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Who is expected to be the Big 12 favorite in BYU’s first year in the league?

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TCU head coach Sonny Dykes watches teams warm up before the College Football Playoff title game between Georgia and TCU.

TCU head coach Sonny Dykes watches teams warm up before the NCAA College Football Playoff championship game between Georgia and TCU, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif.

Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

The next time BYU lines up to play football, the Cougars will be members of the Big 12 Conference.

Who will be the top teams in the league when BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF join the Power Five conference in 2023?

Several national writers released way-too-early Top 25 rankings this week, giving a sneak peak at who some of the nation’s top teams could be in the 2023 season.

While none of the new Big 12 programs showed up as a projected Top 25 team in any of these rankings, they help suggest who may be the top contenders in the Big 12 next season.

Who are the top Big 12 teams in the way-too-early rankings?

Three top contenders emerge by looking at the way-too-early rankings from nine national publications that include ESPN, The Athletic, Bleacher Report, Yahoo Sports, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News and Athlon Sports.

Here’s a look at each of these schools that, at least initially, appear to be the teams to beat in the Big 12 next season.

TCU Horned Frogs

  • 2022 record: 13-2, national champion runners-up.
  • Final 2022 Associated Press ranking: No. 2.
  • Highest appearance in way-too-early rankings: No. 6 (CBS Sports).
  • Lowest appearance in way-too-early rankings: No. 15 (three times).

Several national publications have the Horned Frogs as a potential Top 10 team to start the season after reaching the national title game in 2022. While quarterback Max Duggan was a senior in 2022, the Horned Frogs are expected to return 12 starters (five offense, seven defense) next season, according to ESPN. One nonconference game to watch for TCU next season is a matchup with Colorado, where Deion Sanders will be in his first year as head coach.

Kansas State Wildcats

2022 record: 10-4, Big 12 champions.

Final 2022 Associated Press ranking: No. 14.

Highest appearance in way-too-early rankings: No. 13 (Fox Sports).

Lowest appearance in way-too-early rankings: No. 20 (Athlon Sports).

The Wildcats beat TCU in the conference championship game and won five of their final six regular-season games, though Kansas State was blown out by Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. While star running back Deuce Vaughn is gone, the team is expected to return quarterback Will Howard, with 15 starters expected back (eight offense, six defense, one special teams), according to ESPN. The Wildcats’ most difficult nonconference game will be at SEC opponent Missouri.

Texas Longhorns

  • 2022 record: 8-5, third place in Big 12.
  • Final 2022 Associated Press ranking: No. 25.
  • Highest appearance in way-too-early rankings: No. 14 (two times).
  • Lowest appearance in way-too-early rankings: Not ranked (The Athletic).

The Longhorns’ five losses in 2022 all came by seven points or less, though Texas went just 1-4 against ranked opponents. Quinn Ewers returns at quarterback, and ballyhooed QB recruit Arch Manning will arrive for Steve Sarkisian’s group that is expected to return 18 starters (nine offense, six defense, one special teams), according to ESPN. Texas narrowly lost to Alabama last season and will have another chance to beat the SEC opponent when the Longhorns and Crimson Tide play in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 9.

Others Big 12 teams who appeared in way-too-early Top 25 rankings: 

  • Texas Tech: The Red Raiders, who ended the year on a four-game winning streak, appear in five of the nine way-too-early rankings, mainly in the 20s but as high as 18 in Sporting News. Texas Tech finished 2022 with an 8-5 record. 
  • Oklahoma: The Sooners suffered through a down season in 2022, finishing 6-7 after losing a close contest to Florida State in the Cheez-It Bowl. They show up five of the nine way-too-early rankings, all in the 20s.
  • Kansas: The Jayhawks appeared in the final spot in Fox Sports’ rankings. Kansas went 6-7, including a thrilling loss to Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl, and were ranked following a 5-0 start in 2022 before stumbling in the back half of the season.

Where did Big 12 teams rank in national way-too-early Top 25 rankings?

Here’s where nine national publications ranked Big 12 teams in their way-too-early Top 25 rankings.

(Note: none of the four teams joining the conference this summer — BYU, Cincinnati, Houston or UCF — appeared in any of these rankings.)

ESPN

  • 12. TCU
  • 16. Texas
  • 18. Kansas State
  • 23. Texas Tech

The Athletic

  • 10. TCU
  • 17. Kansas State
  • 21. Texas Tech

Bleacher Report

  • 14. Texas
  • 15. TCU 
  • 17. Kansas State
  • 20. Texas Tech
  • 23. Oklahoma

Yahoo Sports

  • 15. TCU
  • 16. Texas
  • 17. Kansas State
  • 20. Oklahoma
  • 21. Texas Tech

CBS Sports

  • 6. TCU
  • 17. Texas
  • 19. Kansas State
  • 25. Oklahoma

Fox Sports

  • 8. TCU
  • 13. Kansas State
  • 22. Oklahoma
  • 23. Texas
  • 25. Kansas

Sports Illustrated

  • 9. TCU
  • 18. Kansas State
  • 21. Texas

Sporting News

  • 8. TCU
  • 17. Kansas State
  • 18. Texas Tech
  • 20. Texas

Athlon Sports

  • 14. Texas
  • 15. TCU
  • 20. Kansas State
  • 21. Oklahoma