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Ranking the football programs in the new-look Big 12

How does BYU stack up against its future conference members?

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Oklahoma State running back LD Brown during an NCAA college football game against Tulsa.

Oklahoma State running back LD Brown (0) during an NCAA college football game against Tulsa, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Stillwater, Okla.

Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

When BYU takes the field at McLane Stadium Saturday afternoon against the Baylor Bears it’ll do so as a nonconference opponent. That will also be the case in 2022, when BYU hosts Baylor at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.

Come the 2023 season, however, the Cougars will officially start competing as members of the Big 12 Conference (Oklahoma and Texas aren’t slated to join the SEC until 2025, barring an early and expensive departure, while Cincinnati, Houston and UCF will join the club in 2024).

How does BYU compare to its future conference foes? Which teams will stand atop the new-look Big 12 and which will hold an ignominious position at the bottom?

Here is a ranking of every Big 12 football program current and future, taking into consideration everything from on-field success over the last decade (meaning since 2010 and excluding the ongoing 2021 campaign), to coaching ability and stability, to recruiting.


No. 1 — Oklahoma Sooners

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Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley congratulates offensive lineman Andrew Raym (73) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Texas at the Cotton Bowl, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Dallas. Oklahoma won 55-48.

Jeffrey McWhorter, Associated Press

Record — 118-27

  • The Sooners are 81-18 in Big 12 play and have reached the College Football Playoff four times, most recently in 2019. They are currently ranked No. 4 in the country, with a 6-0 record.

Conference championships — 8

  • The Sooners have won the conference title game every year since it was reinstated in 2017 and have failed to win at least a share of the the conference championship only twice in the last decade: 2011 and 2014.

Head coach — Lincoln Riley

  • Riley took over for the legendary Bob Stoops in 2017 after working as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016. Riley is 51-8 overall, with a 33-5 record in conference play. Stoops coached Oklahoma for 18 seasons and is the program’s all-time winningest coach (190-48).

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • The Sooners have had a top-20 recruiting class nationally every year since 2010, with the 11th-best class on average. Oklahoma has had the best class in the Big 12 four times and the second-best class eight times.

Why No. 1?

The Sooners may or may not be a part of the Big 12 when BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF start competing in 2023 and 2024, but they are right now and on paper will remain until 2025. Given that, any ranking of Big 12 programs has to have the Sooners at the top.

No program in the Big 12 has had more success on the football field over the last decade, and it isn’t close. Additionally, only Texas has been on par with Oklahoma on the recruiting trail. As for coaching stability/ability, few programs can match the duo of Stoops and Riley.

The Athletic recently ranked the Oklahoma job the eighth-best job in the country, with an anonymous coordinator from a Group of Five program telling the publication, “OU is the best job in America right now, but that’s gonna change in a few years. There’s just no competition in the Big 12 versus them. Huge talent gap.”


No. 2 — Baylor Bears

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Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) during an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Stillwater, Okla.

Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

Record — 85-54

  • The Bears are 54-44 in Big 12 play, a record based in the large pendulum swings that have seen the Baylor program stand as the conference’s best as well as one of its worst. Baylor has contended for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but also won a single game in another campaign.

Conference championships — 2

  • The Bears won conference championships in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014, sharing the title with TCU in ’14. Baylor was a threat to make the College Football Playoff in the playoff’s inaugural season, finishing 11-1 overall, but ultimately finished just outside the top 4 at No. 5 in the country. In 2019, Baylor played in the conference championship game against Oklahoma, but lost 30-23.

Head coach — Dave Aranda

  • Aranda is in his second season as head coach of the Bears. The first year was a struggle, as Baylor finished a measly 2-7, but the Bears have rebounded in a big way this season. Aranda succeeded Matt Rhule, who in three seasons transformed the Bears from a one-win team to an 11-win title contender. Rhule took over for Art Briles, under whom the Bears won both of their conference championships. Briles was fired in the wake of a major sexual assault scandal at the university that involved multiple football players.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • The Bears have been steady on the recruiting trail, never finishing worse than 50th nationally, while never finishing better than 25th. Inside the conference, Baylor has averaged the fifth-best class, and most recently (2021) finished with the fourth-best class.

