BYU picked to finish 11th in Cougars' first Big 12 season; Suamataia named to first team

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PROVO — After a dozen years of independence, BYU officially joined the Big 12 Conference in football (as well as most sports) July 1 alongside Cincinnati, Houston and UCF.

That makes the Cougars eligible for preseason awards, which rolled out this week.

BYU was picked to finish 11th in the team's first Big 12 preseason media poll, the conference announced Thursday. Texas was selected to win the league, receiving 41 first-place votes and 886 total points by members of the media that cover Big 12 schools. Kansas State was picked second with 858 points and 14 first-place votes.

Oklahoma finished in third with 758 points and four first-place votes, tying Texas Tech's four first-place votes and 729 points. TCU's 727 points and three first-place votes round out the top five. Among the conference's latest additions, UCF was picked eighth, Houston 12th, and Cincinnati 13th, with West Virginia rating at the bottom with 129 total votes.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake doesn't put much stock in preseason polls; he didn't when the Cougars received an abundance of early attention, so why should he now, when most didn't pick his team much chance to finish above .500 in their first year in a conference since leaving the Mountain West in 2011.

"What's the rate of success in predicting all of it?" he asked, rhetorically. "I don't know who those guys are, but I'll be sure to tell the team. We're going to be excited about our opportunities, and we're going to focus on Sam Houston, and get ready to play this game.

"I'm not really worried about what everybody is predicting," Sitake continued. "It's good. Let's just fly under the radar and figure out what we can do to make some people wrong. But proving people wrong is not our motivation; it's to prove ourselves right, and how we feel and how we believe. I can't predict what is going to happen either. But I have a really good feeling we're in a good spot."

BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis looks to make a pass during opening day of BYU spring football camp at the BYU Indoor Practice Facility in Provo, on Monday, March 6, 2023.
BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis looks to make a pass during opening day of BYU spring football camp at the BYU Indoor Practice Facility in Provo, on Monday, March 6, 2023. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

The Cougars' starting quarterback took a slightly more nuanced approached when asked a similar question after a preseason golf scramble with coaches, players, staff members and members of the local media.

"You can play both sides of the card," BYU's Kedon Slovis said. "Some teams like high expectations, but then Nick Saban calls it 'rat poison.' Some people like low expectations. ... At the end of the day, we have our own expectations of where we think we should be as a team. We just want to play consistently our level of football, as best as we can, day-to-day, week-in and week-out. If we can do that, then I think we're going to be pretty happy at the end of the year."

BYU offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia became the Cougars' first preseason all-Big 12 selection on Wednesday, when he joined the 29 players across the 14-team league to be selected, including 15 on offense.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound tackle from Orem was previously named to the Phil Steele Preseason All-Big 12 team and Athlon Sports 2023 All-Big 12 team for the 2023 season, as well.

Suamataia, an Oregon transfer, has already begun to receive NFL draft buzz.

The former five-star recruit in 2021 and consensus top-40 prospect by Rivals and 247Sports received The Athletic's All-America second-team honors after the 2022 season, as well as similar honors by the College Football Network, Phil Steele Magazine and Midseason Freshman All-America second-team honors by College Football News after starting all 12 games of the 2022 season and helping the Cougars to a 7-5 record and win over SMU in the New Mexico Bowl.

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels was named All-Big 12 preseason offensive player of the year, and Texas linebacker Jaylan Ford added defensive player of the year honors. Kansas State running back Treshaun Ward, a Florida State transfer, picked up All-Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year honors.

Texas led all teams with five All-Big 12 preseason picks, followed by Kansas' four. Kansas State, Oklahoma State and TCU had three apiece, while Cincinnati, TExas Tech and West Virginia each added two.

The Cougars kick off their inaugural season in the Big 12 against FBS newcomer Sam Houston State at 8:15 p.m. MDT on Sept. 2 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The game will be broadcast on FS1.

2023 Big 12 Football Media Preseason Poll

Total votes included (first-place votes in parentheses)

  1. Texas (41), 886
  2. Kansas State (14), 858
  3. Oklahoma (4), 758
  4. Texas Tech (4), 729
  5. TCU (3), 727
  6. Baylor, 572
  7. Oklahoma State (1), 470
  8. UCF, 463
  9. Kansas, 461
  10. Iowa State, 334
  11. BYU, 318
  12. Houston, 215
  13. Cincinnati, 202
  14. West Virginia, 129

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