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BIG-12

Big 12 Football Power Index rankings for 2024: Which teams are underrated, overrated?

The Oklahoman

Times have changed in the .

Say goodbye to OU and Texas, two powerhouse football programs that are now in the SEC. Say hello to four new competitors in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Arizona State, all of which came from the Pac-12.

It's a new-look field. And with OU and Texas, who boast a combined seven of the last 10 regular-season Big 12 titles, the conference crown is up for grabs. A new hierarchy will take shape this upcoming season, and there are already projections of what it'll look like.

ESPN recently released its , a power rating that tracks each team's strength relative to an average FBS squad. Teams are rated on offense, defense and special teams.

Here's a look at where each Big 12 team ranks in ESPN's FPI and whether or not they should be higher or lower:

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Big 12 football power index (FPI) rankings

1. Kansas Jayhawks

  • 2023 record: 9-4
  • Projected 2024 record: 8.7-3.6
Kansas redshirt junior quarterback Jalon Daniels (6) looks for an open pass during Friday's Spring Preview at Rock Chalk Park.

Kansas is on the rise, and quarterback Jalon Daniels has the potential to win Big 12 Player of the Year if he can stay healthy. But that's a big "if," and the defense also lost key contributors at all three levels. Safety Kenny Logan Jr., linebacker Rich Miller and edge rusher Austin Booker are no longer in the mix. Kansas will still be one of the best teams in the Big 12 this season, but the top spot is a bit too high.

Ranking: Overrated

2. Kansas State Wildcats

Kansas State coach Chris Klieman argues a call in the first half at Texas Tech on Oct. 14, 2023.
  • 2023 record: 9-4
  • Projected 2024 record: 8.4-3.9

Kansas State is handing the keys to sophomore quarterback Avery Johnson, who's now in charge of a dynamic offense. The Wildcats boast an elite running back duo of DJ Giddens and Colorado transfer Dylan Edwards, and they've added Penn State transfer Dante Cephas to a wide receiver room full of returners. Throw in a defense with plenty of depth at defensive end and in the secondary, and Kansas State is geared up for a strong season.

Ranking: Accurate

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3. Arizona Wildcats

  • 2023 record: 10-3
  • Projected 2024 record: 7.9-4.3

Quarterback Noah Fifita and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan are a lethal duo, and the Wildcats still have a strong offensive line despite losing Jordan Morgan to the NFL Draft. But Arizona got hit with a setback when head coach Jedd Fisch left for Washington, and it lost a few key players such as lead running back Jonah Coleman to the transfer portal. The No. 3 spot on this is generous for a team under a newly-hired head coach Brent Brennan.

Ranking: Overrated

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys

OSU running back Ollie Gordon II (0) talks to quarterback Alan Bowman (7) during the Cowboys' win against Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27 at NRG Stadium in Houston.
  • 2023 record: 10-4
  • Projected 2024 record: 7.6-4.6

OSU reached the Big 12 title game last season, and it's returning plenty of key contributors. Quarterback Alan Bowman is back for a seventh season, and running back Ollie Gordon II is a Heisman hopeful. The Cowboys also return 10 starters on defense including linebacker Nick Martin, although they must improve after allowing 28.6 points per game last season. Still, OSU's Big 12 experience and wealth of returners warrants a higher spot on this list.

Ranking: Underrated

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5. Utah Utes

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising (7) drops back to pass against Florida during the first quarter at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field.
  • 2023 record: 8-5
  • Projected 2024 record: 7.8-4.4

Cameron Rising's return is huge. And while health is a concern, he has strong targets in tight end Brant Kuithe and USC transfer wide receiver Dorian Singer. Utah also returns eight starters on a defense that only allowed 19.3 points per game last season. There's some hesitation with the secondary, but Georgia Tech transfer Kenan Johnson and Michigan transfer Cameron Calhoun are good pickups. The No. 5 spot is way too low for a Utah team that, if healthy, could compete for a Big 12 title.

Ranking: Underrated

6. Texas Tech Red Raiders

  • 2023 record: 7-6
  • Projected 2024 record: 7.6-4.5

Behren Morton is the guy following the loss of quarterback Tyler Shough. And while there are a ton of new faces at wide receiver, running back Tahj Brooks should serve as a safety blanket. Oregon transfer Ben Roberts should also provide some much-need pass rushing. All of this sounds good on paper, but the same could be said last offseason. The No. 6 spot sounds more like a ceiling for Texas Tech than an accurate projection.

Ranking: Overrated

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7. TCU Horned Frogs

  • 2023 record: 5-7
  • Projected 2024 record: 7-5.1
TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Josh Hoover (10) throws a pass as Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Danny Stutsman (28) pursues him during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. Oklahoma won 69-45.

After reaching the College Football Playoff's championship game in 2022, TCU failed to make a bowl game last season. The Horned Frogs were subpar defensively, but the hope is that additions such as Notre Dame defensive lineman Nana Osafo-Mensah and Texas cornerback Austin Jordan will help. Still, injury concerns surrounding quarterback Josh Hoover aren't encouraging. I could see TCU falling to the bottom half of the standings.

