Last week I covered the PAC-12 and this week I’m deep diving into the second worst of the Power 5 conferences, the Big 12, whose two shining diamonds Oklahoma and Texas are leaving for the SEC within the next few years. Those two are the odds on favorites to win the conference and rightfully so, but Baylor and Oklahoma State cannot be counted out as Oklahoma lost a plethora of players as they followed Lincoln Riley to USC and Texas historically underperforms. After those 4, you have a group of 5 teams that will fight it out to ensure bowl eligibility in what should be a ton of close contests. Then there is Kansas. Returning 82% of players from last year somehow isn’t a good thing and they’ll look to just exceed their win total of 2.5. Before we get into my top 5 teams and best season bets, lets break down how 2021 went starting with the final standings below.
Baylor managed to stave off Oklahoma State’s 17 play 89 yard drive by mere inches in a 21-16 Big 12 Championship classic to secure their 3rd title in program history. Chased closely by the Sooners and only the Sooners, the 2021 Big 12 storylines were Texas’ putrid season and home dominance (46-19). The new season will bring changes but with every team aside from Iowa State returning 53%+ of their roster there will be some consistencies, so lets get into the statistical performances on both sides of the ball.
As you can see above, it wasn’t Texas’ offense that let them down, they led the conference in touchdowns and ran the ball extremely well behind Bijan Robinson, a preseason Heisman contender this year. Iowa State was one of the most experienced teams in the country and it showed with the second most explosive passing attack in the conference. As it always seems to be though, nobody was as dominant as the Sooners and even though they lose their head coach and tons of talent due to transfers and graduation they look primed to reload and have another proper go at the championship yet again.
Big 12 Top Five Teams
5. Kansas State Wildcats
This pick was incredibly close between the Wildcats and the Horned Frogs of TCU but with a change at the helm in Fort Worth and a less favorable schedule I lean to KSU to be able to be the best of the rest this year. The Wildcats only bring back 57% of their roster which is 105th in the country, but have 6 starters coming back from each side of the ball including Deuce Vaughn who ran for 1,404 yards and 18 TDs last year. Adrian Martinez joining from Nebraska will provide a phenomenal rushing attack but he’s never proven to be a quality passer of the ball. Their offensive line is led by 1st Team Preseason Big 12 LT Cooper Beebe who can hopefully provide Martinez the time to find some of his veteran receivers.
Where the Wildcats will make their mark is defensively though returning most of their front seven from a defense that ranked 3rd in the Big12 last year. Their secondary will have some holes that need plugging quickly, but an easy beginning of the season against South Dakota, Missouri, and Tulane should provide them time to work those kinks out. A favorable schedule facing the Sooners early while they’re retooling a team that has tons of turnover in addition to welcoming Texas and Oklahoma State to Manhattan provides some major upset potential. Don’t be too shocked if you see Kansas State in the top 25 at some point this year.
Championship Odds: +1400
Win Total: 6.5
4. Texas Longhorns
The Steve Sarkisian led Longhorns look to right the ship after a massively disappointing 5-7 record last year. The defense is the issue as it always seems to be, but the offensive minded coaching staff doesn’t seem to be filling those holes. While they made fantastic moves in the transfer portal like acquiring Quinn Ewers from Ohio State and three talented pass-catchers from Alabama and Wyoming, they didn’t add much quality to the defensive side of the ball. On the recruiting front they added a handful of 4-star defensive lineman to the mix but it’ll likely take a season or two for them to break into the fold so the coaching stuff will be largely entrusted to improve on the talent they had last year. Given how bad it was I’m not sure just how much better they’ll be and because of that I don’t trust them to launch over the other 3 teams fighting with them for the title. I do think they improve and get to 8 wins, but I doubt they give a serious push for the championship game.
