POWER RANKINGS: Post spring for FBS teams in Texas

Courtesy of UTSA Athletics

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The modern landscape in college football rarely stays stagnant long enough to snap a photo, much less paint a picture. That is especially true after spring practice as the transfer portal opens for the second window. No team in the state was immune to loss. And some did better than others with talent acquisition. 

The next big date in college football is reporting day for incomers on June 1. We take a bird’s eye view of the power structure within the Lone Star State as we enter the summer. 


Even the sports books agree that Texas is the Big 12 favorite heading into the 2023 season. That’s nothing new for the Longhorns, and the burnt orange faithful understand preseason hype doesn’t necessarily equate to regular season success, but this squad feels different. Texas brings back 10 offensive starters, including all five offensive linemen. The defense looks strong in the interior of the defensive line and in the secondary. Anything less than a Big 12 title game appearance is a disappointment. 


No other team in Texas won a conference title in 2022. The Roadrunners bring consecutive conference crowns with them as they move from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference. Jeff Traylor’s program returns star quarterback Frank Harris, as well as all-conference performers at wide receiver, running back, tight end, and along the offensive line. The front seven might be the best in Traylor’s tenure, and the secondary returns safety Rashad Wisdom from injury. 


The three favorites to win the Big 12 championship in 2023 are Texas, Oklahoma, and defending champ Kansas State. Texas Tech is becoming the popular dark horse pick as spring turns into summer and betting lines begin to be released. Joey McGuire’s squad won eight games in his first season and return most of the offensive production, including a pair of quarterbacks with NFL potential. The interior of the defensive line is stacked thanks to super seniors Jaylon Hutchings and Tony Bradford. 


The departures of Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston from the AAC provide the Mustangs with a clearer path to conference success. Add in NIL and the transfer portal, and Rhett Lashlee’s program is on the rise. The offense should score points without issue with Preston Stone taking over at quarterback. The next evolutionary step for SMU as a program is on the defensive side of the ball. Lashlee & Co. brought in plenty of new horses to help slow down opposing offenses, including four new potential starters in the secondary alone.


Year two for Sonny Dykes should be a tougher task considering his Horned Frogs lost their best player at every position group on offense and defense, including Heisman runner-up Max Duggan and Thorpe Award winner Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. Expecting another run at the Big 12 title seems unrealistic, but so did the 2022 campaign. Chandler Morris takes over at quarterback. Dykes, a long-time benefactor of transfers, helped bring in new blood through the portal to replenish the ranks. 


No team in Texas is more talented than the Aggies. Even with all the departures through the portal, Texas A&M can line up with every team in the nation and not feel overwhelmed in terms of pure talent in the starting lineup. The questions about Texas A&M pertain more to culture and consistency. Can Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Petrino play nice in tense moments? Will the defense play with enough urgency to stop the run? Does the offensive line improve? The SEC is a tough place to answer those questions on the fly. 


The three-year tenure of Dave Aranda is enough to cause whiplash. His Bears rebounded from a 2-7 record in 2020, his first year in charge, to win a program-record 12 games, including the Big 12 title game and the Sugar Bowl, in 2021. But Aranda failed to adequately address the personnel losses after 2021, which resulted in a second sub-.500 finish in three seasons. Baylor dipped into the portal with more frequency heading into 2023, and Aranda feels like that adjustment is enough to put the Bears back into contention. 


The Cougars must replace quarterback Clayton Tune and wide receiver Nathaniel Dell after both were selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. Dana Holgorsen must also replace star running back Alton McCaskill and a few offensive linemen thanks to the transfer portal. The roster feels unsettled in Third Ward as a bevy of new faces arriving in the summer are needed to produce quickly for the Cougars to compete in a crowded Big 12. Even the starting quarterbacks spot was up for grabs as Houston exited spring practices. 


A new coach always provides renewed excitement, but it also causes roster turnover. North Texas wasn’t immune. The Mean Green must replace expected returners such as defensive end Cam Robertson, linebacker Larry Nixon III, and wide receiver Jyaire Shorter. That’s not to mention breaking in a new quarterback and replacing the production of KD Davis, who graduated as the program’s all-time leading tackler. All while playing in a tougher conference. The good news is that the front half of the schedule is easier than the back half. 


Take away a five-game 2020 season and head coach Mike Bloomgren has increased the win total at Rice by one game in each of his other four seasons. His Owls used a high APR score to secure a bowl invite last year despite a 5-7 regular season record. A .500 or better finish is the expectation for Rice, even as the Owls transition to the AAC with UTSA and North Texas. Former five-star quarterback J.T. Daniels should provide much-needed stability at quarterback. The wide receiver position is stacked. 


Dana Dimel admits that his Miners failed to manage expectations well in 2022. UTEP reached a bowl game in 2021 and were hoping to qualify for consecutive bowls for only the second time in school history. Instead, they struggled early in the year and couldn’t reach six wins. UTEP was 2-22 in Dime’s first two seasons. The program is 15-18 over the last three. A new-look Conference USA should provide an easier path to six wins and a bowl invite for the Miners in 2023. The front seven on defense remains the team strength. 


The offense letdown the Bobcats in 2022 and that prompted a change at head coach. Former UIW head coach G.J. Kinne was brought to San Marcos to score points, win football games, and rebuild relationships with high school staffs across the Lone Star State. He’s already doing the latter on the recruiting trail. He’ll try to do the first two come fall. Arkansas transfer and Missouri City native Malik Hornsby is expected to start at quarterback. Kinne and offensive coordinator Mack Leftwich engineered a record-setting attack in the FCS ranks last year. 


Sam Houston moves up to the FBS ranks to become the 13th team at that level in the Lone Star State. The Bearkats won an FCS title in the spring of 2021 and are one of the most-winningest programs in college football over the nine years that head coach K.C. Keeler has been in charge. He’s also a new face to FBS football after a career playing and coaching in the FCS. The Bearkats do return plenty of experience, but their schedule is loaded. Winning six games would be an incredible success story.  

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