1 – Can Baylor Repeat?
2021 was a special year for the Baylor Bears. After years of Oklahoma dominance atop the division, the Bears found themselves in the Championship game against Oklahoma State, winning the conference on a huge goal line stand that will be remembered by fans forever. With Oklahoma and Texas on the way to the SEC soon, can Baylor repeat and mount its position as the top program in the new look Big 12?
Blake Shapen returns as the starting quarterback after replacing Gerry Bohanon during the 2021 season, and looks to build off a solid end of the season where he passed for 5 touchdowns without an interception. Both offensively and defensively, the Bears will look to replace plenty of talent, but also retain plenty of playmakers like nose tackle Siaki Ika and middle linebacker Dillon Doyle that should lead another aggressive, top end defense under Dave Aranda and Ron Roberts.
Things won’t be easy though. Oklahoma will look plenty different under Brent Venables, but will likely still be a force, plus Texas should be improved this season, and the Bears will travel both to Norman and Austin during the season. In order to make the conference championship a second year in a row, I think Baylor will have to find at least one victory between the two.
The good news is that the rest of the Big 12 is manageable. Texas Tech and TCU are going through coaching changes, Iowa State will take a step back as they reload across the board, Kansas State is…Kansas State, Kansas is…Kansas, and West Virginia head coach Neal Brown is working on a warm seat. Like everyone else, Baylor controls its destiny, and winning two of three against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas should be enough to put Baylor back atop the conference in 2022.
2 – Oklahoma Flips the Script
In a shocking and (at the time) unprecedented move this offseason, Lincoln Riley bolted from Oklahoma to take the head coaching vacancy at Southern California. In his place comes former Sooner defensive coordinator and longtime Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. The Oklahoma style of football we’ve come to know in the Riley era is on its way out, but not entirely.
One of Venables biggest splashes was bringing Ole Miss and former UCF offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby with him to Norman, signaling that high paced offense might not be going away, however the biggest change will be the demeanor. Venables is a no-nonsense coach that will remold a soft defense into a physical one, a transition that may pay huge dividends once Oklahoma calls the SEC home.
Few teams in 2022 will be more interesting to watch than Oklahoma. Both Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler hit the transfer portal, while Lebby brought in his former UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel to lead an offense that, even with transfers, still has plenty of talent and shouldn’t take long to get up and running at full force. On the defensive side of the ball, Oklahoma will have to replace leaders at all levels, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially with Venables wanting to mold the squad more to his image.
The schedule is fairly conservative. A road trip to Lincoln to face Nebraska could pose a potential slip up (throw out the record books!) and with both Oklahoma State and Baylor traveling to Norman, as well as Texas being a neutral site, the Sooners shouldn’t take much of a step back and find themselves back in hunt for a Big 12 Championship before they ditch the conference in the coming years.
3 – Texas…
Texas, Texas, Texas. What to make of this team. Steve Sarkisian came aboard last offseason and promptly went 5-7 and missed a bowl game. Another offseason has come and gone, and yet again, Texas finds its way into being a potential contender. So let’s sort out whether that’s fact or fiction.
Quinn Ewers will likely step into the starting gig after transferring from Ohio State after one season. The former number one recruit in the country brings plenty of hype to a fanbase that has seemed desperately for a star quarterback ever since Colt McCoy left for the NFL. Behind him, the Longhorn bring back Bijan Robinson, arguably the best running back in the country in what could end up being the best QB-RB duo in the country if all pans out. On the outside, the Longhorns bring back Xavier Worthy and add Wyoming transfer Isaiah Neyor as well as Alabama transfer tight end Jaleel Billingsley. The offense has plenty of talent, it’ll be on Sark and Kyle Flood to make sure they get equal results.
Defensively, the Longhorns bring back stud linebacker and armband aficionado DeMarvion Overshown and a few other key pieces, but will also have plenty of fresh names on a side of the ball that fell flat quite often last season. If second year defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski can get at least half the issues (you name it, and they were bad at it) fixed, it’ll be a huge help in fixing one of Texas footballs biggest ailments.
Texas will certainly have a come to God moment in week 2 when they face Alabama, a chance to pit themselves against the pinnacle of the sport and see how they matchup at this stage. A week later, they’ll face a UTSA squad that is going to be big game hunting and a potential slip up for Texas.
I certainly think Texas will be back bowling this season, the offense is too good not to get six wins, but its hard for me the bite on Texas being back until I see it with my very own eyes at this point.
4 – Predictions and Notes
5 Biggest Games
Alabama at Texas (Sept 10) – Texas gets a shot at measuring itself against the cream of the crop of college football, and Sark gets a go at his former boss Nick Saban.
Oklahoma State at Baylor (Oct 1) – A rematch of the compelling 2021 Big 12 Championship and a game that could have consequences on who goes to this years Championship game.
Oklahoma vs. Texas *in Dallas* (Oct 8) – One of the best rivalries in college football. Enough said.
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov 19) – Bedlam gets a makeover with Brent Venables in as OU head coach. Can he continue the Sooners long dominance in the rivalry or will Mike Gundy grab a second victory in a row?
Baylor at Texas (Nov 26) – A game that could have Big 12 Championship implication will conclude the regular season for both teams
- Baylor defeats Oklahoma
Predicted Final Standings
- Oklahoma State
- West Virginia
- Iowa State
- Kansas State
- Texas Tech