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Who is the biggest threat from the Big 12?

Is Texas back?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 TaxAct Texas Bowl Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Big 12 conference has been represented in five different College Football Playoffs (CFP). Oklahoma has made it four times – the most of any team but has also posted a 0-4 record in those games. TCU is the only other Big 12 team to make the Playoff and well, we all remember how that went down last year.

This year, the conference has expanded to add Houston, BYU, Cincinnati, and UCF to the conference, before adding even more teams next season. Will more teams translate to new representatives emerging? Lest we forget, Cincinnati will go down as the only Group of Five team to qualify for the CFP in the four-team format.

If the Michigan Wolverines make their third consecutive appearance in the CFP, who from the Big 12 represents the biggest threat?

When you arrive in Austin, Texas, you are immediately awe-struck by the beautiful architecture, vibrant atmosphere, and the blend of the past and present. But in order to find a college football team focused on the future, you need to head about six hours northwest.

The Texas Tech Red Raiders quietly put together a historic and foundational season in 2022. Under the guidance of first-year head coach Joey Maguire, Texas Tech beat both Oklahoma and Texas in the same season for the first time in program history. Moreover, the Red Raiders also posted a winning conference record for the first time since 2009 and return most of their production this season.

Offensively, Texas Tech will be led by fifth-year quarterback and returning starter Tyler Shough. Shough has never managed to play more than seven games in a single season due to injury, but if he can stay on the field, he will have a plethora of weapons and a revamped offensive line to protect him.

Last season, the Red Raiders had ten pass catchers register 10 or more receptions on the season and nine of them return this year. Joining these nine will be prolific Austin Peay transfer Drae McCray who arrives in Lubbock with two years of eligibility remaining.

In the backfield, 2022 leading rusher Tahj Brooks returns and this season, the offensive line in front of him should be much improved due to experience and the arrival of Western Kentucky transfer Rusty Staats.

Defensively, the line will again be a strength despite the loss of first-round NFL Draft pick Tyree Wilson. Texas Tech used to be an antonym for defense, but last year, the Red Raiders led the conference in sacks and finished with the ninth-best red zone defense in all of college football.

McGuire has made a concerted effort to build this team through the defense and this experienced unit could be even better this season. Behind this defense, the Red Raiders will have a chance to win four key games against four potent offenses.

Oregon (Week 2), Kansas State (Week 7), and TCU (Week 9) will all be challenging, but all three of these games are in Lubbock. Last season, Texas Tech posted a 6-1 record when playing at Jones AT&T Stadium, echoing the rallying cry of protecting home field that McGuire has worked to install since his arrival.

The biggest hurdle for the Red Raiders could come in the season finale against Texas on the road. Many are saying Texas is back and by this point, we should have a clear idea if this actually — FINALLY — holds weight.

Other teams in contention in the Big 12 this season could be Texas – in its final year of conference participation – and defending conference champion Kansas State led by returning quarterback Will Howard.

With the return of 14 starters, a few key transfers, and its best recruiting class in five years, can Texas Tech win its first outright conference title since 1954? We’ll find out a lot more about the future in the town that seamlessly blends the past and the present.