Why No. 2?

This placement largely comes down to what the Bears have accomplished on the gridiron. Baylor is the only team, aside from Oklahoma, to win multiple Big 12 conference championships since 2010, and the Bears came close to winning a third only two seasons ago.

Scandal and coaching changes have affected the program’s stability over the years, but not enduringly, as Baylor won 11 games under both Briles and Rhule and currently is 5-1 in Aranda’s second season at the helm.

Baylor is not the name brand school that others in the Big 12 are, but the Bears have regularly been the best program in Texas, or at least been the Texas program most capable of reaching the highest heights.


No. 3 — TCU Horned Frogs

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TCU’s Zach Evans (6) scores a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Lubbock, Texas.

Brad Tollefson, Associated Press

Record — 93-46

  • Since joining the Big 12, TCU has gone 44-37 in conference play. In making the transition from the Mountain West Conference, the Horned Frogs struggled a bit, losing six and eight games, respectively, in the first two seasons in the Big 12, but TCU rallied and won 11 or more games in 2014, ’15 and ’17. The Horned Frogs have dropped off a bit over the last three seasons, though, never winning more than seven games.

Conference championships — 1

  • TCU shared the conference title with Baylor in 2014, with its only loss that year coming in a shootout against the Bears in Waco. The Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 in 2011 (began competing in 2012), and won only four games the season before winning the conference crown. In 2017, TCU lost to Oklahoma in the conference championship game.

Head coach — Gary Patterson

  • The second longest tenured head coach in all of college football (only Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has him beat), Patterson holds legendary status at TCU. He is the program’s all-time winningest coach with 181 victories (76 losses) which are the most by an active head coach at his current school. Patterson has been the Horned Frogs head coach since 2000 and has won conference titles in every conference the team has been in, including Conference USA, the MWC and the Big 12.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • Much like Baylor, TCU has been pretty consistent on the recruiting trail. The Horned Frogs haven’t finished worse than 53rd in the country and have had a top 25 class three times. TCU has averaged the fifth-best class in the Big 12 on a year-to-year basis, and finished with the third-best class five straight years, from 2016 through 2020.

Why No. 3?

This one comes down to a mixture consistency and high end achievement. TCU has the most recent Big 12 title of any team not named Oklahoma and Baylor and was elite as recently as 2017. Throw in Patterson, who has to be considered a top-3 coach in the conference, plus some consistently strong recruiting, and TCU just has a better claim than the teams after it.


No. 4 — Oklahoma State Cowboys

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Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) carries in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Baylor, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Stillwater, Okla.

Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

Record — 101-40

  • The Cowboys are 64-34 in conference play since 2010, the best record by any conference team other than rival Oklahoma. Oklahoma State has won 10 or more games six times, including 10 wins in back-to-back-to-back seasons from 2015 through 2017. The Cowboys have experienced a bit of a dip over the last few seasons, never winning more than eight games, but are undefeated this year and ranked No. 12 in the country.

Conference championships — 1

  • The only Big 12 championship in program history came back in 2011, when the Cowboys won 12 games, including the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford.

Head coach — Mike Gundy

  • A former Oklahoma State quarterback, Gundy has been the head coach of the Cowboys since 2005. He has won 142 games (lost 67) and become a household name in the process, sometimes more for his off the field antics than his success on the field. Nevertheless, Gundy built on the foundation established by Les Miles in the early 2000’s and has more wins to his name than any coach in the conference, aside from Patterson.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • Oklahoma State hasn’t had a recruiting class ranked as low as the 50s nationally and can be found anywhere from the mid-20s to mid-40s on a year-to-year basis. The Cowboys regularly have the fourth- or fifth-best class in the Big 12, but have finished seventh twice, in 2015 and ‘16.

