Bowl wins by Arizona, Kansas State make Big 12's future seem brighter

Arizona and Kansas State look like contenders next season in the Big 12 after their bowl wins on Thursday night.
Dec 28, 2023; San Antonio, TX, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Jedd Fisch holds up the trophy after
Dec 28, 2023; San Antonio, TX, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Jedd Fisch holds up the trophy after / Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday ended up being a pretty good night for the Big 12. Not only did Kansas State knock off a top-25 opponent with a true freshman quarterback, while the Arizona football team beat Oklahoma, a team leaving the Big 12, by two touchdowns.

The Sooners were the 12th-ranked team in the country, while Arizona football was No. 14. But now, the Wildcats might have a case for being ranked in the top 10 after a 17-0 fourth quarter that led to the 38-24 win. Noah Fifita, assuming he's not a late entry into the transfer portal, threw for 354 yards and two touchdowns. He's quietly been one of the best quarterbacks in college football.

Jedd Fisch will soon become a hot name in college football coaching circles. He's coached for Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban. It's also clear that he's building something in Arizona, which makes the Wildcats feel like a great addition to the new Big 12.

Arizona doesn't make up for losing the brands that are Oklahoma and Texas, but the product on the field could be better than some expect next season in the Big 12. Colorado and Utah are also coming. The Buffaloes are sort of a running joke right now, but if Deion Sanders transfer portal moves to shore up the offensive line work, his team should at least be good enough to reach a bowl game.

Utah is getting Cameron Rising back and all the Utes have done is won the last two Pac-12 titles with him healthy. Kansas State won the Big 12 in 2022, and with freshman quarterback Avery Johnson shining in the Wildcats' win over NC State, a top-15 team, Kansas State football looks like a contender, just like Kansas which won its ninth game. Jalon Daniels will also be back for KU.

You can make the argument that the Big 12 is going to be a one-bid league next season in the first go around of the 12-team playoff. But the competition for the championship is going to be stiff and the league appears to be in much better shape, at least for year one, than some might have expected.