners account for 39% of all Big 12 championships and 54% of the conference’s national championships. The Big 12 was still alive but questioned whether it deserved to be. The question proved too complex for Bob Bowlsby. He was replaced by Brett Yormark, who has used innovation and innovation to expand the conference. The Big 12 added the four best G5 teams (BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF) to the league. This year, he took four of the best remaining schools in the Pac-12 (Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah).

Yormarks’ move stabilized the Big 12 and brought in coaches and programs to keep the league on secure footing going forward.

The Five Best Big 12 Coaches Returning for 2024

The teams that make up the Big 12 are similar. Each program has been overlooked or bypassed by bigger, sexier names and programs in realignment and the polls. It makes for some really fun environments and moments, especially when those little programs knocked off the big programs. It also makes for some really competitive conference races. The Big 12 is wide open in 2024, with at least seven or eight teams making a case to win the conference and a spot in the College Football Playoff. This year’s list will highlight one coach each from the 2023 and 2024 realignment and the Top 3 coaches from the remaining eight programs.

2023 Realignment Class

Only two of the four of the original Big 12 coaches remain from when BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF announced they would head to the Big 12 in September 2021. Dana Holgorsen never panned out or won as much as many thought he should in Houston. Scott Satterfield remains a puzzling fit in his second stint as head coach in the Queen City. That left us with two choices: Kalani Sitake at BYU and Gus Malzahn at UCF. Sitake is a Cougar alum, understands how to recruit to BYU,  and has done a nice job in Provo. His name has been passed around for some of the top West Coast jobs.

Malzahn gets the nod because it just means more. First, Malzhan had a 3-5 record against Nick Saban as head coach at Auburn. Les Miles is the only other SEC coach to have at least three wins against Saban. (Maybe not the best example, sorry LSU.) Malzhan’s success in the SEC and being the only Big 12 team in Florida make it an ideal spot for high school recruiting and utilizing the Transfer Portal. Malzhan will have former Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson this year, and the Golden Knights will challenge for a Big 12 Championship.

2024 Realignment Class

In 2023, teams in the Pac-12 were scrambling. The ship was sinking, leaving all the schools outside Los Angeles, Seattle, and Eugene looking for a lifeboat. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah found lifelines in the Big 12. When selecting a coach, there was one coach that was an easy pick. Arizona went through a coaching change and Kenny Dillingham is still trying to establish his footing with the Sun Devils. Coach Prime got plenty of clicks and won the popularity contest but did not get our vote. (We hope he kept his receipts because the Louis he brought to Boulder proved to look like a knock-off.) Instead, we head to Utah for our top spot.

If you “Google” consistency, a picture of Kyle Whittingham should appear.  He is one of the top Big 12 coaches and a Top 5 candidate in college football. Whittingham has been with the Utes for over 20 years, taking over when Urban Meyer took his talents to Gainesville.  He has guided the Utes through the Moutain West and Pac-12 and is now set to guide them through the Big 12. His quarterback Cam Rising is returning for his SEVENTH year of eligibility. No doubt Willingham will have Utah right in the thick of it and maybe have Salt Lake City rocking for an opening playoff game come December.

Best of the Old Guard

Eight teams remain from the original Big 12. Neal Brown just missed the list after betting on himself in 2023. Chris Klieman also received strong consideration but was bypassed by another Kansas coach. Joey McGuire has all the makings of a high-end Texas college football coach but will need to put it together to return to consideration. Here are the top three returning Big 12 coaches from the old guard.

Sonny Dykes TCU

One would be hard-pressed to leave off the only current Big 12 after their historic run in 2022. Sure, it ended in disaster for Georgia, but who can forget how they handled the Wolverines? Dykes has shown to be at home in the DFW area and has established a brand. Dykes will continue to use the Transfer Portal to enhance his roster, and if he and Kendal Briles can get the offense on track, they can be right back in the conversation atop the Big 12.

Lance Leipold Kansas 

Leipold is a builder. He showed that with his run at Wisonsin-Whitewater and all his wins and national championships. He turned Buffalo into a #MACtion darling and now has the Jayhawks primed and ready to compete for a Big 12 Championship.  Kansas is an older team and is returning plenty of talent. Staying in Lawrence and bypassing opportunities in College Station and Starkville shows Leipold knows what he has coming back.

Mike Gundy Oklahoma State 

How has it been 16 years since we discovered how old Gundy was? Gundy and Oklahoma State epitomize the Big 12; overlooked by an older brother. Gundy has shown the ability to adapt and evolve his offensive and defensive schemes to his personal. He has shown a great talent for identifying up-and-coming coaching talent. Similar to Leipold, Gundy returns plenty of talent to Stillwater. Undoubtedly, the Pokes will set their sights on a third straight Big 12 Championship Appearance.

Big 12 Still Alive

Despite the ever-changing college football landscape. Yormark and the Big 12 coaches have the conference in good hands and are singing loud and proud.

I, oh, I’m still alive
Hey I, oh, I’m still alive
Hey I, but, I’m still alive
Yeah I, ooh, I’m still alive

 

Week Four Big 12 Power Rankings
Photo courtesy:  Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

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