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College Football Big 12 Preview

Oklahoma was the power of the Big 12 Conference for many years. Following coach Lincoln Riley’s departure, there could be a power shift, especially with up-and-coming schools like Baylor. Texas is another program that could seize the opportunity.

A Big 12 squad has not played in the College Football Playoff since Oklahoma in 2019. Will that streak end sooner rather than later? The Big 12 could lack a national power in the 2022 season, but it’s a crucial season for the conference’s top schools going forward.

College Football Big 12 Preview
Abram Smith | Sean Gardner / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

According to college football odds, here’s how the Big 12 could pan out in 2022.

Baylor Bears

  • 2021 Record: 12-2
  • 2021 Conference Record: 7-2
  • Head Coach: Dave Aranda
  • Odds to Win Conference Title: +600

In Dave Aranda’s second season as head coach, Baylor enjoyed one of its best seasons ever. The Bears won their third Big 12 title, beating Oklahoma State in dramatic fashion. The 12-win total was the most in program history, and Baylor’s Sugar Bowl win was its first major bowl victory since 1979.

The Bears are replacing several stars. Baylor’s offense depended on the run, which ranked 24th in rushing yards per game (204.2). Lead rusher Abram Smith, who was one of college football’s best backs of 2021, declared for the NFL Draft along with second-string tailback Trestan Ebner. Taye McWilliams and Craig Williams will be this year’s feature backs. They must produce since the passing game will be weak.

On defense, safety Jalen Pitre was the biggest loss. Returning starters on the defensive line make up for holes in the secondary. Siaki Ika and Gabe Hall will be among the best in the front seven.

Baylor will feature one of the Big 12’s best defenses while the offense leans on the run. The Bears enter the season ranked No. 10 as one of the conference’s title favorites.

Iowa State Cyclones

  • 2021 Record: 7-6
  • 2021 Conference Record: 5-4
  • Head Coach: Matt Campbell
  • Odds to Win Conference Title: +1600

The Cyclones could be in store for a down season. This comes after a disappointing 2021 season. Many expected Iowa State to be near the top of the Big 12 with Brock Purdy and Breece Hall leading the offense. Instead, ISU hovered around .500.

Iowa State replaces Purdy with sophomore Hunter Dekkers. After posting 174 rushing yards in 2021, Jirehl Brocks steps into the starting running back role. Wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson is the Cyclones’ best skill position player. Last season, Hutchinson had 987 receiving yards and was named to First Team All-Big 12.

He still got the TD later in the drive 😤 pic.twitter.com/VSS9vP1XWW

— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 25, 2021

The defense carried the load in 2021. Iowa State is replacing linebackers Mike Rose and Jake Hummel, who both posted over 70 tackles. Fortunately, one of college football’s best pass-rushers, Will McDonald, is back. McDonald comes off consecutive double-digit sack seasons.

Expect the Cyclones’ defense to be formidable once again. If Iowa State is going to hit the over on its 6½ win total, the offense must surpass expectations.

Kansas Jayhawks

  • 2021 Record: 2-10
  • 2021 Conference Record: 1-8
  • Head Coach: Lance Leipold
  • Odds to Win Conference Title: +25000

A miserable season was forgotten for one night. The Jayhawks pulled off a major upset over Texas toward the end of the 2021 season. Kansas squeaked by in overtime, winning 57-56. Plus, the Jayhawks gave Oklahoma a scare, losing 35-23. It will be a long time before Kansas competes in the Big 12, but Lance Leipold has the program headed in the right direction.

Leipold is a Division III legend with six national titles at Wisconsin Whitewater. Then, he turned Buffalo around in five seasons. Will he fix the Jayhawks? This is an astronomical task. The fact that Mark Mangino led Kansas to a 12-1 record and Orange Bowl win in 2007 is still a story for the ages. The offense finally has a solid QB in Jalon Daniels. That’s what matters the most, right? Daniels took over late last season and finished with over 800 passing yards. He could have a big year behind a solid offensive line.

Elsewhere, there’s a lot of work to do. The defense was horrible in 2021. Transfers Lonnie Phelps and Marvin Grant add much-needed help. Don’t expect an amazing year from Kansas. It’s a work in progress. Hitting the over on the sportsbook’s 2½ win total would be an improvement.

