For the first time in years, nothing is predictable in the Big 12. After Oklahoma’s six-year stranglehold at the top ended last year, Baylor and Oklahoma State are looking like contenders again. The Sooners always have the benefit of the doubt, but first-year coaching changes aren’t always easy. Just ask Texas and Steve Sarkisian. Even Kansas State has the potential to threaten the top tier of the league. A new era is dawning, with Texas and OU nearing the end of their time and four new teams arriving next year. There’s a defensive swagger in the league now and this season could be as wild as the last.
Welcome to the new Big 12.
Storylines to watch
1. The Brent Venables era begins in Norman
Lincoln Riley has accomplished a lot in his five seasons as Oklahoma head coach, with three college football playoff appearances and a couple of Heisman Trophy winners, raising a lot of curiosity about the start of Venables’ tenure. While the Sooners had just one preseason All-Big-12 (a punter!) and just 10 returning starters, there’s reason for optimism with UCF transfer quarterback Dillion Gabriel, who is behind a talented offense with offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby Line is reunited. Despite only five returning defensive starters, Venables’ influence is likely to be seen on that side of the ball too, given years of success at Clemson.
2. The heightened expectations of Steve Sarkisian’s second season
There’s always high expectations in Texas, and they’ve risen at the start of Sarkisian’s second season. ESPN’s College Football Power Index was updated in July for the 2022 preseason and the Longhorns ranked 7th with a 39.8% chance of winning the Big 12, with Oklahoma right behind in 8th and a 28% chance of winning. 1% to win the Big 12 conference. While the quarterback room offers more potential than promise, running back Bijan Robinson is one of the best players in college football, and the Longhorns should improve defensively from ranked 97th a year ago. The question is how good will the team actually be and will it be enough for the Longhorns fans? Taking on Alabama at home in Week 2 will be an early and honest test.
3. How will Baylor and Oklahoma State continue the successful 2021 season?
The Bears and Cowboys both put up 12-2 win seasons in New Year’s Six Bowls to finish strong. Although both teams are talented, they need to retool. Baylor loses his top two rushers and receivers while Blake Shapen takes over as quarterback. It brings back just four players to defense for Oklahoma State (including the loss of six of its top eight tacklers) and replaces defense coordinator Jim Knowles, who moved to Ohio State, with former Vanderbilt (and Auburn DC in 2021) head coach ) Derek Mason . The possibility of remaining at the top of the Big 12 still exists as Oklahoma is in transition and Texas is still rebuilding, but it won’t be easy.
3. State of Oklahoma
4. State of Kansas
7. State of Iowa
8. Texas Tech
9. West Virginia
10. Kansas Jayhawks
Five must-see games
Texas-Oklahoma has been the flag-bearer of the Big 12 for many years. But with the rise of Baylor and Oklahoma State, there are several big games that will impact the title race. There are plenty of non-conference games like Pitt-West Virginia Backyard Brawl (September 1), Texas-Alabama (September 10), and even an old Iron Skillet rivalry with new juice thanks to Sonny Dykes’ move across the Metroplex (September 1 ). 24), but we’re going to focus on five conference matchups we can’t wait to see.
State of Oklahoma in Baylor, October 1
A pre-season bonus and a re-imagining of an exciting Big 12 title game from last year. In a wide-open season, this is an early referendum on how two of the league’s most promising teams will look on the way down.
Texas vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 8 (Cotton Bowl, Dallas)
Last year was just one of the biggest games in one of college football’s greatest rivalries. The Sooners’ comeback in the second half started a spiral for the Longhorns in Steve Sarkisian’s first season. But Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley have gone to USC, and a revamped Oklahoma team will be waiting to see what this year’s version has in store.
Texas, Oklahoma, October 22nd
Can Texas start building momentum behind a young offensive line and a string of newcomers? A trip to a rugged environment in Stillwater will present a serious test. These two teams’ last five matchups have been one-score games, with two going to overtime and OSU leading 3-2 during that time.
Baylor in Oklahoma, Nov. 5
Baylor fans stormed the field twice last season when the Bears teased OU. One came when fans thought Baylor was content to let the clock run down, but Dave Aranda opted for a late field goal for all tiebreaker scenarios. Then they did it again when the Bears broke a seven-game sled against the Sooners. Two of the Big 12’s most successful teams in recent years are now both led by defensive head coaches. What does this year’s edition bring?
State of Oklahoma in Oklahoma, November 19
Bedlam’s days are numbered due to the conference realignment and Mike Gundy is not happy about it. But Gundy clinched a 37-33 win, his third win over the Sooners in his 17 seasons and one that marked the end of the Riley era. As the rivalry draws to a close, every game in this series means more than ever.
Preseason All-Big-12 Team
Oklahoma’s Spencer Sanders is now a cunning veteran and put on an incredible Fiesta Bowl performance against Notre Dame, but Dillon Gabriel should be able to put up big numbers with the Sooners’ skill and a trusted coordinator in Jeff Lebby to coach him UCF. Otherwise, Bijan Robinson could be a Heisman contender and Deuce Vaughn is one of the most underrated players in the country.
QB Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma
RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
RB Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
WR Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
WR Xavier Worthy, Texas
TE Ben Sims, Baylor
OL Cooper Beebe, State of Kansas
OL Trevor Downing, State of Iowa
OL Jacob Gall, Baylor
OL Doug Nester, West Virginia
OL Connor Galvin, Baylor
EN Felix Anudike-Uzomah, State of Kansas
EN Will McDonald, State of Iowa
DT Jalen Redmond, Oklahoma
DT Dante Stills, West Virginia
LB Dillon Doyle, Baylor
LB DeMarvion Overshown, Texas
LB Daniel Green, State of Kansas
CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU
CB Charles Woods, West Virginia
S. Kenny Logan Jr., Kansas
S Jason Taylor II, State of Oklahoma
PK Casey Legg, West Virginia
Fr. Michael Turk, Oklahoma
KR/PR Malik Knowles, Kansas State
Championship Match Prediction
Oklahoma via Baylor.