Why No. 4?

More than anything else, this placement is due to Oklahoma State’s conference title being in 2011 and not more recent than TCU’s (plus the Horned Frogs’ championship game appearance in 2017).

The Cowboys have consistently been good during the Gundy era, with an eight-win season being considered a step back. This year, Oklahoma State is the Big 12’s second best team, with a showdown with rival Oklahoma beckoning.

Still, the Cowboys haven’t been elite for a few years and even at their best have not been a match for Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU, all of whom always seemed to be just a little bit better lately.


No. 5 — Texas Longhorns

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Texas quarterback Casey Thompson (11) rolls out to pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Dallas. Oklahoma won 55-48.

Jeffrey McWhorter, Associated Press

Record — 78-62

  • The Longhorns have barely been a plus .500 team in conference play, standing at 52-47. Since 2010, Texas has had only one 10-win season (2018) but have won five games three times. The Longhorns have never contended for the College Football Playoff and have played in a New Year’s Six bowl once, 2018 in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia.

Conference championships — None

  • While Texas won a pair of conference championships between 2000-2010, the Longhorns haven’t won one since 2009. Texas has played in a conference championship game in the last decade, but only once, in 2018 against Oklahoma.

Head coach — Steve Sarkisian

  • The former Washington and USC head coach is in his first season as head coach at Texas, with a 4-2 record through six games. Sarkisian replaced Tom Herman, who in four seasons with the Longhorns won 34 games (lost 18) and won 10 games in 2018. Herman, meanwhile, was the replacement for Charlie Strong. In three seasons at the helm of the Texas program, Strong never won more than six games in a season, making a bowl game only one time (2014). Strong took over for national championship winning Mack Brown, who coached Texas 16 years, but wore out his welcome in Austin with four straight seasons with less than 10 wins.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • Texas has never lacked on the recruiting front and the Longhorns have regularly had one of the best classes in the country and the Big 12. Texas has finished with the best class in the conference six times. On a national level, the Longhorns have never finished worse than 25th and have had five top 5 recruiting classes.

Why No. 5?

This one is going to be controversial, but Texas has underachieved mightily on the field. The Longhorns are elite at recruiting, especially when it comes to the Big 12, and are major moneymakers for the conference, but when it comes to winning, Texas hasn’t been great. The Herman era was more successful than often is portrayed, but at its best this decade, Texas could only compete for a conference title, not win one.


No. 6 — Kansas State Wildcats

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Kansas State wide receiver Phillip Brooks (88) scores a touchdown after getting past Oklahoma cornerback Jaden Davis, right, during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Oct. 2 2021.

Orlin Wagner, Associated Press

Record — 85-54

  • The Wildcats have won as many total games as Baylor and have a better record in conference play (56-43) than the Bears. Kansas State has only won 10 or more games twice (the high point came in 2012 when the Wildcats went 11-2), but has won eight or more games in seven seasons.

Conference championships — 1

  • The Wildcats earned a share of the Big 12 championship in 2012, alongside Oklahoma. Kansas State finished that season 11-2 overall, with the only losses coming against Baylor during the regular season and Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.

Head coach — Chris Klieman

  • Formerly of North Dakota State (he went 69-6, winning four FCS national championships with the Bison), Klieman took over Kansas State in 2019. In his first two seasons in Manhattan, the Wildcats won eight and four games, respectively. This season Kansas State is 3-2 overall, 0-2 in conference play. Klieman replaced the retired Bill Snyder, one of the legendary coaches in college football history. Snyder finished his career with Kansas State with 215 victories and two Big 12 championships and is the winningest coach in program history.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • During the Snyder era, it could be argued that Kansas State did more with less than any program in the country. The Wildcats haven’t had a class ranked higher than 49th nationally since 2010, with seven recruiting classes falling in the 60s or 70s in national rankings. In the conference, Kansas State has averaged the ninth-best class.