Kansas State Wildcats

  • 2021 Record: 8-5
  • 2021 Conference Record: 4-5
  • Head Coach: Chris Klieman
  • Odds to Win Conference Title: +1000
College Football Big 12 Preview
Deuce Vaughn | Carmen Mandato / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The Big 12 has a dark-horse title contender: Kansas State. The Wildcats finished in the middle of the conference last year. They lost many close games and were always competitive. The 2022 offense looks dangerous.

Deuce Vaughn is one of the nation’s best tailbacks. The elusive 5-foot-6 back finished with 1,872 scrimmage yards and 22 touchdowns. As the focal point of the offense, Vaughn will have a monster season. Also, quarterback Adrian Martinez was added via the transfer portal. Martinez was inconsistent at Nebraska. At the minimum, Martinez adds to a dynamic run game.

One of the Big 12’s best 2021 defenses replaces a lot of production. Kansas State hit the transfer portal hard, adding safeties Shawn Robinson and Kobe Savage along with linebacker Will Honas. The Wildcats will have an old-fashioned identity: Run the ball and play defense.

If Martinez becomes a reliable passer to a good wide receiver group, look out Big 12. Kansas State is a sneaky team to keep an eye on.

Oklahoma Sooners

  • 2021 Record: 11-2
  • 2021 Conference Record: 7-2
  • Head Coach: Brent Venables
  • Odds to Win Conference Title: +200

We all know what happened in Norman this offseason. Riley bolted to USC. To make matters worse, he took several instrumental players, like Caleb Williams and Mario Williams, to California. The program was left in disarray. Former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables was brought in from Clemson. Venables did a great job on the fly.

Landing transfer QB Dillon Gabriel was the biggest get. At UCF, Gabriel had over 3,500 passing yards in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He does not have the same upside as Williams, but Gabriel is a great replacement. Furthermore, Eric Gray is a promising lead running back, and wideout Marvin Mims should finally break out with huge numbers. This will be a high-tempo offense with Jeff Lebby calling the plays.

The defense cannot be any worse. Venables brings his expertise, and Ted Roof is a solid defensive coordinator. Transfers Trey Morrison, Jeffery Johnson, Jonah Laulu, T.D. Roof and C.J. Coldon are solid additions. This unit is a work in progress but should show improvement.

Even with Riley gone, Oklahoma will still be among the top in the Big 12.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

  • 2021 Record: 12-2
  • 2021 Conference Record: 8-1
  • Head Coach: Mike Gundy
  • Odds to Win Conference Title: +550

Oklahoma State was inches away from winning its first Big 12 title since 2011. Following a devastating loss to Baylor, the Cowboys pulled off a comeback win in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. It was the program’s first New Year’s Six victory since 2012.

The offense returns starting quarterback Spencer Sanders. Last season, he made First-Team All-Big 12 with 2,839 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. OSU needs a new No. 1 receiver and top running back. Brennan Presley could be the lead receiver after posting 619 receiving yards in 2021. Dominic Richardson and Texas A&M transfer Deondre Jackson will share the running back workload.

The Cowboys had one of college football’s best defenses last season. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles left for Ohio State. Starting safety Tanner McCalister joined Knowles in Columbus, and defensive back Jarrick Barnard-Converse transferred to LSU. Superstar linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who posted a whopping 129 tackles last season, exhausted his eligibility. Clearly, the defense has a lot to figure out. The defensive line returns most production, which means this remains one of the Big 12’s best defenses.

Repeating as Big 12 champs is a tall task, especially with a potential drop-off on defense.

TCU Horned Frogs

  • 2021 Record: 5-7
  • 2021 Conference Record: 3-6
  • Head Coach: Sonny Dykes
  • Odds to Win Conference Title: +1200

The Horned Frogs have not appeared in a bowl game since 2018. TCU decided to enter the coaching carousel, hiring SMU’s Sonny Dykes. He helped turn the Mustangs around with a high-powered offense.

TCU’s offense returns No.1 wideout Quentin Johnston. If healthy, the 6-foot-4 receiver will be one of the Big 12’s best.

Max Duggan returns as starting QB after throwing for over 2,000 yards. One of the offseason’s big losses was Zach Evans transferring to Ole Miss. Kendre Miller and Emari Demercado will be a one-two punch in the backfield. Overall, look for the Horned Frogs’ passing attack to become more prevalent.