Ranking: Overrated

8. UCF Knights

  • 2023 record: 6-7
  • Projected 2024 record: 7.4-4.7

UCF struggled last season as it navigated a Big 12 schedule for the first time. But Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson is a strong addition on offense. And after UCF lost more than half of its starters on defense, Miami defensive lineman Nyjalik Kelly and Texas Tech linebacker Jesiah Pierre should be able to contribute right away. The Knights finished ninth in the Big 12 last season, and they'll likely stay in the middle of the pack.

Ranking: Accurate

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9. West Virginia Mountaineers

Oct 21, 2023; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown talks with West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Garrett Greene (6) during the first quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2023 record: 9-4
  • Projected 2024 record: 6.3-5.8

With a strong offensive line, an explosive running back duo of Jahiem White and CJ Donaldson and a mobile quarterback in Garrett Greene, West Virginia's offense is loaded. The Mountaineers also ranked first in the Big 12 in sacks (33) last season, and defensive lineman Sean Martin is back as the leader of another good group. West Virginia made strides last season, and it has everything it needs to finish in the top half of the Big 12 standings this time around.

Ranking: Underrated

10. Colorado Buffaloes

Nov 17, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Colorado Buffaloes cornerback Travis Hunter (12) celebrates a touchdown against the Washington State Cougars in the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2023 record: 4-8
  • Projected 2024 record: 6.3-5.8

After beginning last season with a win over TCU, Colorado went on to finish last in the Pac-12 standings. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders and cornerback Travis Hunter are two high-level players who won't have trouble adjusting to the Big 12, but who else will step up? Colorado has plenty of new faces and even more question marks up front, both on offense and defense. That makes it hard to put the Buffaloes any higher than No. 10.

Ranking: Accurate

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11. Iowa State Cyclones

  • 2023 record: 7-6
  • Projected 2024 record: 6.6-5.5

No team on this list is more underrated than Iowa State, which has the most returning production in the nation (86%). Quarterback Rocco Becht is back in the mix, and so is the wide receiver duo of Jaylin Noel and Jayden Higgins. Then there's sophomore Abu Sama III, who could be due for a breakout campaign. And let's not forget about Iowa State's defense, which is a consistent strength. The Cyclones are a dark horse to compete for a Big 12 title this season, making the No. 11 spot far too low.

Ranking: Underrated

12. Baylor Bears

Toledo Rockets quarterback Dequan Finn throws a pass against the Liberty Flames during the second half in the Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida, Dec. 20, 2022.
  • 2023 record: 3-9
  • Projected 2024 record: 5.8-6.2

After going 3-9 last season, Baylor searched for solutions this offseason. It hired Cal offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, a former Tulsa Union star. And after quarterback Blake Shapen transferred to Mississippi State, Baylor replaced him with Toledo transfer and MAC Player of the Year DeQuan Finn. But defense is still a concern for the Bears, who allowed the most points per game in the Big 12 last season (33.5). Baylor should make some progress, but the No. 12 spot sounds about right.

Ranking: Accurate

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13. Arizona State Sun Devils

  • 2023 record: 3-9
  • Projected 2024 record: 4.7-7.3

Arizona State went 3-9 last season, and it started four different quarterbacks in search of its guy. Trenton Bourguet is the only returner from that group, and he'll compete with Michigan State transfer Sam Leavitt for the starting gig. Arizona State also got a brutal draw with its Big 12 schedule. It couldn't avoid Kansas, Kansas State, Arizona, OSU or Utah, which is the entire top five of this list. It's not encouraging for the Sun Devils in their first season with the conference.

Ranking: Overrated

14. Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Brendan Sorsby (2) throws during spring football practice, Monday, March 4, 2024, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.
  • 2023 record: 3-9
  • Projected 2024 record: 5.2-6.8

After going a combined 31-5 in its previous three seasons in the American Athletic Conference, Cincinnati went 3-9 in its Big 12 debut under newly-hired head coach Scott Satterfield. Indiana quarterback Brendan Sorsby is a promising addition via the transfer portal, and running back Corey Kiner is back after rushing for 1,047 yards and five touchdowns last season. But the Bearcats' defense will likely struggle once again, making it difficult to climb the Big 12 standings.

Ranking: Accurate

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15. BYU Cougars

Nov 25, 2023; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; BYU's Jake Retzlaff (12) celebrates a touchdown first over time of the college football game between the Oklahoma State University Cowboys and the Brigham Young Cougars at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sarah Phipps-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2023 record: 5-7
  • Projected 2024 record: 4.8-7.2

BYU ranked last in the Big 12 in points per game last season (23.1). And even though it added South Florida quarterback Gerry Bohanon to compete with Jake Retzlaff for the starting gig, that doesn't solve a lack of pass protection or a consistent run game. BYU's best chance at being competitive is if its defense takes another step, and the addition of Weber State linebacker Jack Kelly is a good start. But it likely won't be enough.

Ranking: Accurate

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16. Houston Cougars

  • 2023 record: 4-8
  • Projected 2024 record: 4-8

Houston's biggest change this offseason came when it fired head coach Dana Holgorsen and hired Tulane's Willie Fritz. But it'll take time to turn things with a roster that saw over 30 departures. And while one key returner is quarterback Donovan Smith, he was limited this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery. Give it time in Houston, but this could be another long season.

Ranking: Accurate