Why No. 6?

Kansas State is a fascinating program. On the one hand, the Wildcats have had all kinds of success over the years. Maybe not regular top-tier success, but Kansas State has always won. How much of that was due to Snyder, though, a Hall of Fame coach often talked about as one of the best in college football history?

Thus far under Klieman, Kansas State has been hit or miss, but the Wildcats have consistently been one of the better teams in the conference year in and year out for a long time, and they are being rewarded for that consistency here.


No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats

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Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder throws a pass during an NCAA college football game against Temple, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 52-3.

Aaron Doster, Associated Press

Record — 88-50

  • Whatever the conference, Cincinnati has consistently proven itself a winner, though the past couple of seasons the Bearcats have taken it to another level. Cincinnati won 11 games in back-to-back seasons in 2018 and 2019, and last season went 9-1 in a COVID-19-shortened year, losing only to SEC power Georgia in the Peach Bowl. Prior to that run, the Bearcats won nine or more game four times from 2010 through 2014.

Conference championships — 5 (three as a member of Big East, two in the AAC)

  • Cincinnati wins, whatever the conference. In the waning days of the Big East, the Bearcats tied for the conference title in back-to-back-to-back seasons, with some combination of Pitt, Louisville, Syracuse, West Virginia, Rutgers and UConn. Once the AAC formed, Cincinnati tied for the conference title with UCF in 2014 and won the title outright last season.

Head coach — Luke Fickell

  • One of the most talked about head coaches in the country right now, given the open USC job and his ties to the Trojans athletic director, Fickell has won 40 games in four and a half seasons with Cincinnati. He took over a program on a downward swing aka the Tommy Tuberville era, but after winning only four games his first season, Fickell has won at least nine games every year since. Tuberville did post a pair of nine-win seasons early in his four-year run with the Bearcats, and prior to him Butch Jones had a pair of 10-win seasons.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • The Bearcats’ average recruiting class over the last decade has been 57th, which traditionally has been first or second in the AAC, but would put Cincinnati on par with the likes of Iowa State in the Big 12.

Why No. 7?

This is where the rankings get difficult. How do you rate teams that play in a Group of Five conference (or as an independent) with those currently in the Big 12? Does winning big at one level translate to another?

Given TCU’s successful transition to the Big 12 (and West Virginia to a lesser extent), it would seem that Cincinnati can make a successful move to the Power Five. Throw in the fact that the Bearcats are perceived as a legitimate threat to make the College Football Playoff and all their recent success feels reason enough to give them the benefit of the doubt.


No. 8 UCF Knights

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UCF wide receiver Amari Johnson runs for a touchdown against Navy during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Annapolis, Md.

Julio Cortez, AP

Record — 94-46

  • Based solely off wins and losses, UCF could rate as well as No. 3 in the new look Big 12. That is how much success the Knights have had recently, even with a winless campaign in 2015 and a slight downturn recently. The Knights have won 10 or more games five times since 2010 and have won 12 or more games three times, with two of those seasons culminating in wins in major bowl games, meaning BCS or New Year’s Six bowls. At one point, from 2017 through 2018, UCF won 25 games in a row.

Conference championships — 4 (American Athletic Conference)

  • The Knights joined the AAC in 2013 and wasted little time competing with the best in conference and won a share of the title in both 2013 and 2014. In 2017 and 2018 UCF won outright conference championships, beating Memphis in back-to-back conference title games (before 2015, the AAC did not have a conference championship game).

