FBS Power Rankings entering spring practices favor Texas, Texas A&M

Photos by Russell Wilburn, Doug Holleman, and Will Leverett

Share or Save for Later

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Save to Favorites

The college football calendar is an endless loop and the next stop on our version of Snowpiercer is spring practice. Roughly half the teams in the state kicked off spring practices in the first week of March. The rest begin after spring break. 

But what should we expect from each team in 2024? Well, that’s a moving target considering the transfer portal and overall roster turnover, but the dawn of spring allows us to take a snapshot of expectations for each of Texas’ 13 FBS programs. 


Steve Sarkisian was allowed three years of runway to prepare the Longhorns for entry into the SEC. He nailed the dismount in the Big 12 by winning the conference title. Now, expectations truly rise. The Longhorn faithful expects instant success in the greener pastures of the SEC, and the roster looks capable of delivering. Quinn Ewers is arguably the best and most accomplished quarterback in the conference and he has four of five starters back along the offensive line. The Horns also reloaded the skill positions in the transfer portal. 


Remember when Sonny Dykes replaced Gary Patterson and took a roster that was 5-7 in 2021 to a national title game in 2022? Well, that’s what Mike Elko hopes to replicate in College Station. Talent isn’t the issue, even with the mass exodus through the transfer portal. The Aggies are plenty talented. But what about the vibes? You know, the stuff that tore down the Jimbo Fisher regime. The stuff that ended the Patterson reign in Fort Worth? While it is too early to know for sure, the roster and the schedule suggest a quick rebound for the Farmers. 


Year 3 tends to be when fan bases, and media, start to expect real results from a coaching change. Joey McGuire enters that season in Lubbock in 2024. Texas Tech suffered through slow starts in his first two seasons, but the schedule sets up nicely. Behren Morton enters the spring as the starting quarterback. Tahj Brooks is back at running back. The wide receivers and offensive line were improved through the portal. If the defense can replace production off the edge and in the secondary, the Red Raiders could contend for a Big 12 championship. 


The truth tends to rest in the middle, and that’s probably true for Dykes’ Frogs. Are they a national title contending program on a regular basis? No. But are they a flash in the pan unlocked by the culture change in 2022 only to fizzle out when Patterson’s players exited? Nah. TCU experienced a sophomore slump in 2023, but returning experience and portal additions should allow the team to compete in the new-look Big 12. The evolution of quarterback Josh Hoover looms large. A change at defensive coordinator was made in the offseason. 


The good news for SMU is that plenty of production and talent returns to a roster that went 11-3 and won a conference championship for the first time since the early 1980s. The better news is that the Mustangs are now a P4 program preparing for its inaugural season in the ACC. The Hilltop should be buzzing with home games against TCU and Florida State on the schedule. The bad news, however, is that the Ponies must prove worthy of hanging with the big boys. SMU was 11-0 against G5 programs in 2023, but 0-3 in games against the P5, including a loss to future ACC opponent Boston College in the bowl game. 


Life without quarterback Frank Harris begins for UTSA in 2024. The Roadrunners expect to field their best offensive and defensive lines since Jeff Traylor took over in 2020. They did manage to win the program’s first bowl game without Harris, but it is never easy to replace the best player in school history. Not to mention talents like Rashad Wisdom and Joshua Cephus. UTSA might be a defensive-minded football team, at least until the offense finds a rhythm. 


The 2024 season is critical for head coach Dave Aranda. He led the Bears to a program record 12 wins, a Big 12 championship, and a victory over Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl in 2021. His other three seasons in Waco ended with losing records. The lows are starting to outweigh the high to the fan base, and the only way to win back support is to beatdown the competition. Jake Spavital was hired to jumpstart the offense, and Aranda is back calling the defense. 


The Willie Fritz era begins in 2024 for the Houston Cougars. Fritz wins at every stop, but not right away. He’s more pitmaster than microwave. Even with the portal, the best of his program isn’t typically seen until the third season. The return of some key offensive weapons and portal help defensively could speed up the heating process, though. 


The Cats might climb this power rankings quickly in the 2024 season because they could be the best pound-for-pound team in the state. Only Texas would receive better odds to win its respective conference. The Sun Belt is ripe for the taking, and Texas State took a giant step forward with an eight-win 2023 that included the program’s first bowl game – and win. G.J. Kinne is a rising star and life doesn’t stay rosy for long in the G5 ranks. 


The transfer portal age means that rosters live a one-year lifespan. Ask North Texas. Head coach Eric Morris added 40 new faces through prep recruiting and portal signings heading into Year 2 on the job. Some by choice. Some by force. The Mean Green lost their starting quarterback, leading rusher, and top receiver to the portal. The addition of Chandler Morris to lead Morris’ potent offensive attack is intriguing. But it won’t matter unless North Texas fix the defense. 


Mike Bloomgren has increased Rice’s win total by one game in each full season he’s held the job as head coach. His Owls were 6-6 in the regular season last year. Making the jump to 7-5 in 2024 would be impressive considering the losses of JT Daniel and Luke McCaffrey. Rice might possess the most intact roster in Texas outside of those two losses, however. Picking up EJ Warner from the portal to play quarterback was a fun signing. 


Arguing that a 3-9 season was a good sign for a first-year program to FBS isn’t an easy case to make, but it is the right one. Sam Houston lost five of its six Conference USA defeats by one possession – twice in overtime. Depth, inexperience, and luck cost the Bearkats down the stretch of close games. They hope to improve all three ahead of 2024. 


A new era begins in El Paso with the young and energetic Scotty Walden taking over the Miners. He’s a man who doesn’t mind playing the role of underdog, which is good because that’s what UTEP is entering 2024. 

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.

Sign In
Don't Miss Any Exclusive Coverage!

We've been the Bible of Texas football fans for 64 years. By joining the DCTF family you'll gain access to all of our exclusive content and have our magazines mailed to you!