The six consecutive year dominance Oklahoma had been on with being the Big 12 champion came to an end last year and instead it was Baylor that surprised everyone. Oklahoma will also have a new head coach in Brent Venables after Lincoln Riley left for USC. Texas will be heading into their second season with Steve Sarkisian as the head coach and they have a promising quarterback in Quinn Ewers but will it be enough for them to make a leap? Plenty of other huge storylines in the Big 12 will impact each team this season, and college football analysts Marissa Myers and Harrison Vapnek evaluate what to expect from each team in 2022!
Texas 9-3 (7-2 Big 12)
2021 was a tale of two seasons for the Texas Longhorns: pre-Red River and post-Red River. The Longhorns started the year 4-1 and led by 21 points in the first half, before blowing that game and finishing the rest of the season 1-5. However, 2022 can be a different chapter for Texas. Quinn Ewers, the nation’s highest recruit in 2021, is now set to be the starting quarterback in Austin, Texas. He’ll have a plethora of receivers to work with, including Xavier Worthy, who hauled in a team-high 12 touchdowns last year, Jordan Whittington, and Wyoming transfer Isaiah Neyor, who also caught 12 scores last year. There’s also of course Bijan Robinson, one of the best running backs in the sport, who ran for over 1,100 yards last year and had 11 touchdowns. Texas retains three starters on the offensive line and quietly brought in tight end transfer Jahleel Billingsley from Alabama who will be an immediate starter.
The Longhorn defense struggled mightily last year, however, there is optimism for improvement. The linebacking core is strong with veterans DeMarvion Overshown and Jaylan Ford, to go along with James Madison transfer Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey. In the secondary, Texas added Ohio State transfer Ryan Watts and he will start alongside D’Shawn Jamison. Texas plays a huge game against Alabama in week two and even though a loss is expected, I anticipate a big turnaround in year two for head coach Steve Sarkisian.
Oklahoma: 10-2 (8-1 Big 12)
After 29 years and learning from the minds of Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops, and Dabo Swinney, Brent Venables finally gets his first head coaching chance. Venables’ expertise is the defensive side of the ball, and while the run defense did well in 2021, the passing defense did not as they allowed the 109th yards per game with 261.8. Luckily there is talent he can work with that includes cornerbacks Woodi Washington and D.J. Graham and safety Billy Bowman. While they may not have started, because Oklahoma runs a defensive line rotation emerging talent like Reggie Grimes, Jordan Kelley, Josh Ellison, and Ethan Downs all flashed when they did see some snaps on the field. Jeff Lebby will be the new offensive coordinator and it helps that he has already had prior experience with the Sooners’ transfer quarterback, Dillon Gabriel. Gabriel will have a dynamic receiver in Marvin Mims and will get five-star receiver Theo Wease back from injury. I have Oklahoma losing an upset game to Nebraska, and Baylor due to their stout defenses which could give Oklahoma’s offensive line trouble.
Baylor 9-3 (6-3 Big 12)
The defending Big 12 Champions had a year to remember in 2021 under second-year head coach Dave Aranda. The Bears won a school-record 12 games and won the Sugar Bowl against Ole Miss. There is reason to believe they can run it back in 2022. Starting with the defensive side, defensive coordinator Ron Roberts will have his work cut out for him with losing key starters across the board. The Bears return their entire defensive front, led by last year’s Big 12 First Team nose tackle Siaki “Apu” Ika. Matt Jones will take Terrel Bernard’s linebacker role and former LSU linebacker Josh White, a former four-star recruit, will also be added to that core. In the secondary, cornerback Al Walcott and free safety Christian Morgan are the lone remaining starters, but keep an eye on Loranado Johnson to be a future star safety in the back end.
On offense, Blake Shapen returns at quarterback after a stellar performance in the Big 12 title game, where he threw for three touchdowns and won the MVP, before sitting out the bowl game. Shapen will be protected by an offensive line that retains nearly everyone. For his weapons, Tyquan Thorton and Abram Smith are gone. Some of the guys who will need to step up are running back Taye McWilliams and receivers Gavin Holmes and Monaray Baldwin, alongside tight end Ben Sims who is the team’s leading receiver returner. Baylor faces a difficult trip at BYU early in the season, but the Bears stand as a team that will make every Big 12 opponent work because of the talent on defense.
Oklahoma State: 9-3 (6-3 Big 12)
Out of all the Big 12 teams, Oklahoma State has the most experienced quarterback with Spencer Sanders. Last season Sanders completed 243 passes for 2,839 yards, and 20 touchdowns but also had 12 interceptions. Sanders heads into 2022 with now 31 career interceptions thrown, he will need to find more consistency and not make as many costly decisions, if he can do so he can take this offense to a new level. The receiving corps is full of young talent with Brennan Presley, Blaine Green, and Jaden Bray who is an emerging star that averaged 19.2 yards per catch in 2021. They lost some starters but have enough talented depth to stay somewhat consistent, and it helps to have Mike Gundy as the head coach going into his 17th season with the team. Where there could be a slight decrease in production from the team is on the defensive side of the ball. They only return four defensive starters and have a new defensive coordinator after Jim Knowles left to join Ohio State. The strength of the defense will be Brock Martin and Tyler Lacy rushing off the edge, but outside of that, there is only one returning starter in the secondary and that is safety, Jason Taylor II. Games against Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas will test the Cowboys’ defense.
