2023 College Fantasy Football Big 12 Preview

Big 12 Conference

by Corey Pieper
2023 College Fantasy Football Big 12

Welcome to the 2023 College Fantasy Football Big 12 Preview!

If you play college fantasy football in the year 2023, you know we live in an era of college football conference realignments. The Big 12 conference has seemingly been the conference most affected over the last 15 years or so. Such changes have weakened some conferences while bringing more "muscle" to others.

Put into slightly different terms, the "rich get richer and the poor get poorer." The two most prominent members of the Big 12 conference, Texas and Oklahoma, are finishing their last season in the Big 12 before moving to the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Defections from the conference mandate that new additions be added.

Even the most dedicated college football fanatic may not recognize the Big 12 conference this season. While Texas and Oklahoma are still members of the Big 12, four new teams have already been added. Teams making their Big 12 debut this season include the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars, the Cincinnati Bearcats, the Houston Cougars, and the University of Central Florida (UCF) Golden Knights. All of those teams have recently had lots of success at the Group of Five level (BYU was an independent), but now they're taking a step up in competition.

Changes can make it difficult to predict how the teams will function this season. I do know, from recent history, the Big 12 has been known for offense over defense.  Expect more of the same when it comes to the Big 12 conference this season. So, let's get to the Big 12 conference preview!

2023 College Fantasy Football Big 12 Preview

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Richard Reese, RB, Baylor Bears
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Baylor averaged 41 carries per game last season and had over 2,300 rushing yards as a team! That type of volume should make their team a fantasy goldmine for running backs. As recently as 2021, that came to fruition when Abram Smith rushed for over 1,600 yards! The issue this season is that I don't think we will see just one back receive that workload.

Richard Reese was the primary back last season, almost reaching 1,000 yards on the ground with 14 rushing touchdowns. It was a very good year, but it could have been a dominant one if he had received the entire workload. Two other backs-Craig "Sqwirl" Williams and Qualan Jones-combined for almost 200 more carries for over 1,000 more yards and 11 touchdowns. Sqwirl Williams has since transferred to Louisiana Tech, but Taye McWilliams is back from injury. Plus, Dominic Richardson has transferred in from Oklahoma State.

I would expect Reese leads the team in carries again. However, don't be surprised when there are weeks when this is very much a committee.

Aidan Robbins, RB, BYU Cougars
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BYU had two offensive skill players selected in the fifth round of the recent NFL Draft-quarterback Jaren Hall and wide receiver Puka Nacua. However, it's a running back that I'm recommending this season. It's a running back who will be spending his first season with the Cougars after transferring over from the University of Las Vegas (UNLV).

Aidan Robbins only spent one season at UNLV but left his mark. He was able to accumulate over 1,100 total yards and score 10 total touchdowns. While last season was disappointing for BYU running backs, we've recently seen some dominant efforts out of those backs. Just two years ago, Tyler Allgeier had 1,800 total yards and 23 touchdowns! I'm not expecting Robbins to repeat that effort, but I think he has a chance for a 1,200-yard season himself.

Corey Kiner, RB, Cincinnati Bearcats
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Cincinnati has been the preeminent team at the Group of 5 level. That success culminated during the 2021 season with Cincinnati being the first, and only, team from a lower level to compete in the College Football Playoff. While they would lose that game to the eventual national champion Georgia Bulldogs, it's all the changes since that have been surprising.

Head coach Luke Fickell was the leader of all that success. He has chosen to move on to Wisconsin and taken his entire coaching staff with him. Scott Satterfield has stepped in as head coach to fill the void. Unfortunately for Satterfield, the top-end talent that was recently prevalent on the roster has also seemingly moved on.

I'm going to recommend running back Corey Kiner as the Bearcats' best fantasy option this season. Kiner had a lot of hype in the draft season last year after transferring to Cincinnati from LSU. Unfortunately, it would go down as a bust pick with Kiner only rushing for 362 yards and five touchdowns all season. That being said, this could be a classic post-hype sleeper option if Cincinnati decides to lean more on the rush this season.

