Baylor became the first school other than Oklahoma or Texas to win the Big 12 championship game since 2003 last season.
Will this be a sign of things to come when the Sooners and Longhorns eventually leave for the SEC?
The Bears are also the Big 12 preseason media poll pick to defend that conference championship under rising coach Dave Aranda. The conference is tough to predict in 2022. The Sporting News lumped Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State together in our preseason Top 25 at Nos. 10-12. These are the preseason favorites again.
MORE: SEC Predictions | Bowl Projections | 2022 All-America Team
Oklahoma, of course, has undergone massive changes in the offseason. Lincoln Riley left for USC, and quarterback Caleb Williams followed. Spencer Rattler moved to South Carolina. Brent Venables is Norman’s new coach. TCU’s Sonny Dykes and Texas Tech’s Joey McGuire also joined the coaching ranks.
Of course, Texas also made the Top 25. The Longhorns were 5-7 in Steve Sarkisian’s first season, and a non-conference matchup against Alabama is the blockbuster game on the September schedule. Will Texas compete for a Big 12 championship?
This is one of the questions we will answer. An up-close look at the Big 12, with predictions, huge games, Heisman contenders and more:
Big 12 2022 projected playoff order
- Oklahoma State
- Kansas State
- Iowa State
- West Virginia
- Texas Tech
Oklahoma is a risky pick given the coaching change, the quarterback carousel and Venables, who is a first-time head coach. Still, the Sooners are 43-6 at home in the CFP era and Baylor and Oklahoma State come to Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium this season. Texas has lost three or more conferences in seven of the eight seasons since Mack Brown left the program. Kansas State is an intriguing dream with the addition of Adrian Martinez at quarterback and the hiring of offensive coordinator Collin Klein, who finished third in Heisman voting in 2012. Chris Kliman has two 8-5 seasons over the last three years with the Wildcats. Iowa State and Oklahoma are the only two schools with winning records in conference play each of the past four seasons. Maybe the Cyclones are underrated by a touch.
Big 12 top story: What’s next for Texas?
The Longhorns went 5-7 in Steve Sarkisian’s first season and that included a 57-56 overtime loss to Kansas. So why is Texas even being considered for a Big 12 championship bid? Consider the three teams tied to finish ahead of Texas in the Big 12 preseason poll. Texas is 5-4 against Baylor since 2014, but the Longhorns are 3-5 against Oklahoma State and 2-7 against Oklahoma. That’s a 10-16 overall record against true contenders.
The offense will be good though. SN Preseason All-American running back Bijan Robinson is one of the best players in the FBS and the fascination surrounding transfer quarterback Quinn Ewers is high. The Longhorns will also have a top-notch receiving group around Xavier Worthy. Can Texas stop anyone when it matters? The Longhorns allowed 30 points or more in seven of their losses.
All of this coincides with the impending arrival of five-star quarterback Arch Manning in 2023 and a possible move to the SEC. Will Sarkeesian create real momentum on the field before these moves? The Week 2 game against Alabama will be your next chance to prove it.
Jaden Gibson, WR, Oklahoma
Gibson, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound four-star recruit from West Orange High School (Winter Garden, Fla.) had a good spring and has picked up new offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby’s offense. Oklahoma is stacked with Marvin Mims, Theo Weese and Drake Stoops, but Gibson’s size makes him another red zone target for Gabriel. Gibson should get enough targets in this rotation to be an impact player.
Kelvin Banks and Cole Hutson, OL, Texas
Banks (Summer Creek, Humble, Texas) is a 6-5, 300-pound tight end who could emerge as a starting option in the regular season. Hutson (Frisco, Texas), an early enrollee, could start on the interior line at guard or center from Day 1. They are among the contributors from a 2022 recruiting class that was heavy in the trenches.
Dylan Gabriel, QB, Oklahoma
Gabriel had 8,037 passing yards, 70 TDs and 14 interceptions over the past three seasons with the Golden Knights. He has transferred to Oklahoma (after a three-week commitment to UCLA), where the supporting cast will be strong against competition from the Big 12. Lebby’s offense has been productive and Gabriel offered a preview, hitting 19 of 28 passes for 250 yards in the spring game . Oklahoma has had four Heisman QB winners this century. Could Gabriel be number 5?
Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
Ewers should win the starting job from Hudson Card in fall camp, a battle that was close in the spring. However, Ewers’ appeal is obvious given the five-star recruit’s talent. The pressure to perform is high, especially with Manning’s arrival next season. That makes Ewers perhaps the most interesting quarterback to watch in September. This Week 2 game against Alabama will serve as a national referendum.
Adrian Martinez, QB, Kansas State
Martinez was a four-year starter at Nebraska, a place where the production was there, but the turnovers often got in the way. He’s the X-factor quarterback in the conference because the Wildcats have the right pieces to be Big 12, and Klein should be a good influence on Martinez’s development. He is a player to watch with great interest.
JT Daniels, QB, West Virginia
Daniels’ third college stop was at West Virginia, a program that struggled to get off the ground under Neil Brown. Daniels couldn’t hang on to the starting job at either USC or Georgia, and injuries played a role in that. He did have a 65.9% completion percentage with the Bulldogs and offers veteran experience at the most important position.
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Ricky Williams was the last Heisman winner for Texas in 1998. There’s a lot to love about Robinson, a game-breaker who averaged 6.5 yards per carry the past two seasons. He also averages 12 yards per catch and has proven to be a reliable threat out of the backfield. Those touches should increase with Ewers under center. Robinson had a three-week stretch last season when he had 76 carries before suffering an elbow injury in the loss at Kansas. He needs to stay healthy in 2022.
Spencer Sanders, QB, Oklahoma State
Sanders returned to form after an injury-riddled 2020, and he led the Cowboys to the Big 12 Championship Game with 2,839 passing yards, 668 rushing yards and 26 TDs. Sanders is a two-way playmaker whose career completion percentage is 62.4%.
Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma
Mims would be considered a long shot, but he remains an explosive receiver who should get more targets with Gabriel at quarterback. Mims had just 41 targets in 2021. He has averaged 19.1 yards per catch with seven TDs per year over the past two seasons.
The Big 12’s Biggest Games of 2022
1. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 5)
These teams met in the Big 12 Championship Game in 2019, and they are the popular picks to do so again. Aranda went for a last-second field goal in last year’s 27-14 victory, a move that didn’t sit well with then-coach Lincoln Riley. This is one of two payback games for the Sooners, and Baylor has just one Oklahoma win in its history.
2. Oklahoma State at Baylor (Oct. 1)
It’s a rematch of last year’s Big 12 championship game, an instant classic in which the Bears stopped the Cowboys short of the goal line in a 21-16 thriller. Blake Shapen took over the starting QB job at Baylor with 180 yards and three TDs. This is the first huge swing game of the conference.
3. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov. 19)
“Bedlam” will be in full force with the Sooners looking for payback. The Cowboys snapped a six-game losing streak to the Sooners last season in a 37-33 game that went down to the final drive. Mike Gundy is just 1-7 in Norman as a head coach.
4. Texas vs. Oklahoma (Oct. 8)
This remains the best rivalry in the Big 12, and the stakes are the same. The Sooners went 53-45 in 2020 and 55-48 last season, and this game features basketball-like swings in points and momentum. The Longhorns blew a 28-7 lead in last year’s sectional. Will Venables win his first Red River Rivalry game?
5. Texas at Oklahoma State (Oct. 22)
The last five meetings have been one score, and the Longhorns and Cowboys have won on the road in the last two seasons. Texas’ season fell apart after a 32-24 loss to Oklahoma State last season.
Big 12 stats that matter
Baylor led the Big 12 with 219.3 yards per game last season; an old-school formula that still works. Aranda and offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes have crafted a no-nonsense offense with that punishing ground attack, but Abram Smith (1,601 yards, 12 TDs) and Trestan Ebner (799 yards, 2 TDs), but Ty McWilliams could be a breakout star after averaging 10, 6 yards per carry in limited action last season. The Bears do have five seniors on the offensive line, including All-American candidate left tackle Connor Galvin.
Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma
The Sooners have 13 new transfer players, a first-time head coach and a transfer quarterback. It’s still the most talented lineup in the Big 12, and home games against Baylor and Oklahoma State make a difference. Given the way Riley left, this team may be playing with more of an edge than usual, especially after surrendering the Big 12 crown after six years of dominance. September tests against Nebraska and Kansas State will be telling, but we think the Sooners take back the crown — albeit with a conference loss or two.