Baylor became the first school other than Oklahoma or Texas to win the Big 12 championship game since 2003 last season.
Will that be a sign of things to come when the Sooners and Longhorns ultimately leave for the SEC?
The Bears also are the Big 12 Preseason Media Poll pick to defend that conference championship under rising coach Dave Aranda. It’s a tough conference to predict in 2022. Sporting News bunched Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State together in our Preseason Top 25 in the Nos. 10-12 spots. Those are the preseason favorites again.
MORE: SEC predictions | Bowl projections | 2022 All America team
Oklahoma, of course, underwent massive changes in the offseason. Lincoln Riley left for USC, and quarterback Caleb Williams followed. Spencer Rattler transferred to South Carolina. Brent Venables is the new coach in Norman. TCU’s Sonny Dykes and Texas Tech’s Joey McGuire also joined the coaching ranks.
Of course, Texas also made our Top 25. The Longhorns were 5-7 in Steve Sarkisian’s first season, and a nonconference matchup against Alabama is the blockbuster game on the September schedule. Will Texas compete for a Big 12 championship?
That’s one of the questions we will answer. A closer look at the Big 12, with predictions, huge games, Heisman contenders and more:
Big 12 2022 predicted order of finish
- Oklahoma State
- Kansas State
- Iowa State
- West Virginia
- texas tech
Oklahoma is a risky pick 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 eight seasons since Mack Brown left the program. Kansas State is an intriguing sleeper with the addition of Adrian Martinez at quarterback and hiring offensive coordinator Collin Klein, who finished third in the Heisman voting in 2012. Chris Klieman has two 8-5 seasons 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 last four seasons. Perhaps the Cyclones are being undervalued at touch.
Big 12 top storyline: 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 in consideration for a Big 12 championship bid? Consider the three teams pegged 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 the true contenders.
Still, the offense 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 also will have a top-notch receiving group around Xavier Worthy. Can Texas stop anybody when it matters? The Longhorns allowed 30 points or more in their seven losses.
All this coincides with the pending arrival of five-star quarterback Arch Manning in 2023 and the eventual transition to the SEC. Will Sarkisian create true momentum on the field ahead of those moves? The Week 2 matchup against Alabama will be that next chance to prove it.
Jayden 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 picked up new offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby’s offense. 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 that rotation to be an impact player.
Kelvin Banks and Cole Hutson, OL, Texas
Banks (Summer Creek, Humble, Texas) is a 6-5, 300-pound tackle who could emerge as a starting option into the regular season. Hutson (Frisco, Texas), an early enrollee, could start on the interior line at either guard or center from Day 1. They are among the contributors from a 2022 recruiting line that was heavy in the trenches.
Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oklahoma
Gabriel had 8,037 passing yards, 70 TDs and 14 interceptions the last three seasons with the Golden Knights. He transferred 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 a preview 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 from Hudson Card in fall camp, a battle that was close in the spring. The appeal with Ewers, however, is obvious given the five-star recruit’s arm talent. The pressure to perform is on, especially with Manning arriving next season. That makes Ewers arguably the most-interesting quarterback to watch in September. That 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 turnovers often got in the way. He is 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 watch with great interest.
JT Daniels, QB, West Virginia
Daniels’ third college stop is in West Virginia, a program that has struggled to launch under Neal Brown. Daniels could not hold 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 he offers veteran experience at the most important position.
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Ricky Williams was Texas’ last Heisman winner in 1998. There’s a lot to love about Robinson, a game-breaker who averaged 6.5 yards per carry the last 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 where he had 76 carries before he suffered an elbow injury in the loss to Kansas. He must 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 longshot, but he remains an explosive receiver who should get more targets with Gabriel at quarterback. Mims had just 41 targets in 2021. He averages 19.1 yards per catch with seven TDs per year the past two seasons.
Big 12’s biggest games of 2022
1. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 5)
These teams met in the 2019 Big 12 championship game, and they are the popular picks to do it again. Aranda opted 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. It’s one of two payback games for the Sooners, and Baylor has only one victory at Oklahoma in its history.
2. Oklahoma State at Baylor (Oct. 1)
This is a rematch of last year’s Big 12 championship game, an instant classic where the Bears stopped the Cowboys short of the goal line in a 21-16 thriller. Blake Shapen took hold of the starting QB job at Baylor with 180 yards and three TDs. This is the first huge swing game on the conference slate.
3. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov. 19)
“Bedlam” will be in full effect with the Sooners looking for payback. The Cowboys broke a six-game losing streak to the Sooners last season in a 37-33 nail-biter that came down to the last 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 won 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 installation. Will Venables win his first Red River Rivalry game?
5. Texas at Oklahoma State (Oct. 22)
The last five meetings have been one-score games and the Longhorns and Cowboys have each won on the road the last two seasons. Texas’ season went off the rails after a 32-24 loss to Oklahoma State last season.
Big 12 stat that matters
Baylor led the Big 12 with 219.3 rushing 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 Taye McWilliams could be a breakout star after averaging 10.6 yards per carry in limited action last season. The Bears do have five seniors across 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 the home games against Baylor and Oklahoma State are difference-makers. Given the way Riley departed, this team could be playing with more edge than usual, especially after surrendering the Big 12 crown after a six-year run of dominance. September tests against Nebraska and Kansas State will be telling, but we think the Sooners reclaim the crown – albeit with one or two conference losses.