2023 recruiting rankings offer glimpse into new-look Big 12 pecking order

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The new-look Big 12 begins in 2023 with a recent announcement that Houston, Cincinnati, UCF, and BYU are joining the conference earlier than planned. Texas and Oklahoma are likely off to the SEC in 2024. That means one season of 14 teams in the Big 12 before the dust officially settles on the latest round of conference alignment. 

Talent acquisition – specifically recruiting – is at an all-time importance in college football. The Janes and the Joes matter more than the X’s and O’s. For decades, Texas and Oklahoma dominated on the recruiting trail and fielded the most talented teams. Who emerges as the hottest teams on the recruiting trail in the Big 12 post Texas and Oklahoma? Those answers are beginning to emerge. 

Four Texas programs remain in the Big 12 with Houston replacing Texas. The Cougars are already experiencing a bump in recruiting, and in the transfer portal, with the pending move to the Big 12. Head coach Dana Holgorsen admits that 2022 four-star receiver Matthew Golden likely leaves the Houston area if the Cougars were set to remain in the American Athletic Conference during his career. Transfers such as Cody Jackson, Tyler Johnson, and Brandon Campbell were willing to return home with the prospect of Big 12 play on the horizon. 

The three Texas teams remaining behind – TCU, Texas Tech, and Baylor – are in a race to the top of the recruiting ranks. All three currently sit inside the nation’s top 15 recruiting classes in the 2023 cycle, though it is early in the process. Texas Tech is 2nd in the entire country with 20 commits. Baylor and TCU are 13th and 15th, respectively. TCU’s average recruit ranking of 87.78 is the highest of the 12 members of the new-look Big 12. Texas Tech (87.73), West Virginia (87.7), UCF (87.64) Baylor (87.4) round out the top five. Cincinnati holds the fourth-ranked recruiting class in the nation, but its 19 commits average 87.35 per recruit. 

Team 247Composite team ranking  No. of commits Avg. commit grade
Texas Tech 2nd 20 87.73
Cincinnati 4th 19 87.35
Baylor 13th 12 87.4
TCU 15th 9 87.78
Oklahoma State 20th 9 86.45
West Virginia 21st 9 87.7
Iowa State 25th 8 85.76
UCF 38th 6 87.64
BYU 58th 4 84.21
Kansas State 67th 3 85.26
Houston 84th 2 86.6
Kansas 87th 3 85.11

Seven of the 12 future members of the Big 12 rank inside the top 25 of the current recruiting rankings in 2023. Those numbers are sure to lessen over the next few months as national powers add to their classes, but it is a good sign for the future of the Big 12. Talent rules the day, and the perception of that talent determines spots in the rankings and ultimately in the College Football Playoffs. The best way to change that perception is by recruiting well and developing that talent into NFL draft picks the way Baylor did in 2022. 

The gap between the haves and the have nots will shrink in the new Big 12. There won’t be two Oz’s sitting behind the curtain. Texas and Oklahoma rank 30th and 40th in the 2023 recruiting ranks, but that is because each of those classes only consist of two members. The Longhorns’ pledges average a grade of 92.48 per commit. Oklahoma is at 89.92. There isn’t another Big 12 program, current or future, with an overall average within two points of the Sooners. Eight of the future Big 12 members are within two points of TCU’s average of 87.78. Only Kansas, Kansas State, and BYU are outside of that zone. 

With the races sure to be tight, each program must leverage any advantages. Cincinnati is by itself in a talent-rich Ohio, as is UCF in Florida. West Virginia, which has relied on Ohio and the surrounding areas, might be hurt by the addition of the Bearcats. BYU recruits in a unique way that likely never threatens the future Big 12 power brokers on the recruiting trail. Same with Big 12 mainstays such as Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Kansas State. Kansas isn’t worth discussing. 

That leaves the in-state programs – Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, and Houston – to battle with Cincinnati and UCF for recruiting supremacy. Baylor is a proven winner with Dave Aranda in charge. TCU is in DFW. Houston is in Houston. Texas Tech employs Joey McGuire. All four can present a convincing argument to recruits as to why their program is the one set to bubble to the top of the new Big 12. On-field results over the next few years clearly matter, but the data is already telling a story. The departures of Texas and Oklahoma made the Big 12 more interesting. At the very least, it made the conference more compelling. 

It is up to the remaining members to raise the talent on their respective rosters to keep the Big 12 in the national conversation. The 2023 recruiting class, at least so far, feels poised to do just that.  

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