Take an early look at how Big 12 football stacks up leading up to the 2022 season. Reviewing stats, recruiting ranks, win totals, and more!
Big Twelve Contenders
In conjunction with announcing their impending move to the SEC, the Sooners lost their star Head Coach Lincoln Riley to USC. Enter Brent Venables from Clemson. Venables inherits a roster that saw significant turnover as Riley poached multiple key players on his way out the door. That creates a lot of uncertainty, meaning a wide range of outcomes for the Sooners (what even is a Sooner?) in 2022.
At QB, Dillon Gabriel will lead the offense. Gabriel was a decorated passer at UCF, and at Oklahoma he will be reuniting with his former Offensive Coordinator Jeff Lebby. The offense will likely be very QB friendly with easy reads at Gabriel’s disposal. Expect them to scheme up vertical shots that accentuate Gabriel’s strengths. The Sooner offensive line should also continue to be a strength that the run game can lean on.
On defense, Venables is a proven defensive coach who is inheriting high end talent, even if they did experience a lot of transfers. The secondary could be a strength this year, and I would expect Venables to get more creative with his fronts and coverages as the season wears on and players get more comfortable. The main concern on the defense is the lack of elite LB talent, which is something he had plenty of at Clemson. It is a key position for his defenses, but I would not worry too much. Coaches this smart tend to figure out how to make it work.
As a bald man, I often fantasize about having a full, luscious, long locked head of hair. And that is one of the reasons why I respect Mike Gundy.
The Pokes are consistently a team that seems to outperform expectations under Mike Gundy. On offense, he brings back Spencer Sanders to play QB. In his career, Sanders has had clear development as a passer, but he still has plenty of room to get better. While he poses serious dual threat ability, he will need to continue his growth from the pocket for the Pokes to replicate 2021’s success. And that might be a difficult task, because OK State does not have many notable pass catchers at this point int time.
On defense, OK State has an elite front. Tyler Lacy and Collin Oliver are problems on the edge. Problems for the opponent’s offense, that is. Good luck running on this defensive line. And they can get after the passer as well, so long as the back end of the defense does their part. On the back end, they have talent but must become more consistent for the Pokes to claim the Big 12.
This pains me to say. As a Texas Tech alum, the hate for Texas runs deep in me. But Texas has a roster this year that makes you think, “Is Texas back?” Head Coach Steve Sarkisian underwhelmed in his first season leading the Longhorns. While his offense put up some solid stats, it was the same old story for Texas. Overpromise and underperform.
Where Texas really earned their hype, this year was in the off-season. They added top QB recruit Quinn Ewers in a transfer from Ohio State. Then, they secured a commitment from Arch Manning. Once you add that on top of returning stud RB Bijan Robinson, along with a loaded set of offensive weapons and you start to see why the hype is there. Because this roster is STACKED. Now, maybe they do what the Longhorns do and disappoint again. But I am not sure how this offense fails if Ewers is close to what he has been built up to be.
On defense, the talent is there, but the results are not. This defense has the players to stop the run and hold up in coverage, but we have yet to see them prove to be able to do it. At CB, Ohio State transfer Ryan Watts could provide a boost for the secondary. But ultimately, this side of the football has a lot to prove for Texas to capitalize on all the offensive potential they bring to the table in 2022.
Big 12 Cover Machines!
After claiming the Big 12 championship in 2021, Baylor finds themselves on the outside looking in for 2022 projections. The team lost six players to the NFL, including defensive star (literally) Jalen Pitre. Dave Aranda is working with multiple new starters on the defensive side of the ball. The general belief here seems to be that Baylor will not be able to replicate their 2021 success without more star power on offense though. Playing QB is Blake Shapen, who started the final three games of the 2021 season. He is a high floor passer but does not bring the same dual threat ability they had with Bohanon. The Bears lost multiple WRs to the NFL (draft and UDFA), but still boast a mountain of an offensive line. On defense, they will have no issue getting to the passer, but might have issues covering long enough to let the rushers eat.
The time, they are a-changing (in Ames, Iowa). Head coach Matt Campbell saw QB Brock Purdy, TE Charlie Kolar, TE Chase Allen, RB Breece Hall, and DL Eyioma Uwazurike leave the program for the NFL. In 2022, the Cyclones return fewer starters than any other Big 12 team. At QB, they will be starting Hunter Dekkers, who was a 4-star recruit in the class of 2022. Dekker is largely an unknown right now, as he has very limited experience at the college level. On the bright side though, the defensive line is stout, and the safety room remains strong. But the CB position is a large question mark currently. In 2022, the Cyclones will be in a constant fight to keep their Bowl game streak alive.
The Wildcats keep on running. This is an offensive unit that has as high of a rushing upside as any offense in the country. The problem? Their ability to throw the football is well below average. QB Adrian Martinez and RB Deuce Vaughn will allow the Cats to run a multiple and dynamic mix of rushing concepts. But Martinez has shown his limitations as a passer in prior years in Nebraska. On defense, Kansas State has put together a very strong roster with plus CBs and a plus DL. I expect to see multiple defenders from this group go early in the 2022 NFL draft.
Big 12 Football Teams Plotting for Their Return to Glory