Matthew Golden, WR, Houston Cougars
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The Houston offense just had a wide receiver finish at the top overall wide receiver in fantasy last season. Nathaniel Dell finished with 109 receptions 1,398 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns. 1,000-yard receivers are very common in the Houston offense. Going back to the 2015 season, the Houston offense has had a 1,000 yard receiver every year, but two.  And of those two seasons, one of them was during 2020 when the team only played eight games.

Matthew Golden is my choice to continue that trend. Dell and Kesean Carter were the top receivers last season, but both have moved on. That vacates almost 150 receptions, 2,000 receiving yards, and 22 touchdowns. Golden should be the main beneficiary of all that production. He is one of the top 25 wide receiver prospects nationally in the 2022 recruiting class according to 247 Sports. As a true freshman, he had 584 yards and 7 touchdowns. Don't be surprised if those numbers double this season.

Jaylin Noel, WR, Iowa State Cyclones
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Recently, Iowa State has been more well-known for the rushing attack with Breece Hall and David Montgomery. Each of them parlayed their success at Iowa State to the NFL. I think that the rushing attack could be effective again this season, but I'm worried again about a split between Jirehl Brock and Cartevious Norton, as we saw last season.

Instead, I'm going to recommend Jaylin Noel as a wide receiver. Noel was option two last season with Xavier Hutchinson as option one. As option two, he was still effective with 61 receptions, 609 yards, and three touchdowns. Hutchinson was recently drafted by the Houston Texans though. If Noel absorbs even half of the 107 receptions and 1, 171 yards that Hutchinson had last season, he could come close to Hutchinson's top 15 wide receiver finish from last season.

Jalon Daniels, QB, Kansas Jayhawks

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It wasn't that long ago that Kansas was a wasteland for college football-both in real life and fantasy. Then, Lance Leipold stepped into the head coaching vacancy in 2021, and the turnaround happened quickly. Although they lost, 2022 was the first season that Kansas played in a bowl game since 2008. Jalon Daniels has been a major reason for the improvement in the past couple of seasons.

Daniels offers a tantalizing dual-threat skillset when it comes to fantasy football. There was no better evidence than when Daniels returned for the Liberty Bowl after missing over a month with injury. In that game, Daniels threw for 544 yards and five touchdowns while adding 21 yards and a touchdown on the ground. That is just under a 60-point fantasy game! Hopefully, Daniels can avoid injury this season and we can see him finish as a top-25 quarterback.

Treshaun Ward, RB, Kansas State Wildcats
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Deuce Vaughn may be tiny in stature, but there was no question he was the big man on campus at Kansas State the past couple of seasons. His dominance made him a first-round fantasy selection last season. In the actual NFL draft, his selection in the sixth round by the Dallas Cowboys was one of the more touching moments.

Treshaun Ward is transferring to Kansas State after beginning his career at Florida State. Ward has been successful on a per-carry basis but has never received a full workload. I believe that Ward has a similar skillset to what Vaughn had to offer. If he can replicate the immense workload that Vaughn received, then this could be a fantasy breakout season for Ward.

Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oklahoma Sooners

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Dillon Gabriel has had a fascinating college career. He had instant success as a freshman and sophomore at UCF. Then, in the 2021 season, he broke his collarbone early. Then in 2022, he decided to enter the transfer portal. He chose UCLA but then never stepped foot on campus in California, before switching his commitment to Oklahoma. Gabriel certainly had a lot of pressure on him to step into replace the quarterback void of Caleb Williams who transferred to USC. Gabriel more than delivered.

Dillon Gabriel won the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year award last season. He earned that award with almost 3,500 total yards and 31 touchdowns. Gabriel has one more season of collegiate eligibility. I would expect similar production to Gabriel's last season, placing him as a top-25 quarterback option in CFF.

Jaden Bray, WR, Oklahoma State Cowboys
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Oklahoma State has a long history of wide receiver production under head coach Mike Gundy. Gundy has been the head coach of Oklahoma State for 18 seasons. During his tenure, there have only been seven seasons where there wasn't a 1,000-yard receiver. Now, one of those seven seasons was just last year when Brennan Presley led the team in receiving with 813 yards.

