Big 12 Preview 2022 - Cowboys, Sooners, Longhorns or Bears?
The instability and change that marked the Big 12's season off the field was mirrored by the competition on it. Following the announcement of Texas and Oklahoma's defection to the SEC, the Big 12 powers that be moved quickly to secure the additions of College Playoff contender Cincinnati, BYU, Houston and UCF, who join next season. The Longhorns and Sooners are scheduled to move in 2025.
On the field, Oklahoma's grip on the conference ended with a loss to their state rivals in Stillwater, after which Lincoln Riley dropped the bombshell on his move to Southern California. The title was then decided in a matter of inches...
So, what to look out for this year? New coaches at Oklahoma, Texas Tech and TCU, Texas being "back", Kansas State being good, and Baylor defending their surprise crown, with Oklahoma State looking threatening again.
Brent Venables brings a superb defensive resume to Oklahoma and despite losing some starters to the NFL, has a talented group to work with. Incoming offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby from Ole Miss and quarterback Dillon Gabriel should bring fireworks on offense. Gabriel has elite third year receiver Marvin Mims to throw to.
The Sooners host their main contenders - Kansas State, Baylor and rivals Oklahoma State in the Bedlam, giving Oklahoma a strong chance to reclaim their crown.
Coach Dave Aranda achieved an extraordinary turnaround for the Bears who moved from 2-7 to a Big 12-winning 12-2, finishing No.5 in the end of season AP poll. Quarterback Blake Shapen stepped in against Kansas State and led the Bears to four consecutive wins, the last two being the conference championship and Sugar Bowl vs. Ole Miss. He will hope to continue that run of form going into the new season.
The defensive front dominated in the trenches last season and should continue to do so. Siaki Ika is a huge presence at nose tackle and joins Tulsa transfer Jaxon Player who racked up five sacks. Road trips to BYU, Oklahoma and Texas will test their chances of retaining the title.
No.12 Oklahoma State
Literally inches away from their first title in ten years, Oklahoma State lost a number of starters but have a talented young roster capable of challenging. Brennan Presley leads a promising receiver room who will be catching passes from veteran quarterback Spencer Sanders. He set career highs in passing yards and touchdowns, signing off last season with a stunning comeback 37-35 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
If Sanders can stay healthy (and consistent), with another strong defense, the Cowboys could go one step further this year.
Texas stuttered into it's revolution with a 5-7 season, giving up three games where they had led by over ten points. The off-season capture of Quinn Ewers gives the Longhorns a potential star at quarterback. Following Gary Patterson's sacking by TCU, The Horned Frogs ex-head coach was scooped up by Steve Sarkisian to join the Longhorns' development, as special assistant to the head coach. The superb Bijan Robinson will provide offensive spark and highlight-reel plays for watching fans. Xavier Worthy is a star at receiver, but will have to carry the receiving load with the loss of Isaiah Naylor to injury.
The defense added a number of transfers but is still shaky. Keondre Coburn is a solid nose tackle. but the unit needs work if the Longhorns have a chance of being competitive. They will certainly be fun to watch.
The Cyclones' season didn't catch fire last year after many (including me!) had pegged them as dark horses for the Big 12 title. Coach Matt Campbell remains in demand, but committed to an improved Iowa State team that last won a league title in 1911.
This could be a transitional season for Iowa State. One-two offensive punch of quarterback Brock Purdy (49ers) and running back Breece Hall (Jets) have left for the NFL and are replaced by backups Hunter Dekkers and Jirehl Brock. The defense remains very good. How quickly Iowa State integrates its new team will have a big say in the outcome of their season.
Texas Christian University
Big news in Fort Worth with the departure of Gary Patterson and hire of SMU coach Sonny Dykes to take the reigns at TCU. Max Duggan looks likely to be the starter at quarterback and while the loss of running back Zach Evans to Ole Miss was a blow, they have a capable replacement in Kendre Miller.
The defense needs a ton of work, conceding an average 35 points per game. In comes Joe Gillespie from Tulsa as defensive coordinator to tighten up.
The Wildcats could sneak up on teams this year and are regarded by some as genuine dark horses for the conference title. Kansas State has experienced players in key roles in the field. Nebraska quarterback transfer Adrian Martinez forms a dynamic tandem on offense with the highly talented running back Deuce Vaughn.
Felix Anudike-Uzomah leads an outstanding pass rush that will give Big 12 quarterbacks sleepless nights.
The Mountaineers kick off today in the "Backyard Brawl" match up with Pitt. All five starting offensive linemen are back, giving Georgia transfer and former USC QB JT Daniels an opportunity to revitalise his career in Morgantown. He kicks off the season in a bizarre coincidental showdown of former USC signal callers, facing off against Kedon Slovis in Pittsburgh.
Incoming offensive coordinator Graham Harrell will be reunited with Daniels and word from camp is he is already firing up this offense, having taken the play calling duties from head coach Neal Brown.
A team renowned for it's explosive "Air Raid" offense in recent years, hired defensive specialist Joey McGuire to be the new head coach. McGuire excelled with Baylor's defense in the last two years. Zach Kittley returns to Lubbock to take charge of an offense likely to be led by former Oregon QB Tyler Shough.
If McGuire can dramatically improve the defense. the Red Raiders could climb the Big 12 table.
Like Duke in the ACC, Kansas is a program currently propping up it's conference and overshadowed by it's basketball team. A dramatic 57-56 upset of Texas in Austin and close losses to West Virginia and TCU with the emergence of quarterback Jalon Daniels gives them hope for improvement. Another season at the bottom of the Big 12 beckons, however.
Oct 1st - Oklahoma State @ Baylor - an early rematch between last season's finalists in Waco.
Oct 8th - Oklahoma vs. Texas - the Red River Rivalry was one of the games of the season. Can Texas overturn their agonising 55-48 loss at the historic Cotton Bowl in Dallas?
Nov 5th - Baylor @ Oklahoma - The Bears will need see off the Sooners in Norman to hang on to their Big 12 crown.
Nov 19th - Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma - make the most of the Bedlam battles - from 2025 these rivalry games between the two Oklahoma-based giants could be scarce.
This is a tough one to call. Oklahoma will be tough to beat with the introduction of Brent Venables and Dillon Gabriel to the Sooners. Baylor won't give their title away without a fight and I think while Texas will improve, they will continue to be a work in progress.
Oklahoma State come into the season with momentum and motivation, from their championship game loss to Baylor and Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame. They will win their first Big 12 title in 11 years.