Baylor became the first school outside of Oklahoma or Texas to win the Big 12 championship game since 2003 last season.
Will that be a sign going forward when the Sooners and Longhorns eventually go to the SEC?
The Bears are also the Big 12 preseason media poll to defend that conference championship under rising coach Dave Aranda. It’s a difficult conference to predict in 2022. Sporting News ranked Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State 10th through 12th in our preseason top 25. These are the pre-season favorites again.
MORE: SEC Predictions | shell protrusions | 2022 All-America Team
Oklahoma, of course, has seen 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 manager. 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 freshman season, and a non-conference matchup against Alabama is the blockbuster game on the September schedule. Will Texas Contend for a Big 12 Championship?
That’s one of the questions we’re going to answer. A closer look at the Big 12, with predictions, big games, Heisman competitors and more:
Big 12 2022 predicted order of finish
- State of Oklahoma
- State of Kansas
- State of Iowa
- West Virginia
- texas tech
Oklahoma is a risky choice given the coaching change given the quarterback carousel and Venables as head coaches for the first time. Still, the Sooners are 43-6 at home in the CFP era, and Baylor and Oklahoma State are coming 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 as quarterback and the hiring of offensive coordinator Collin Klein, who finished third in the 2012 Heisman vote. Chris Klieman has had two 8-5 seasons with the Wildcats in the past three years. Iowa State and Oklahoma are the only two schools to have each won records in conference play over the past four seasons. Perhaps the Cyclones are underrated at touch.
Big 12 top storyline: What’s next for Texas?
The Longhorns went 5-7 in Steve Sarkisian’s freshman 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 set to finish ahead of Texas in the Big 12 preseason poll. Texas has been 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.
Nevertheless, the offensive will be good. SN Preseason All-American running back Bijan Robinson is one of the best players in the FBS, and allure is high for Ohio State transfer quarterback Quinn Ewers. The Longhorns will also have a top notch receiving group centered around Xavier Worthy. Can Texas stop someone when it counts? The Longhorns have conceded 30 points or more in their seven losses.
All of this coincides with five-star quarterback Arch Manning’s imminent arrival in 2023 and eventual move to the SEC. Will Sarkisian create real momentum on the field ahead of these moves? The Week 2 matchup against Alabama will be the 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 offense on new offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby. Oklahoma is stacked with Marvin Mims, Theo Wease and Drake Stoops at receiver, but Gibson’s size makes him another red zone target for Gabriel. Gibson should get enough goals 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 tackle that could prove to be a regular-season starting option. Hutson (Frisco, Texas), an early enroller, could start in either guard or center on the inside line from Day 1. You 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 TDs and 14 interceptions over the past three seasons with the Golden Knights. He transferred to Oklahoma (after a three-week stint at UCLA), where the supporting cast will be strong against Big 12 competition. Lebby’s offense brings high production, and Gabriel provided a preview, hitting 19 of 28 passes for 250 yards in the spring game. Oklahoma has four Heisman-winning QBs this century. Could Gabriel be number 5?
Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
Ewers needs to win Hudson Card’s starting job at fall camp, a fight that was close in the spring. However, Ewers’ appeal is evident given the five-star recruit’s arm talent. The pressure to perform is great, especially with Manning coming next season. That makes Ewers arguably the most interesting quarterback in September. This Week 2 game against Alabama will serve as the national referendum.
Adrian Martinez, QB, State of Kansas
Martinez was a four-year starter in Nebraska, a place where production was there but sales often got in the way. He’s the X Factor quarterback in the conference because the Wildcats have the right figures to be a Big 12 sleeper, and Klein should be a good influence on Martinez’s development. He’s a player to watch with great interest.
JT Daniels, QB, West Virginia
Daniel’s third college stop is in West Virginia, a program that was difficult to start under Neal Brown. Daniels was unable to keep the starting job at either USC or Georgia, and injuries played a part in that. He has had a 65.9% graduation rate with the Bulldogs and 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’s averaged 6.5 yards per carry over the past two seasons. He also averages 12 yards per catch and has proven to be a reliable threat from the backfield. These touches should increase with Ewers under the middle. Robinson had a three-week streak last season in which he had 76 carries before suffering an elbow injury in the loss to Kansas. He needs to stay healthy in 2022.
Spencer Sanders, QB, Oklahoma State
Sanders returned to his form after an injury-plagued 2020, leading 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 rate is 62.4%.
Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma
Mims would be considered a longshot, but he remains an explosive receiver who should get more goals with Gabriel at quarterback. Mims only had 41 goals in 2021. Over the past two seasons, he’s averaged 19.1 yards per catch with seven TDs a year.
The biggest Big 12 games of 2022
1. Baylor in Oklahoma (Nov. 5)
These teams met in the 2019 Big 12 championship game, and they are the most popular picks to do it again. Aranda made 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 payback games for the Sooners, and Baylor has had just one win in Oklahoma in its history.
2. State of Oklahoma in Baylor (Oct. 1)
This is a re-run of last year’s Big 12 championship game, an instant classic where the Bears stopped the Cowboys just short of the goal line in a 21-16 thriller. Blake Shapen took Baylor’s first QB job with 180 yards and three TDs. This is the first big swing game on the conference board.
3. Oklahoma State in Oklahoma (November 19)
“Bedlam” will come into its own as the Sooners seek revenge. The Cowboys broke a six-game losing streak against the Sooners last season in a 37-33 nail-biter that ended in the final drive. Mike Gundy is only 1-7 in Norman as head coach.
4. Texas vs Oklahoma (8 Oct)
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 scoring and momentum. The Longhorns led 28-7 last year. Will Venables win his first Red River Rivalry game?
5. Texas, Oklahoma (Oct. 22)
The last five meetings have been one-score games, and the Longhorns and Cowboys have each won away for the past two seasons. Texas’ season spiraled out of control after a 32-24 loss to Oklahoma State last season.
Big 12 stats that count
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 created 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 breakthrough star after average 10, 6 yards per carry in limited action last season. The Bears have five seniors on offense, including All-American left tackle nominee Connor Galvin.
Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma
The Sooners have 13 new 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 make all the difference. Given the way Riley left, this team could be playing with more margin than usual, especially after giving up the Big 12 crown after six years of dominance. The September Tests against Nebraska and Kansas State will be instructive, but we think the Sooners will reclaim the crown — albeit with a conference loss or two.