Presley is back. Oklahoma State also added in Washington State transfer wide receiver De'Zhaun Stribling. I'm still going with Jaden Bray as my choice to lead the Cowboys in receiving. Bray was my choice last season but dealt with a variety of injuries and only played in three games. That being said, when multiple options are all very capable of leading a team in receiving this is probably a situation I'm going to avoid come draft day. Instead, I'll wait to see who emerges early in the season and then add that receiver off the waiver wire.

Chandler Morris, QB, TCU Horned Frogs
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Did you know that Heisman trophy finalist Max Duggan wasn't the starting quarterback of the Horned Frogs last year in the season opener? That would be Chandler Morris who had unseated Duggan. Morris would exit that game early with a left knee injury, and Duggan would excel the rest of the season.

Even though Morris is starting his fourth collegiate season, we've only seen one game where he started and completed the entire game.  In 2021, Morris was a big reason why Baylor didn't play in the college football playoff. Morris showed off his full skillset in that game. He threw for 460 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 70 more yards and another touchdown. He's in a great system at TCU for college fantasy football production. I value Morris as a top-30 fantasy quarterback.

Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas Longhorns
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Texas has leaned on uber-talented running back Bijan Robinson for the past few seasons. He has since moved on as a top-10 NFL draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons. Replacing Robinson's rushing production is likely impossible. I think this is the year that head coach/offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian leans on the talent in his passing game.

This recommendation was almost quarterback Quinn Ewers. He was quite disappointing in his first season as a starter, but I think he'll bounce back in a big way. Part of that bounceback will be because he will be throwing to wide receiver Xavier Worthy, who is going into his junior season. As a true freshman, Worthy showed his potential with an almost 1,000-yard season. Then, he took a step back last year. Physically, Worthy resembles another wide receiver that had lots of success with Steve Sarkisian as his offensive coordinator, Heisman trophy winner DeVonta Smith. Draft Worthy as a top-20 wide receiver who could finish in the top-5.

Tyler Shough, QB, Texas Tech Red Raiders
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The offensive coordinator at Texas Tech is Zach Kittley. Kittley is famous for his offensive mastery which culminated in the 2021 record-breaking season at Western Kentucky including Bailey Zappe at quarterback. That meant that everyone in the CFF community last season was trying to determine which quarterback would win the starting job last season. What ended up happening was a split between all three-Donovan Smith, Behren Morton, and Tyler Shough.

Donovan Smith has transferred to Houston this offseason. Both Morton and Shough are back again, but I think that Shough has the inside track to the starting job. This offense will routinely throw the ball 45 times per game or more. That is the type of volume that you want from a quarterback. Feel confident selecting Shough in the top 10 of quarterbacks.

John Rhys Plumlee, QB, UCF Golden Knights
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One of the premier dual-threat quarterbacks in all of college football. John Rhys Plumlee has the perfect skill set to play quarterback in a Gus Malzahn offense. He is far from a phenomenal passer, but he is a fantastic rusher of the football. Among all quarterbacks in college football last season, only Jayden Daniels of LSU had more total rushing yards than Plumlee's 862. It's not the most rushing yards Plumlee has had in a season. He has a 1,000-yard rushing season on his resume from 2019 when he was still a quarterback with Ole Miss.

Because Plumlee struggled with passing the ball, he finished just outside the top 30 quarterbacks last season in scoring. The rushing ability gives him a very high floor. If the passing improves to just above average, his ceiling is that of a top-10 fantasy quarterback.

CJ Donaldson, RB, West Virginia Mountaineers
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Last season, CJ Donaldson, as a true freshman, was a CFF cheat code. He had tight end eligibility but was playing running back. He would have finished easily as the top tight end, but an ankle fracture in the mid-season ended his season early. Even only playing in seven games, he still finished as a top-25 tight end.

In the offseason though, Fantrax has changed Donaldson's eligibility to only running back. With the tight end eligibility, you could have easily made the case that he was a first-round selectable player. Without it, he is still someone who needs to be on CFF rosters. I will be looking to select Donaldson around pick 50 as a running back with the potential for 1,200 total yards and 10 plus touchdowns.


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