The first FBS game of the 2023 season involving a Texas-based team is in Week 0 when UTEP travels to Jax State in a new-look Conference USA showdown. The other 12 teams, including newcomer Sam Houston, start their seasons in Week 1. Nine Texas teams reached bowl games in 2022 with TCU becoming the first team to play in a national championship game in over a dozen years.
The 2023 season should provide another list of storylines. Is Texas back? Can Texas A&M squeeze success out of a talented roster? With five teams playing in new conferences heading into 2023, and the Longhorns facing some old rivals for the last time in a long time during their final Big 12 campaign, the Lone Star State is in store for something memorable.
Here is our 2023 preseason Power Poll.
1. TEXAS LONGHORNS
2022 record: 8-5
2023 outlook: The expectations are back on the 40 Acres. We’ll find out if that is also true for the football team in a 2023 landscape teed up for the Longhorns to gallop into the SEC sunset with a Big 12 crown and a possible flirtation with a College Football Playoff berth. The offense returns 10 starters, including five offensive linemen averaging 20.1 starts each in burnt orange. The defense returns linebacker Jaylan Ford, a strong rotation of defensive tackles, and an intriguing secondary. Texas won the last Southwest Conference championship. They’ll want to do the same in the Big 12.
2. TCU HORNED FROGS
2022 record: 13-2
2023 outlook: The Horned Frogs deserve the benefit of the doubt over the teams below because of the 13-win season that culminated with a win over Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl and a trip to Los Angeles for the national title game. Head coach Sonny Dykes, the Dave Campbell’s cover person in 2023, must replace his best player at nearly every position on the football field. The good news is that TCU recruits as well, if not better, than any team in the Big 12 outside of Texas and Oklahoma. Quarterback Chandler Morris was good enough to win the job over Max Duggan prior to the 2022 season, so there’s no reason to believe the offense won’t move the football. The defense is led by a strong group of linebackers and safeties.
3. TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
2022 record: 8-5
2023 outlook: It might no longer be fair to describe the Red Raiders as Big 12 dark horses due to the growing momentum, and expectations, in West Texas. Year 1 under Joey McGuire & Co. included a winning record in conference play for the first time since 2009 and home wins over Texas and Oklahoma. Year 2 could be better, especially if Texas Tech can keep its quarterbacks upright and healthy. The defense is led by a big pair of defensive tackles named Jaylon Hutchings and Tony Bradford.
4. TEXAS A&M AGGIES
2022 record: 5-7
2023 outlook: The three-headed coaching monster of Jimbo Fisher, Bobby Petrino and DJ Durkin can only go one of two ways – either things click for the talented Aggie squad in 2023 and they become the comeback story of the season or the experiment bursts into flames and the donors must raise a large chunk of cash to hit the reset button in College Station the same year that the Longhorns arrive in the SEC. The talent is there. Evan Stewart and Ainias Smith headline one of the best skill position groups in college football. The defensive line is too talented not to take a giant step forward in Year 2 under Durkin. Anything short of nine wins is a disappointment given the pure talent – on the field and on the coaching staff – concentrated in College Station.
5. UTSA ROADRUNNERS
2022 record: 11-3
2023 outlook: The only college football programs with more wins than UTSA in the last two seasons were Georgia, Michigan, and Alabama. That’s rarified air for the two-time Conference USA champions. The Roadrunners face a new challenge in 2023 – the American Athletic Conference. Luckily for Jeff Traylor’s group, Frank Harris is back at quarterback. Traylor says this is his best offensive and defensive lines of his tenure.
6. SMU MUSTANGS
2022 record: 7-6
2023 outlook: SMU has one 10-win season since 1984 and that came 2019 when now head coach Rhett Lashlee was the offensive coordinator on the Hilltop. His Mustangs just might be favored in 10 games in the 2023 regular season – a year that doesn’t include UTSA or Tulane on the regular season schedule. The Preston Stone era is officially here. The offense shouldn’t struggle to score points. SMU can take the next step as a program with an improved defense and the Mustangs hit the portal hard for instant reinforcements, especially in the secondary.
