Big 12 Football Media Days 2024: Five storylines from Las Vegas

Utah headlines the newcomers as the conference expands for a second consecutive season
Sara Diggins/American-Statesman / USA
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As summer reaches its peak, so does the excitement for the upcoming college football season. The Big 12 Media Days serve as the unofficial kickoff to the season, and this year, they promise to be more intriguing than ever. With a mixture of newcomers and notable departures, the landscape of the Big 12 is set for a shake-up. From July 9-10, Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium will be the epicenter of college football discussions, with coaches and athletes converging to set the stage for the 2024 season.

For the second consecutive year, the Big 12 is embracing a fresh set of 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 in programs with strong football traditions and passionate fan bases. Among these newcomers, Utah stands out as the preseason favorite, thanks to their recent success in the Pac-12.

How will Utah perform in their inaugural Big 12 season?

Utah is set to make an immediate impact in the Big 12. They are the outright favorite to win the conference, receiving 20 first-place votes in the media poll. Under the leadership of Coach Kyle Whittingham, the Utes have secured two Pac-12 titles in the past three years and posted an impressive eight-win season in 2023 despite the absence of quarterback Cam Rising. With Rising’s return, along with a strong supporting cast including All-Big 12 tight end Brant Kuithe and a formidable offensive line, Utah appears poised for success. Their defense, especially the front seven, looks equally strong. The team’s potential run for the title will be closely watched, especially if Whittingham addresses the timeline for defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley’s ascension to head coach.

Can Kansas sustain their momentum and challenge for the conference title?

Kansas is generating significant buzz ahead of the season. Ranked fourth in the Big 12 media poll, the Jayhawks received five first-place votes, marking their highest preseason ranking since the conference adopted a non-divisional format. The optimism is justified, as Kansas has made back-to-back bowl appearances and posted a 9-4 record in 2023, their best since 2007. With Coach Lance Leipold at the helm and quarterback Jalon Daniels leading the charge, the Jayhawks are positioned as legitimate contenders 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 is highlighted by the presence of Coach Prime. Known for his charismatic and candid personality, Sanders is expected to draw significant media attention. This marks his first power-conference media days appearance, as he missed the 2023 Pac-12 Media Days due to surgery and was previously at Jackson State. Sanders’ media sessions are anticipated to be lively, and his handling of the room will be closely watched. Colorado boasts standout players like Travis Hunter, a two-way star 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 aim to make strides in their new conference.

Will Kansas State fly under the radar and surprise the conference?

Kansas State is another team to watch. They were close to topping the preseason poll, falling just 17 points behind Utah. Despite this, the Wildcats have not generated as much preseason hype. They lack representation on the preseason All-Big 12 team but are consistently included 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 that Kansas State could be a dark horse in the conference race.

How will Oklahoma State address the situation with Ollie Gordon II?

Oklahoma State’s running back Ollie Gordon II, the preseason Offensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-Big 12 selection, faces uncertainty following his recent arrest for driving under the influence. This incident casts a shadow over his otherwise stellar career, which includes winning the 2023 Doak Walker Award and finishing seventh in Heisman Trophy voting. Coach Mike Gundy will likely face questions about Gordon’s status during media days, and his responses could provide insight into 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 have been dominant forces in the conference, winning seven of the last nine titles. Their absence creates a power vacuum that several schools will be eager to fill. The realignment of the conference, coupled with the new 12-team College Football Playoff format, adds an extra layer of intrigue to the season. The team that emerges victorious in the Big 12 will secure an automatic spot in the playoff, raising the stakes even higher.

The intense heat in Las Vegas mirrors the heated competition that awaits in the Big 12. With so many teams vying for the top spot and the allure of a College Football Playoff berth, the upcoming season promises to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. The media days will set the tone, providing a glimpse into the strategies, ambitions, and personalities that will define the 2024 college football season.

Jason Jones