2022 college football: Big 12 preview, odds and predictions

·12 min read

Will the Big 12 have two seasons in a row without either Texas or Oklahoma in the title game?

The 2021 matchup between Baylor and Oklahoma State marked the first time since 1998 — a span of 16 games — that neither Texas or Oklahoma played for the conference title.

The Sooners and Longhorns enter the 2022 season as the favorites to win the conference, but Baylor and OSU aren’t far behind despite some key losses. It’s far from impossible that the Big 12 could have another title game without the two programs that will soon head to the SEC.

Other conference previews: ACC, Big Ten, Group of Five, Pac-12, SEC

(All odds from BetMGM)

Favorites

Oklahoma (+200 to win the Big 12)

  • 2021 record: 11-2 (7-2 Big 12)

  • National title odds: +5000

  • Over/under: 9 wins

The Sooners enter the season as the Big 12 favorites despite a ton of transition this offseason. Former assistant Brent Venables enters his first season as a head coach at the FBS level with a transfer quarterback and an unexpected coaching change just weeks before the season after wide receivers coach Cale Gundy resigned for saying a racist word.

Former UCF QB Dillon Gabriel is that transfer quarterback and he’ll be working with former UCF offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby. The two worked together when Gabriel was a true freshman in 2019. Gabriel completed nearly 60% of his passes and averaged over nine yards an attempt that season. Finding a No. 2 running back to pair with Eric Gray will be important, along with replacing Jadon Haselwood and Mario Williams at wide receiver. But Lebby’s offenses have always been successful. While some early struggles would be understandable, this is a unit that should be pretty good.

The defense should be better, too. Venables, the architect of Clemson’s stout defense, doesn’t have the same talent in Norman, but the system should lead to an instant improvement. Assuming Nebraska isn’t making a huge leap in 2022 (OU visits Lincoln on Sept. 17), there will be plenty of time for Oklahoma to mesh in three games as a heavy favorite before Kansas State visits on the last Saturday in September.

First-year head coach Brent Venables inherited an Oklahoma team going through a lot of transition after losing its coach and several top players. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
First-year head coach Brent Venables inherited an Oklahoma team going through a lot of transition after losing its coach and several top players. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Texas (+275)

  • 2021 record: 5-7 (3-6 Big 12)

  • National title odds: +4000

  • Over/under: 8.5 wins

Welcome to another offseason of Texas hype. Would this team be the No. 2 favorite to win the conference if it was, say, Texas Tech?

Maybe. But it’s easy to see why Texas is due for some significant improvement in 2022. Quarterback play should be a lot better with Ohio State transfer Quinn Ewers now in Austin. Ewers spent a season on the bench in Columbus and is back in his home state where he was one of the best QBs in Texas high school history. He should beat out Hudson Card for the starting spot.

Bijan Robinson is one of the best running backs in the country and should make Ewers’ job a lot easier. Xavier Worthy is one of the best receivers in the conference and provides a target for Ewers that can get open against almost anyone. The offensive line looks like it’s getting better too, though the loss of Junior Angilau to a fall camp knee injury stings. Improvement is big for a school that has inexplicably struggled to produce NFL draft picks at that position recently.

Defensively, Texas has to figure out how to create a pass rush. There are just four starters back on that unit and the turnover may end up being a good thing. It will be tested very early in a Week 2 game at home against defending Heisman winner Bryce Young and Alabama, though we warn you to wait a little longer before jumping on the Texas bandwagon if that Alabama game is a close loss.

Contenders

Oklahoma State (+550)

  • 2021 record: 12-2 (8-1 Big 12)

  • National title odds: +8000

  • Over/under: 8.5 wins

Oklahoma State has the ceiling of a Big 12 winner but it all hinges on Spencer Sanders. OSU has to replace leading rusher Jaylen Warren and leading receiver Tay Martin and that will put more of the onus on Sanders. He was pretty good when teams dropped eight into coverage a season ago but defenses stopped doing that a lot as they realized he struggled against the blitz. Sanders has to get better against lots of pass rushers, otherwise the Oklahoma State offense isn’t going to excel.

