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Five storylines from Las Vegas

Five storylines from Las Vegas

As summer culminates, so does the excitement for the upcoming college football season. The Big 12 Media Days mark the unofficial kickoff to the season and promise to be more exciting than ever this year. With a mix of new additions and notable departures, the Big 12 landscape is about to undergo a sea change. From July 9-10, Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas will be the epicenter of college football discussions, with coaches and athletes coming together to set the stage for the 2024 season.

For the second year in a row, the Big 12 is adding new teams. The conference has expanded its reach by adding Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado, capitalizing on the dissolution of the Pac-12. This expansion not only increases the conference’s footprint, but also brings programs with strong football traditions and passionate fan bases. Among these newcomers, Utah stands out as a preseason favorite thanks to its recent success in the Pac-12.

How will Utah fare in its first Big 12 season?

Utah will make an immediate impact in the Big 12. They are the clear favorite to win the conference and received 20 first-place votes in the media poll. Led by coach Kyle Whittingham, the Utes have won two Pac-12 titles in the last three years and, despite the absence of quarterback Cam Rising, are coming off an impressive eight-win season in 2023. With Rising’s return, as well as a strong supporting cast including All-Big 12 tight end Brant Kuithe, and an impressive offensive line, Utah appears to be on track for success. Their defense, particularly the front seven, looks equally strong. The team’s potential title challenge will be closely watched, especially if Whittingham addresses the timeline for defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley’s ascension to head coach.

Can Kansas maintain its momentum and challenge for the conference title?

Kansas is generating a lot of preseason buzz. The Jayhawks, ranked fourth in the Big 12 media poll, received five first-place votes, their highest preseason ranking since the conference adopted a non-divisional format. The optimism is justified, as Kansas has made two consecutive bowl appearances and has a 9-4 record in 2023, its best since 2007. With coach Lance Leipold at the helm and quarterback Jalon Daniels at the helm, the Jayhawks are a serious contender in the Big 12.

What impact will Deion Sanders have on Colorado’s return to the Big 12?

Colorado’s return to the Big 12 will be highlighted by the presence of Coach Prime. Known for his charismatic and outspoken personality, Sanders is expected to draw plenty of media attention. This will be his first appearance at the power conference’s media days, as he missed the 2023 Pac-12 Media Days due to surgery and was previously at Jackson State. Sanders’ media sessions are expected to be lively and his handling of the room will be closely watched. Colorado features standout players like Travis Hunter, a two-way star who was named the preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and quarterback Shedeur Sanders, Deion’s son, who earned a spot on the All-Big 12 team. Despite a challenging 2023 season, the Buffaloes look to make progress in their new conference.

Will Kansas State go unnoticed and surprise the conference?

Kansas State is another team to keep an eye on. They were close to winning the preseason poll, but were only 17 points behind Utah. Still, the Wildcats didn’t generate as much hype in the preseason. They aren’t on the preseason All-Big 12 team, but are regularly considered in top-25 projections. Much of their success will depend on the development of new starting quarterback Avery Johnson. Coach Chris Klieman’s track record, including a Big 12 title in 2022, suggests Kansas State could be a surprise contender in the conference race.

How will Oklahoma State handle the Ollie Gordon II situation?

Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon II, the preseason Offensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-Big 12 selection, faces an uncertain future following his recent arrest for driving under the influence. That incident casts a shadow over his otherwise stellar career, which includes winning the 2023 Doak Walker Award and finishing seventh in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Coach Mike Gundy will likely have to field questions about Gordon’s status during media days, and his answers could shed light on Gordon’s availability for the 2024 season.

The departure of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 marks the end of an era. These two programs were the dominant forces in the conference, winning seven of the last nine titles. Their absence creates a power vacuum that several schools would like to fill. The conference realignment, coupled with the new 12-team College Football Playoff format, adds an extra layer of excitement to the season. The team that emerges victorious in the Big 12 automatically secures a playoff spot, making the stakes even higher.

The intense heat in Las Vegas reflects the fierce competition that awaits in the Big 12. With so many teams battling for the top spot and the prospect of a College Football Playoff berth, the upcoming season promises to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. Media Days will set the tone and provide insight into the strategies, ambitions and personalities that will shape the 2024 college football season.