The top of the Big 12 standings have typically been reserved for Oklahoma at season's end, but 2021 saw a bit of upheaval with Baylor and Oklahoma State battling it out in AT&T Stadium for the conference crown in December. Ultimately, the Bears were victorious as they capped off a dream-like run during coach Dave Aranda's second season.
With a full offseason in the books, attention now turns to whether the Sooners, led by first-year coach Brent Venables, can return to their more familiar spot atop the conference. If there's one thing the Big 12 typically has going for it, though, it's a deep, capable pack of teams ready and willing to make an unexpected jump. In addition to Baylor and Oklahoma State, there are probably another three or four teams that, given the right breaks, could make their own Big 12 championship dreams come true in 2022.
One of them is Texas, likely the most polarizing and perplexing program in college football. There's no denying the Longhorns' blue-blood pedigree and talent -- led by new starting quarterback Quinn Ewers -- but this program won't truly be "back" until it shows otherwise. Will second-year coach Steve Sarkisian put the pieces together for a long-awaited title run, or will the Longhorns once again fall short of expectations? This is but one of the myriad Big 12 storylines for the upcoming fall.
Our CBS Sports college football experts are here to make sense of all these pressing questions as they provide their picks and predictions for the Big 12 ahead of the 2022 season. Check them all out below.
Most overrated team
Texas: Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me, like, four billion times, shame on the college football offseason hype machine. Texas might be back one day, but forgive me for taking an "I'll believe it when I see it" approach. Sure, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about this offense, but the Longhorns scored more than 35 points per game last season ... and still went 5-7. Unless the defense takes a significant step forward, it's going to be another disappointing year in Austin. -- Tom Fornelli (also Dennis Dodd, David Cobb, Jerry Palm)
Oklahoma: The Sooners have been the model of consistency over the past six years, but they're entering a new era. More than 40% of the roster is new, according to Venables. Gone are the top two quarterbacks, top two rushers, four of the top five receivers and the top three sack leaders from last season. There's plenty of new talent to replace the losses, but they haven't played together. The coaching staff is new, and the scheme and philosophy are new. This isn't a turnkey operation, and we won't see the best of Oklahoma until November. -- Shehan Jeyarajah (also Barrett Sallee)
Oklahoma State: Coach Mike Gundy is good for giving the Cowboys a run at the Big 12 title every few years, but I think we will see them fall back to the pack a bit. The loss of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to Ohio State, coupled with talented players leaving for the NFL and transfer portal, suggests a step back on that side of the ball. This is a team that failed to eclipse 30 points in eight games last season. If Oklahoma State needs more from quarterback Spencer Sanders and the offense to match its 2021 success, a few of those close games are going to break the other way. -- Chip Patterson
Most underrated team
Baylor: Yeah, I know. It sounds weird to peg the Big 12's defending champions as underrated, but the feeling seems to be that 2022 is a rebuilding year. Don't buy it, and don't be surprised if the Bears win 10 games and repeat. Coach Dave Aranda is a master tactician and has done an effective job in the portal. How he dealt with the quarterback situation was genius. Incumbent starter Gerry Bohanon was cut loose so the team could get used to Blake Shapen. Left tackle Connor Galvin might be the best lineman (offense or defense) in the Big 12. Don't sleep on the Bears. -- Dodd (also Fornelli, Sallee)
Kansas State: The Wildcats are just 2-10 against Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas in coach Chris Klieman's tenure so far, but Year Four under Klieman should bring a couple more victories against that group. The Wildcats boast an elite defensive front and one of the country's top offensive playmakers in running back Deuce Vaughn. Nebraska transfer Adrian Martinez is a wild card at quarterback, but he should improve now that he's in a stable program with proven playmakers around him. -- Cobb (also Jeyarajah)
TCU: The top-end talent at key positions is all there for coach Sonny Dykes in his return to the Power Five level. TCU has two quality quarterback options, the best deep threat in the Big 12 (Quentin Johnston) and the league's best cover corner (Trevius Hodges-Tomlinson). Though the struggles from 2021 were widespread, the most clear and alarming drop off was on the defensive end. However, just changing up the voices in the room should lead to some better play on that side on a week-in, week-out basis. The league's media isn't expecting much, placing the Horned Frogs down at No. 7 in its preseason poll, but all the pieces are in place for a top-three finish and a late-season push for the Big 12 Championship Game. -- Patterson
West Virginia: The Mountaineers do not get a lot of attention because they are not often in the Big 12 championship race. They are consistently competitive, however, more than almost any other team in the conference. West Virginia has made a bowl game in 18 of the last 20 seasons. Only Oklahoma (20) and Oklahoma State (19) have more bowl appearances over that time. The Mountaineers may not win the league, but you better show up ready to play them. -- Palm
- Dennis Dodd: Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark will add four Pac-12 teams during the season in a renegotiated deal with ESPN that will start in 2024. As a consequence, Texas and Oklahoma will be let out of their deal a year early and begin playing in the SEC in 2024.
- Tom Fornelli: I don't know how bold it truly is, but after all the hype it's received in the offseason, Texas will struggle to reach 8-4 on the season. Neither Quinn Ewers nor Hudson Card will play well enough to establish themselves as the starting QB.
- Chip Patterson: Oklahoma will win as many games in Brent Venables' first season as it did in Lincoln Riley's final season (11).
- Barrett Sallee: Throw a blanket over spots 1-9. The Big 12 will be so jumbled together that it will knock itself out of the College Football Playoff thanks to multiple inexplicable outcomes. In other words, don't "fly over" the flyover states. It's going to be wild.
- Shehan Jeyarajah: The Big 12 won't produce a College Football Playoff team in 2022, but three teams will finish in the top 10. However, none of the three will be Texas or Oklahoma.
- David Cobb: Oklahoma will win the breakup with Lincoln Riley and wind up in a more prestigious bowl game than the Trojans with a better final record. The Sooners will be in the College Football Playoff picture entering the Big 12 Championship Game.
- Jerry Palm: Oklahoma will not only win the Big 12 in Brent Venables' first season, but make the College Football Playoff.
Big 12 predicted order of finish
Big 12 champion
Oklahoma: Brent Venables hasn't coached a game, but he's strung together some offseason wins that can help Oklahoma regain its familiar spot atop the Big 12. Hiring offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and landing former UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who played some of his most successful football with Lebby as his OC with the Knights, sets up the Sooners offense to remain among the most explosive in the league. Yet, retaining offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and other key staff members allows for some continuity. Admittedly, theisn't ideal, but the talent on the roster alone is strong enough to get the Sooners into contention. -- Patterson (also Fornelli, Cobb, Palm)
Baylor: It seems like the entire college football world is trying to find a way to pick any team other than Baylor, even though it should be clear that the defending champion Bears have staying power. Blake Shapen looks like a budding superstar at quarterback, and the defensive front is loaded with talent and depth. Coach Dave Aranda is a perfect fit for the program and the new, defensively driven Big 12. The schedule doesn't set up perfectly, but the Bears are capable of navigating roadblocks on their way to AT&T Stadium in December -- where it will hoist the Big 12 championship trophy for the second straight year. -- Sallee (also Dodd, Jeyarajah)
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