The defense carried the Cowboys a season ago and now needs to restock under former Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason now in charge of the unit. But OSU’s defense has been better than pretty good recently under Jim Knowles. The Cowboys didn’t give up more than 24 points in a single game until a 37-33 win over Oklahoma late in 2021.

Collin Oliver will be tasked with spurring the pass rush again after recording 11.5 sacks in 2021, and almost the entire secondary needs to be replaced. With Knowles off to Ohio State and a ton of starters no longer in Stillwater, any step back by the defense needs to be covered by offensive improvement if OSU is going to get back to the Big 12 title game.

Baylor named Blake Shapen the starting quarterback early in the offseason, and he'll try to steer the Bears to another Big 12 title. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Baylor named Blake Shapen the starting quarterback early in the offseason, and he'll try to steer the Bears to another Big 12 title. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Baylor (+600)

  • 2021 record: 12-2 (7-2 Big 12)

  • National title odds: +8000

  • Over/under: 7.5 wins

Baylor coach Dave Aranda didn’t let his quarterback competition linger into the summer. He made the call in the spring to go with Blake Shapen as the team’s starter and 2021 starter Gerry Bohanon transferred away from the program.

Shapen won the job running an offense that needs to replace Abram Smith and Tyquan Thornton. Smith was phenomenal as a rusher after switching from linebacker and Thornton’s deep speed got him drafted early by the New England Patriots. The offensive line returns three starters and that was an area of strength for the Bears in 2021.

The defense was Baylor’s best unit in 2021 and massive players like safety Jalen Pitre and LB Terrel Bernard have to be replaced. Pitre lined up all over the field for Baylor while Bernard led the team in tackles. An experienced defensive line should be this unit’s best position group and LB Dillon Doyle will likely end up being the Bears’ top tackler.

Long shots

Kansas State (+1200)

  • 2021 record: 8-5 (4-5 Big 12)

  • National title odds: +25000

  • Over/under: 6.5 wins

The Wildcats are a popular pick to be in the thick of the Big 12 mix and QB Adrian Martinez will have to play like he did as a freshman if that pick is going to come to fruition.

Martinez struggled with turnovers in his past few seasons at Nebraska and succeeds Skylar Thompson as Kansas State’s starter. Thompson was solid but unspectacular as a starter in his KSU career, largely because he avoided the big mistakes that came to define the latter years of Martinez’s Nebraska career.

Deuce Vaughn is a close second behind Bijan Robinson among the Big 12’s best running backs and the KSU offense runs through him. If you aren’t familiar with Vaughn yet, take some time to watch his highlights.

Kansas State needs to replace six starters on defense but Felix Anudike-Uzomah emerged as a fantastic pass rusher in 2021. Pass rusher Khalid Duke is set to come back on the other side and the Wildcats could have the best 1-2 pass rush punch in the Big 12 if both players remain healthy. Games against Missouri and Oklahoma in the first month of the season are a great barometer for the state of the KSU program.

The Kansas State offense will go through running back Deuce Vaughn (22) this season. (Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Kansas State offense will go through running back Deuce Vaughn (22) this season. (Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

TCU (+1400)

  • 2021 record: 5-7 (3-6 Big 12)

  • National title odds: +20000

  • Over/under: 6.5 wins

The first full year of the post-Gary Patterson era is officially upon us as Patterson is now in Austin as an assistant for the Longhorns and Sonny Dykes is in charge in Fort Worth. Will TCU avoid missing a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1997?

Max Duggan is back at quarterback after averaging nine yards an attempt and completing 64% of his passes over 10 games in 2021, but is competing with Chandler Morris. He filled in while Duggan was injured last year and had a huge game in an upset win over Baylor. Morris could win the job. Leading rusher Zach Evans is now at Ole Miss, but he’s in line to be replaced as the top back by Kendre Miller. He averaged more yards per carry (7.5) than Evans did in just nine fewer carries.

Wide receiver Quentin Johnson is also back after averaging 19 yards a catch a season ago. The defense is in the midst of change with Patterson’s 4-2-5 primary defensive philosophy being phased out. Replacing DE Ochaun Mathis (transferred to Nebraska) will be key, though four starters on last year’s front six are back.