Head coach — Gus Malzahn

  • Malzahn is in his first year as head coach at UCF. Prior to that he was the head coach at Auburn, where he went 68-35 over the course of eight seasons. Malzahn replaced Josh Heupel, who in three seasons at UCF went 28-7, including a 12-1 campaign. Heupel in turn replaced Scott Frost, who took over a winless program and only two season later won went undefeated, finishing 13-0. Frost’s predecessor was former Notre Dame coach George O’Leary. O’Leary won 10 or more games three times in 12 seasons, including 31 games over three seasons from 2012-2014. When his team started the 2015 season 0-8, however, he resigned.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • Where Cincinnati lines up well with programs like Iowa State in recruiting, UCF is a little bit lower in recruiting rankings with an average class rated at No. 66. Some of that is due to outliers that saw the Knights have the 96th-best class or the 79th, but UCF also did no better than 50th in any given year.

Why No. 8?

There is something to be said for winning. Teams below the Knights on this list might recruit better, or might have even beaten the Knights head-to-head recently, but UCF has simply proven itself a winning program, capable of bouncing back from even the worst single season campaigns, much like Baylor.

UCF paved the way for Cincinnati’s recent success in the polls and is joining the Big 12 on the back of its extreme success — winning 25 games in a row will do that — as well as its position in recruit-rich Florida. Throw in the fact that O’Leary, Frost and Heupel all won big in Orlando and the UCF program seems capable of success, almost regardless of coach.


No. 9 BYU Cougars

Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier runs against Utah State.

Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier runs in Logan on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Record — 88-45

  • Over the last decade, the Cougars have been a consistently good program, with the occasional leap to great or slide to poor. BYU has won eight or more games seven times since 2010, most recently winning 11 games in 2020. BYU has qualified for a bowl game every year except for 2017 and is well on its way to playing in another bowl game this season.

Conference championships — None

  • This one is pretty self explanatory. The Cougars have competed as an independent since 2011, saying goodbye to the MWC, which they helped found. Hence no conference titles.

Head coach — Kalani Sitake

  • Since taking over in 2016, Sitake has rebuilt the BYU program. Early in his tenure, after a nine-win season his first year, the Cougars struggled, winning four games one year, then back-to-back seasons with seven wins. Last season, though, BYU erupted with 11 wins and is on pace for possibly another double-digit win season. Prior to Sitake, Bronco Mendenhall led the Cougars, who were consistently a top-3 team in the MWC. Mendenhall won 10 or more games five times in 11 seasons.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • Over the last decade, BYU’s recruiting has been very similar to that of UCF. A few outlier seasons here and there, but both programs ranked in the mid- to high-60s on average. Recently classes have trended downward for BYU, though a bump could be expected going forward given the Big 12 invite.

Why No. 9?

Based only off the past two seasons, this ranking would seem somewhat insulting for the Cougars. However, a look at the program over the last decade shows that BYU has been hot and cold. That isn’t unlike some other teams already mentioned, but BYU hasn’t had the dramatic bounce-back seasons Baylor and UCF have, but more a slow and steady rebuild.

Recruiting is always a concern, though BYU’s coaching staff has proven capable of player development. The Cougars have won, much like the teams ahead them and more than the teams behind. As long as Sitake is at the helm, BYU appears to have a solid program capable of competing in the Big 12.


No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones

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Iowa State running back Eli Sanders (26) carries the ball up field during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press

Record — 60-77

  • For years, the Cyclones were one of the worst teams in the Big 12 and among the Power Five conferences. Since 2010, Iowa State is 40-60 in conference play and has yet to win more than nine games in a single season. In fact, the Cyclones have only qualified for a bowl game in the each of the last four years. Prior to that, they went four seasons without winning more than three games.

Conference championships — None

  • Iowa State has only competed for one conference championship in the last decade, last season against Oklahoma. The Cyclones lost to the Sooners 27-21, but that showing, plus their win over Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, meant Iowa State entered the 2021 season with arguably the highest expectations in program history.