Championship Odds: +275
Win Total: 8
3. Oklahoma State Cowboys
As mentioned above, the Cowboys were literal inches away from hoisting the Big 12 Trophy last December. To do so again will be a tall task but with Mike Gundy and 12 returning starters they always have hope. The culture in the locker room is fantastic and you have to trust the track record of Gundy to develop and get his guys firing come September behind All-Big 12 QB Spencer Sanders. They lose their best receiver and running back on offense which won’t be easily replaced, especially with an average recruiting class and no notable transfers. The defense returns some quality pieces in the front 7 but loses their star linebacker and their entire secondary. Much like Kansas State, in a conference of high-paced teams the back end needs to be clean or you will be in track races you don’t want to be in. Expect the Cowboys to have another solid season but come short of a title due to some tough conference road games against other contenders.
Championship Odds: +600
Win Total: 8.5
2. Baylor Bears
Dave Aranda might be the best coach in the Big 12 and it was tough to not trust him to go back-to-back here. The Bears return 14 starters from their championship winning team last year and though they lose some of their best players like Terrel Bernard and Jalen Pitre they still boast the best offensive and defensive lines in the conference. The old adage goes “The game is won in the trenches”, and that’s exactly where Baylor will do their work this year. Nose tackle Siaki Ika could be a 1st-Team All-American by end of year, and Gerry Bohanon at the helm offensively should provide an uptick there for the Bears so while they lose a lot of their offensive weapons their line should be able to give Bohanon time and allow the running game to set the pace. Expect Baylor to be a factor and possibly win the conference, but likely come just short to a more talented and kind schedule in the Sooners.
Championship Odds: +600
Win Total: 7.5
1. Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma might have the most question marks coming into the season but definitely have the most potential for greatness. As I mentioned earlier they were ravaged by transfers as Lincoln Riley’s departure brought people with him, but on the opposite side new coach Brent Venables brings in a fantastic recruiting class with tons of talent from the transfer market. While I haven’t seen Venables as a head coach, we do know just how good he is and should bring solidity to that front for the first time in years. They should be favorites in nearly every game with a very easy non-conference schedule and all of their main competition being at home (Texas neutral, Baylor, Oklahoma State at home), and I think that’s enough for them to take the cake and lift the trophy once again. Expect Dillon Gabriel along with the other transfers to hit the ground running as they start the season with 3 easy games before welcoming Kansas State to Norman.
Championship Odds: +190
Win Total: 9.5
Baylor Bears o7.5 Regular Season Wins -150 (2u)
For a 12-win team to return 14 starters and have the best line on both sides of the ball, this line feels criminal. They have a testy matchup against BYU in week 2 but their other two matchups are cupcakes before traveling to an Iowa State team that lost nearly everybody. October should continue the trend as their only stout test will be Oklahoma State at home before playing West Virginia, Kansas and Texas Tech in succession. November should be tough but I’d expect them to go into that stretch at worst 6-2, and I am confident they’ll be able to scrape out two of those final four games to at minimum go 8-4. Wouldn’t mind a sprinkle on Baylor to win the Big 12 at +600 either.
Oklahoma Sooners o9.5 Regular Season Wins -106 (1u)
Oklahoma did themselves no favors if they’re on the bubble for a CFP birth come end of season in scheduling UTEP, Kent State, and Nebraska in their first three games, but they did give an insanely talented team time to mold. The Sooners should start the season 5-0 going into a massive game against Texas, a game I see them taking care of, and if they do will likely be 8-0 before welcoming Baylor to Norman. Having all of their toughest competition at home is a massive plus, and even if they lose their only two questionable games on the calendar they’re staring 10 wins in the face. I trust Brent Venables as a leader and developer to get the most out of a defense that has talent but perennially underperforms. Give me the Sooners o9.5
Well that does it for the Big 12 preview! If you’ve gotten all the way to the end, I commend you and encourage you to look at our NFL previews as well as daily MLB plays. We’re just getting started, are rolling out more content in the coming days, and are always looking for feedback so feel free to reach us at the following socials:
Rick Twitter: @RickHHSports