Iowa State (+1800)

  • 2021 record: 7-6 (5-4 Big 12)

  • National title odds: +20000

  • Over/under: 6.5 wins

Is this the biggest test of Matt Campbell’s Iowa State tenure? It’s easy to see how Campbell could win Big 12 coach of the year if this team wins eight games and surpasses its 2021 win total.

The offense needs to replace do-it-all RB Breece Hall and QB Brock Purdy. Replacing Hall will be the tougher task; Purdy was underwhelming in 2021 and a big reason why Iowa State only won seven games. WR Xavier Hutchinson is back along with three starters on the offensive line.

The defense only has three starters back but one of them is star lineman Will McDonald IV. He’s Iowa State’s all-time sacks leader and is aiming to put that record out of reach in 2022. LB Colby Reeder is an intriguing addition from Delaware. He could step right in and be the Cyclones’ leading tackler. The September schedule is tough, with games vs. Iowa and Baylor and ISU takes on Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma in consecutive weeks in October.

West Virginia (+2800)

  • 2021 record: 6-7 (4-5 Big 12)

  • National title odds: +20000

  • Over/under: 5.5 wins

Former Georgia and USC QB JT Daniels takes over as the Mountaineers’ QB. While its easy for WVU fans to get excited at the prospect of Daniels leading an offense called by former USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, it’s worth remembering that he’s played in 10 games over the past three seasons — partly due to injuries — after appearing in 11 his first season at USC.

Daniels’ career numbers are good — he’s completed 64% of his passes and thrown two touchdowns for every interception. But he also needs to be on the field for an entire season if this West Virginia offense is going to be better than the No. 9 scoring offense in the Big 12 that it was last season.

The defense was a middle-of-the-pack unit in the Big 12 a season ago and returns three starters. The secondary is basically being rebuilt, so it may be a rough outing against Pitt and former USC QB Kedon Slovis in Week 1. We’ll have a good idea of where West Virginia stands in the Big 12 race after games against Texas, Texas Tech, TCU and Iowa State in October.

Texas Tech (+5000)

  • 2021 record: 7-6 (3-6 Big 12)

  • National title odds: +25000

  • Over/under: 5.5 wins

This Texas Tech team could look a lot like the teams that Mike Leach and Kliff Kingsbury put on the field, though it’s hard to see the Red Raiders having the success they had under Leach in Joey McGuire’s first year.

McGuire brought in former Western Kentucky offensive coordinator Zach Kittley to run the offense after Bailey Zappe set FBS records for passing yards and passing touchdowns at WKU in 2021. Who will be Tech’s Zappe in 2022? The QB competition is among Oregon transfer Tyler Shough, Donovan Smith and Behren Morton. Smith saw the most playing time of any Tech QB in 2021.

Opposing teams threw for nearly 270 yards per game on Tech’s defense in 2021, so things will have to get better against the pass. A bowl game could be a tough ask in 2022 thanks to non-conference games against Houston and NC State before Big 12 play begins. If Tech loses both of those games, it’ll have to to go 5-4 in conference play to get to six wins.

Kansas (+30000)

  • 2021 record: 2-10 (1-8 Big 12)

  • National title odds: +100000

  • Over/under: 2.5 wins

Another year, another season of being projected to be in the Big 12 cellar for Kansas. But it’s easy to see how Kansas will be a lot better in 2022 than it has been in recent seasons.

Jalon Daniels was a catalyst of that late-season upset of Texas in 2021 and returns as the likely starter at QB in 2022. Leading rusher Devin Neal is back too, and while KU needs to replace WR Kwamie Lassiter, there’s a lot of depth returning at receiver.

KU needs to find three starters in the secondary alongside stalwart safety Kenny Logan and creating a sustainable pass rush will also be imperative. If Kansas wins multiple conference games in 2022, it’ll be doing something it hasn’t done since going 4-4 in the Big 12 in 2008. The Jayhawks have won just eight Big 12 games combined over the last 14 seasons.

Who will win the Big 12?

Champion: Oklahoma