7. BAYLOR BEARS
2022 record: 6-7
2023 outlook: Year 4 of the Dave Aranda era should help onlookers define his tenure with better understanding. On one hand, he’s led the Bears to the program’s best-ever season – 12 wins, a Big 12 title, and a win in the Sugar Bowl back in 2021. On the other, they’ve finished two of his three seasons with a losing record. Baylor used the transfer portal to plug holes and brought in Matt Powledge to lead the defense. A step forward by the talented Blake Shapen and a return to form on defense could put the Bears back in the Big 12 hunt.
8. HOUSTON COUGARS
2022 record: 8-5
2023 outlook: The eight-win season of 2022 felt like a disappointment thanks to huge expectations in the last year as an AAC program. The 2023 season might be a case of “careful what you wish for” in year 1 as a Big 12 program. The Cougars must replace quarterback Clayton Tune and wide receiver Tank Dell on offense. Some of the expected starters on defense didn’t even arrive until the summer. No one knows what to expect in Houston for the Cougars in 2023, and that starts with a Week 1 home game against UTSA.
9. NORTH TEXAS MEAN GREEN
2022 record: 7-7
2023 outlook: A trip to the Conference USA championship game wasn’t enough to save former head coach Seth Littrell after his old athletic director took a new job at West Virginia. Enter Eric Morris as the Mean Green enter the AAC alongside UTSA and Rice. Morris, a former wide receiver at Texas Tech under Mike Leach, was an offensive coordinator at Washington State last season. He’ll probably need a year or two to align the roster makeup with his scheme, but the early season schedule could allow North Texas to start hot.
10. RICE OWLS
2022 record: 5-8
2023 outlook: The Owls were a rare five-win bowl team in 2023 thanks to a high APR. Rice hopes to reach a bowl game the old-fashioned way – by winning at least six games – That’s something they haven’t accomplished since 2014. Head coach Mike Bloomgren, entering his sixth season, brought in former five-star quarterback JT Daniels to stabilize the offense. Defensive end Josh Pearcy and safety Gabe Taylor headline the defense.
11. UTEP MINERS
2022 record: 5-7
2023 outlook: UTEP didn’t handle expectations well in 2022. Head coach Dana Dimel hopes the return to an underdog role helps his Miners rekindle the spark used in 2021 to reach a bowl game for the only time in his tenure. The Miners return a starting quarterback, talented wide receivers, a good running back, and most of its offensive line. The defense should continue to be one of the better units in the conference. The changing landscape in CUSA might help UTEP get back to a bowl game for the second time in three seasons.
12. TEXAS STATE BOBCATS
2022 record: 4-8
2023 outlook: Only Colorado brought in more transfers than first-year Texas State head coach G.J. Kinne, who moves to San Marcos after a successful one-year stint at Incarnate Word. Kinne was hired to win and reestablish lines into the high school recruiting ranks, but he was forced to turnover a roster that’s relied on transfers for years. There’s some talent on the roster, for sure, and the high-octane offense ran by Kinne and offensive coordinator Mack Leftwich will upset a team or two, but 2024 feels like a more reasonable year for Texas State to enter the bowl picture.
13. SAM HOUSTON BEARKATS
2022 record: 5-4
2023 outlook: The Bearkats are finally in the FBS ranks after a few years of anticipation and planning. Sam Houston redshirted over a dozen upperclassmen in 2022 to save one year of eligibility for the first FBS season, something that should help K.C. Keeler’s bunch compete in year 1. Still, a tough non-conference schedule and a lack of true FBS depth should keep the Bearkats from finishing the year .500 or better. The quarterback position remains a question mark.
This article is available to our Digital Subscribers.
Click "Subscribe Now" to see a list of subscription offers.
Already a Subscriber? Sign In to access this content.