While the offense may improve, the same cannot be said for the defense. You name it … everything needs fixing. Last season, the pass rush was nonexistent and the secondary was terrible. Johnny Hodges and Mark Perry are a couple transfers looking to help turnaround the defense.

It’s Dykes’ first season. Gary Patterson was out for a reason. TCU’s defense was left in a bad spot, and the offense was mediocre. The Horned Frogs could struggle to hit the over on their 6½ win total.

Texas Longhorns

  • 2021 Record: 5-7
  • 2021 Conference Record: 3-6
  • Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian
  • Odds to Win Conference Title: +250
College Football Big 12 Preview
Bijan Robinson | Tim Warner / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

We hear it every season — Texas is back. It’s a running joke at this point. The Longhorns are never truly back to being a national power. Last season was another disappointment led by one of the program’s worst losses in history against Kansas. To finally meet expectations, Texas needs a dramatic turnaround.

On offense, the tools are there. Bijan Robinson is college football’s best running back with +2200 Heisman odds. In 2021, Robinson finished with 1,422 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns at 5.8 yards per carry. Wide receiver Xavier Worthy could become a household name. As a true freshman, he became the No. 1 target with 981 receiving yards. Furthermore, quarterback Quinn Ewers comes over from Ohio State. Ewers has yet to have meaningful playing time, but is one of the highest recruits ever, per 247 Sports.

Linebackers are the strength of the Longhorns’ defense. DeMarvion Overshown and Luke Brockermeyer return as the team’s top tacklers. In addition, Ohio State transfer Ryan Watts will likely make an impact as starting cornerback.

Texas’ success will depend on Ewers and the defense. If the defense ranks in the 100s once again, the Longhorns will not be back.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

  • 2021 Record: 7-6
  • 2021 Conference Record: 3-6
  • Head Coach: Joey McGuire
  • Odds to Win Conference Title: +4000

The Red Raiders enter a new era with Joey McGuire, who was Baylor’s associate head coach. Texas Tech hangs its hat on an explosive Air-Raid offense. Last year, it wasn’t there, ranking 50th in total yards per game (420.8). McGuire brought in Zach Kittley as offensive coordinator. At Western Kentucky, Kittley guided the nation’s top passing offense.

Tyler Shough was named starting QB for Week 1. In 2020, Shough flashed potential at Oregon. The Red Raiders have their signal-caller, but what about the rest of the offense? Texas Tech is replacing lead receiver in Erik Ezukanma. Myles Price and tight end Baylor Cupp, a Texas A&M transfer, could become the top targets.

The defense projects to be a decent unit. Tyree Wilson will be one of the best defenders as he comes off 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Also, safety Dadrion Taylor-Demerson is a big returning piece. Myles Cole from Louisiana Monroe and Dimitri Moore from Vanderbilt are transfers solidifying the rotation.

McGuire will not win the Big 12 in his first season, as seen in the +4000 odds. Texas Tech’s win total is at over/under 5½.

West Virginia Mountaineers

  • 2021 Record: 6-7
  • 2021 Conference Record: 4-5
  • Head Coach: Neal Brown
  • Odds to Win Conference Title: +2500

After three consecutive double-digit win seasons at Troy, West Virginia hired Neal Brown as head coach. Since 2019, the Mountaineers have a 17-18 record with Brown at the helm. This could be the season WVU turns it around.

The offense has been revamped. Offensive Coordinator Graham Harrell comes over from USC. Landing Georgia transfer JT Daniels headlined the offseason. Daniels’ career has been disrupted by injuries. If he’s healthy, Daniels has immense potential.

Wide receivers Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James return after totaling over 500 receiving yards last season.

Brown hit the transfer portal to fill defensive needs. Alongside returning cornerback Charles Woods, West Virginia added transfers Hershey McLaurin, Marcis Floyd, Wesley McCormick and Rashad Ajayi in the secondary. At linebacker, transfers Jasir Cox, Lee Kpogba and Tirek Austin-Cave join the group. Defensive lineman Dante Stills is the unit’s best player following 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2021.

The defense is a mystery. With many added transfers, who knows how the unit blends? At the least, the offense will improve if Daniels is healthy.


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