Head coach — Matt Campbell

One of the hottest names in college football, Campbell took over a perennial doormat and has turned it into a viable and at times feisty program. Prior to his taking over in 2016, Iowa State hadn’t won more than seven games in a season since 2000. With Campbell at the helm, the Cyclones have won eight or more games in back-to-back seasons. All told, Campbell is 38-30 at Iowa State.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • The Cyclones have never been prolific recruiters, though they have seen an uptick under Campbell as compared to the previous regime. Iowa State has finished sixth in the conference recruiting ranks twice since Campbell took over, while never finishing better than eighth before he arrived. On a national level, Iowa State has averaged the 58th best class.

Why No. 10?

It was tempting to rank Iowa State higher, given the Cyclones’ recent successes. Campbell is a great coach who has worked wonders in Ames. That being said, the wonders in Ames still pale in comparison to the achievements of other teams in the conference and some of the incoming teams as well.

Give Campbell another year or two and Iowa State could vault up into the upper echelon in the conference, but right now other programs have just proven themselves better for longer periods of time.


No. 11 West Virginia Mountaineers

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West Virginia quarterback Garrett Greene (6) is defended by Texas Tech defensive back Reggie Pearson Jr. (22) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Kathleen Batten, Associated Press

Record — 81-56

  • Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, West Virginia has been just another team. Not good, not bad, but right in the middle. The Mountaineers are 40-40 in conference play and have only won 10 or more games in a season once (2016). From 2015 through 2018, West Virginia won seven games or more every season, before taking a step back the last couple of years.

Conference championships — 2 (Big East)

  • Outside of the 2016 season, West Virginia has never really been in the Big 12 title race. Before joining the conference, though, the Mountaineers did win multiple Big East titles, sharing honors in both 2010 and 2011.

Head coach — Neal Brown

  • Brown has only led West Virginia for two and half seasons now, starting in 2019. He went 5-7 in his first campaign, improving to 6-4 last season. Prior to Brown, the Mountaineers were led by Dana Holgorsen, the current head coach at Houston. Holgorsen led West Virginia for eight years, winning 53 games, before taking the job with the Cougars.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • All things considered, West Virginia has recruited quite well in recent years, especially since joining the Big 12. The Mountaineers have finished no worse than seventh in the conference and have had a top-5 class six times. Additionally, no West Virginia class has rated lower than 57th nationally, though none higher than 30th.

Why No. 11?

This ranking is all “but what have you done for me lately.” West Virginia was a power in the Big East, but since moving into the Big 12 the Mountaineers have been an afterthought, save for their one outlier season in 2016. West Virginia is rarely a bad team, just also rarely ever a good one.

The Mountaineers could have been slotted ahead of Cincinnati, UCF, BYU and Iowa State, but they just haven’t had the overall success of those schools in recent years.


No. 12 Houston Cougars

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Houston Cougars wide receiver Nathaniel Dell (1) returns a kick against Texas Tech during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Houston.

Justin Rex, Associated Press

Record — 83-53

  • Midway through the last decade, the Cougars were the non-Power Five darling. In 2015, Houston won 13 games, including a win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl. The Cougars also won 13 games in 2011, beating Penn State in the Ticket City Bowl. Outside of those seasons, however, the Cougars have been just fine. Houston has won nine games once, eight games three times and there was a couple of five win seasons and a four win campaign, too.

Conference championships — 1 (AAC)

  • Though they played for the Conference USA championship in 2011, Houston’s only recent conference title came in 2015, when the Cougars defeated the Temple Owls 24-15 in the AAC conference championship game.

Head coach — Dana Holgorsen

  • Formerly of West Virginia, Holgorsen took over as head coach at Houston in 2019. The first two seasons were a struggle, with the Cougars going a combined 7-13, but things are beginning to turnaround this season. Prior to Holgorsen, Houston was led by many head coaches, including Major Applewhite, Tom Herman, Tony Levine and Kevin Sumlin. Only Herman and Sumlin won 10 or more games with the Cougars, parlaying that success into Power Five coaching jobs at Texas A&M and Texas (neither hold those jobs currently).

