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 finally leave for the SEC?
The Bears are also the Big 12 Preseason Media Poll’s choice to defend this conference championship under rising coach Dave Aranda. It’s a tough conference to predict in 2022. Sporting News has grouped Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in our preseason Top 25 in the No. 10-12 spots. They’re the favorites again of the pre-season.
MORE: SEC Predictions | Bowl protrusions | 2022 All America Team
Oklahoma, of course, went through massive changes in the offseason. Lincoln Riley left for USC, followed by quarterback Caleb Williams. Spencer Rattler transferred to South Carolina. Brent Venables is Norman’s new coach. Sonny Dykes of TCU and Joey McGuire of Texas Tech also joined the coaching ranks.
Of course, Texas made our Top 25 as well. The Longhorns were 5-7 in Steve Sarkisian’s first season, and a non-conference game against Alabama is the hit game on the September schedule. . Will Texas compete for a Big 12 Championship?
This is one of the questions we are going to answer. A closer look at the Big 12, with predictions, huge matches, Heisman contenders and more:
Expected finish order of the Big 12 2022
- Oklahoma State
- Kansas State
- Iowa State
- West Virginia
- Texas technology
Oklahoma is a risky choice given the coaching change, the quarterback carousel and Venables being 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 sleeper 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 Klieman has two 8-5 seasons in the last three years with the Wildcats. Iowa State and Oklahoma are the only two schools with winning records in conference games each of the past four seasons. Maybe the Cyclones are underrated to the touch.
Big 12 scenario: 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 under consideration for a Big 12 Championship bid? Consider the three teams expected 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. It’s an overall record of 10-16 against the real contenders.
However, the attack is going to be good. SN Preseason All-American running back Bijan Robinson is one of the best players in the FBS, and the fascination around Ohio State transfer quarterback Quinn Ewers is high. The Longhorns will also have a top-notch receiving group around Xavier Worthy. Can Texas arrest someone when it counts? The Longhorns have allowed 30 or more runs in their seven losses.
This all coincides with the impending arrival of five-star quarterback Arch Manning in 2023 and the eventual transition to the SEC. Will Sarkissian create real momentum on the pitch ahead of these moves? The Week 2 game against Alabama will be the next chance to prove it.
Jayden Gibson, WR, Oklahoma
Gibson, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound four-star freshman from West Orange High School (Winter Garden, Fla.) had a good spring and took over the offense from new offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby. Oklahoma is stacked at receiver with Marvin Mims, Theo Wease 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-foot-5, 300-pound tackle who could become a regular-season starting option. Hutson (Frisco, Texas), an early registrant, could start on the inside line at guard or center on day one. They are among the contributors to a 2022 recruiting line that was heavy in the trenches.
Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oklahoma
Gabriel had 8,037 passing yards, 70 touchdowns and 14 interceptions over the past three seasons with the Golden Knights. He’s moved to Oklahoma (after a three-week commitment to UCLA), where the supporting cast will be strong against Big 12 competition. Lebby’s offense yields high production, and Gabriel offered some insight by hitting 19 of 28 passes for 250 yards in the spring game. Oklahoma has four Heisman-winning QBs this century. Could Gabriel be No. 5?
Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
Ewers must win the starting job of Hudson Card at fall camp, a battle that was close in the spring. The appeal with Ewers, however, is evident given the five-star rookie’s arm talent. The pressure is high, especially with the arrival of Manning next season. That arguably makes Ewers 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 in Nebraska, a place where production was there but turnovers often got in the way. He’s the X-factor quarterback in the conference because the Wildcats have the right pieces to be a Big 12 sleeper, and Klein should be a good influence on Martinez’s development. He is a player to follow with great interest.
JT Daniels, QB, West Virginia
Daniels’ third college stop is at West Virginia, a program that struggled to get off the ground under Neal Brown. Daniels couldn’t keep the starting job at USC or Georgia, and injuries played a part in that. He had a 65.9% completion percentage with the Bulldogs and he offers veteran experience at the most important position.
Bijan Robinson, RB, TX
Ricky Williams was Texas’ last Heisman winner in 1998. There’s a lot to love about Robinson, a playbreaker who’s 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. These keys should increase with Ewers under the center. Robinson had a three-week streak last season where he made 76 carries before injuring his elbow in the loss to Kansas. He must remain 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 touchdowns. Sanders is a two-way playmaker with a career completion percentage of 62.4%.
Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma
Mims would be considered a longshot, but he remains an explosive receiver who should get more targets with Gabriel at quarterback. Mims had just 41 targets in 2021. He averaged 19.1 yards per catch with seven touchdowns a year the past two seasons.
Big 12 biggest games of 2022
1. Baylor at Oklahoma (November 5)
These teams met in the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game, and these are the popular picks to start over. Aranda went for a last-second field goal in last year’s 27-14 win, a move that didn’t sit well with then-coach Lincoln Riley. It’s one of two cash games for the Sooners, and Baylor has only won one game in Oklahoma history.
2. Oklahoma State at Baylor (October 1)
This is a rematch of last year’s Big 12 Championship Game, an instant classic where the Bears stopped the Cowboys before the goal line in a 21-16 thriller. Blake Shapen took over as starting QB at Baylor with 180 yards and three touchdowns. It’s the first huge swing game on the conference slate.
3. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (November 19)
“Bedlam” will be fully effective with Sooners looking for a payback. The Cowboys snapped a six-game losing streak against the Sooners last season in a 37-33 loss that ended last practice. Mike Gundy is just 1-7 at Norman as a head coach.
4. Texas vs. Oklahoma (October 8)
It remains the Big 12’s best rivalry, and the stakes are the same. The Sooners won 53-45 in 2020 and 55-48 last season, and this game features basketball swings in points and momentum. The Longhorns lost a 28-7 lead in last year’s game. Will Venables win his first Red River Rivalry match?
5. Texas at Oklahoma State (October 22)
The last five meetings have been one-score games and the Longhorns and Cowboys have each won on the road for the past two seasons. Texas’ season was derailed after a 32-24 loss to Oklahoma State last season.
Big 12 stats that matter
Baylor led the Big 12 with 219.3 rushing yards per game last season; an old fashioned formula that still works. Aranda and offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes crafted a no-frills offense with this punishing rush, but Abram Smith (1,601 yards, 12 TDs) and Trestan Ebner (799 yards, 2 TDs), but Taye McWilliams could be a star after averaged 10.6 yards per carry in limited action last season. The Bears have five seniors on the offensive line, including All-American candidate left tackle Connor Galvin.
Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma
The Sooners have 13 incoming players from the transfer portal, a first-time head coach and a transfer quarterback. It’s still the most talented roster in the Big 12, and home games against Baylor and Oklahoma State stand out. Considering how Riley started, this team could play with more upside than usual, especially after relinquishing the Big 12 crown after a six-year streak of dominance. September Tests against Nebraska and Kansas State will be telling, but we think the Sooners reclaim the crown — albeit with a conference loss or two.