West Virginia: 6-6 (4-5 Big 12)
Less than a year ago, JT Daniels was being considered a Heisman Trophy candidate and future NFL quarterback. Fast forward to now and he’s set to be the starting quarterback in Morgantown, West Virginia and he’s reunited with his former offensive coordinator from USC, Graham Harrell. At the running back spot, Tony Mathis Jr. and Clemson transfer Lyn-J Dixon lead the way and have the chance to be one of the most underrated pairings in the Big 12. At wide receiver, the Mountaineers return Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Sam Jones, and Kaden Prather, who are all solid players. West Virginia also returns all five starters on the offensive line, capping off what truly could be a very dangerous offense if things go right. Defensively though, there are lots of changes. The Mountaineers were decimated in the secondary with graduates and transfers and will replace nearly everyone in that category. At linebacker, West Virginia brought in Syracuse transfer Lee Kpogba who will be an important piece, to go along with Lance Dixon and Exree Loe. The best part of the defense will be the defensive line, which retained most of their starting group from 2021. This could be a team that flies under the radar next season, starting with an opening week visit to Pittsburgh.
Iowa State: 6-6 (4-5 Big 12)
It is a new era for the Iowa State Cyclones as for the first time since 2018 they will have a new quarterback and running back with Brock Purdy and Breece Hall off to the NFL. In steps Hunter Dekkers at quarterback, over the last two seasons he saw some opportunities in which he totaled 25 completions for 311 yards and three touchdowns. He has the arm and will have a playmaker in Xavier Hutchinson at wide receiver to rely on to make his transition to being a starter smoother. The Cyclones defense has been known to be a powerhouse the last few seasons but will be relying on unproven talent to step up. There is Will McDonald IV returning who had 11 sacks last season to add to his 22 career total. Trying to replicate Mike Rose and Jake Hummels’ production will be no easy task, but O’Rien Vance returns from injury and will help immensely. With all the change and youth, expectations aren’t set high for this Cyclones team, yet they could surprise some teams and get enough wins for a bowl game.
TCU: 6-6 (3-6 Big 12)
TCU is an interesting case for 2022. They have a new head coach in Sonny Dykes and a quarterback competition between Max Duggan and Chandler Morris. Duggan has been the primary starter since he entered the program in 2019, but Morris will have a legit chance to win the job, as he played a little bit after transferring from Oklahoma. In one start last year against Baylor, he threw for over 460 yards and led the Horned Frogs to an upset win over the eventual conference champions. Kendre Miller is the key starting running back for the Horned Frogs, coming off a season where he averaged seven yards per carry. The offensive line is strong as well for TCU, with three returning starters. On defense, Joe Gillespie is TCU’s first new defensive headman in over 20 years, as Gary Patterson led that side of the ball since he was hired. TCU will have a strong pass rush but there are questions in the back end that will need to be answered. At the end of the day, quarterback play will dictate how far this team will go.
Texas Tech: 6-6 (4-5 Big 12)
If you don’t know the name Zach Kittley, let’s see if this helps. Western Kentucky finished the 2021 season with the second-best offense led by quarterback Bailey Zappe who shattered records and led the nation passing for 5,967 yards and 62 touchdowns. The offensive coordinator for the Hilltops last season was Kittley, and he comes to the Red Raiders who have an offense full of potential. At the quarterback spot is Tyler Shough who is returning from playing in only four games during 2021 after suffering a broken collarbone. In the four games he did play in though, he completed 69.56% of his passes for 872 yards and six touchdowns while also having two rushing touchdowns. The offense will utilize two tight ends to stretch the field and it will be hard for defenses to cover both Mason Tharp and Texas A&M transfer, Baylor Cupp. It’s the offensive line that could hinder the success of the team as it features backups and transfers.
Kansas State: 7-5 (4-5 Big 12)
Two words: Deuce Vaughn. If you don’t know the name yet, you will very, very soon. Vaughn is one of the most electric players in college football. He stands at just 5’6, but has elite speed and agility. He ran for 10-plus yard carries an NCAA high 59 times. He is also lethal in catching passes out of the backfield and will be an enormous comfort to Nebraska transfer quarterback Adrian Martinez who will be playing with the most talent and best coaching he’s ever had at the college level. He’ll have a veteran receiver core of Malik Knowles, Phillip Brooks, and Chabastin Taylor to work with. On the defensive side, plenty of starters return to Manhattan, Kansas, including star pass rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah. This is a team that really has the chance to turn heads next season and break out and I do have faith in Chris Klieman to lead Kansas State to another successful season.
Kansas: 3-9 (1-8 Big 12)
Under Lance Leipold, the Kansas Jayhawks are heading in the right direction, but it will take another year or so before they get out of last place for the first time since 2008. Improvement is needed on the defense before any major steps are taken. They were the 126th-ranked defensive unit allowing an average of 486.8 yards per game, and allowed the second-most points per game with 42. At quarterback, Jalon Daniels will need to show the playmaking ability he did towards the end of the season when he took over for Jason Bean. If Daniels can do so and improve the offense that was last in the Big 12 in terms of scoring, yards, and passing, that will be the true sign things are heading in the right direction for the Jayhawks.
Harrison’s: Texas vs Oklahoma State
Marissa’s: Oklahoma vs Texas