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • Outside of an outlier year in 2016, when Houston reeled in the 36th-best recruiting class in the country, the Cougars have largely occupied a similar space with UCF and BYU. Houston has had three classes rated in the 50s and the rest have fallen somewhere between 70th and 80th.

Why No. 12?

Houston has had some major successes in the last decade, but that now feels like the distant past. The Cougars are two coaches removed from their last double-digit win season. Since that 13-win outburst, Houston has been just another AAC team.

The potential is there, as illustrated by breakout seasons under Sumlin and Herman, but the Cougars haven’t had anywhere close to the consistent success of any of the teams listed before them.


No. 13 Texas Tech Red Raiders

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Texas Tech’s Henry Colombi (3) passes the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game against TCU, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Lubbock, Texas.

Brad Tollefson, Associated Press

Record — 64-71

  • Since Mike Leach coached his final game for Texas Tech in 2009, the Red Raiders have settled in as one of the Big 12’s worst programs. Texas Tech is just 33-65 in conference play since 2010 and hasn’t won more than eight games in a single season. Additionally, the Red Raiders haven’t had a winning record in conference play since 2009.

Conference championships — None

  • Given their aforementioned struggles in the Big 12, Texas Tech hasn’t been close to competing for a conference title. In fact, the program has never won one, one of just four current Big 12 teams.

Head coach — Matt Wells

  • The former Utah State coach has led Texas Tech for two and half seasons now. The first two campaigns were not a success, as the Red Raiders won only four games in back-to-back years. At 4-2 currently, Texas Tech appears to be trending upward. Wells replaced Kliff Kingsbury, who coached in Lubbock for six seasons, never finishing with a record better than 8-5. Prior to Kingsbury, Tommy Tuberville posted a pair of eight-win seasons.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • Despite their position in Texas, the Red Raiders have been among the worst in recruiting in the Big 12 of late, finishing anywhere from eighth to 10th in each of the last three seasons. During the Tuberville era and early parts of the Kingsbury era, Texas Tech did bring in some top-30 classes nationally, finishing third and fourth in the Big 12.

Why No. 13?

When compared to the rest of the Big 12, Texas Tech is just a notch below. Kingsbury was never able to have great success and really only had a couple of solid seasons. Wells, meanwhile, was on the hot seat entering the season, though the Red Raiders’ strong start has cooled that seat a bit.

For some reason, Texas Tech hasn’t been able to capitalize on Big 12 membership or its position in Texas, at least not since Leach was calling the shots.


No. 14 Kansas Jayhawks

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Kansas cornerback Cam’Ron Dabney (16) gets set for a play during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa State, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press

Record — 21-108

  • Almost inarguably the worst football program in a Power Five conference (Arizona has actually lost more consecutive games currently) Kansas hasn’t won more than three games in a season since 2009. The Jayhawks are a dismal 6-91 in conference play since 2010.

Conference championships — None

  • Kansas hasn’t competed for a conference title since 2007, so yeah.

Head coach — Lance Leipold

  • Leipold is in his first season as head coach at Kansas. Prior to coming to Lawrence he was the head coach at Buffalo, where he turned around a defunct program and posted a 37-33 record in six seasons, winning two MAC East Division titles. Leipold reached 100 victories faster than any coach in NCAA history. Prior to Leipold, Kansas had a procession of coaches, including Les Miles, David Beaty, Charlie Weis and Turner Gill, none of whom had any success.

Recruiting — 247Sports composite rating

  • Recruiting has never been a strong point for Kansas, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Jayhawks have had the worst class in the conference five times in the past 12 years and have never finished better than seventh. Perhaps a little disconcerting for UCF, BYU and Houston, though, national rankings put Kansas on par with each of those school’s efforts.

Why No. 14?

This doesn’t need to be explained. But if an explanation was needed, The Athletic recently ranked the Kansas job the second hardest Power Five job in the country.

As an anonymous agent told the publication, “What a nightmare.”