Athlon Sports picks the Oklahoma Sooners to finish second in the Big 12 in early 2022 projections

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Change isn’t always a bad thing. It comes with questions and some uncertainty, but the new can often be better than what you had or where you were.

That’s what the Oklahoma Sooners are facing heading into the 2022 offseason: A year of change and transition. Out is Lincoln Riley and in is Brent Venables, Jeff Lebby and a new defensive staff. Venables wants to make the Sooners fast and physical on defense while they run the football and controll the pace on offense.

Despite all of the changes, the program has much to be optimistic about this offseason. Steve Lassan of Athlon Sports has the Oklahoma Sooners picked to finish second in the Big 12 in his early 2022 predictions.

Lassan admits the league is pretty wide open.

“The Big 12 should feature a wide-open race to win the conference in 2022. A strong argument could be made for Baylor, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State as the early No. 1 pick in the league, but regardless of which team is the favorite, the gap among those programs is small.”

Here’s what he had to say about the Oklahoma Sooners.

It’s been a busy offseason in Norman, but new coach Brent Venables has the pieces in place to push for a Big 12 title. Assuming Caleb Williams doesn’t return, UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel should take over the quarterback spot and reunite with his former coach (and coordinator) in Jeff Lebby. The Sooners lost running back Kennedy Brooks and a couple of linemen to the NFL, but Gabriel’s arrival should keep this offense near the top of the conference. Venables was one of the nation’s top defensive signal-callers at Clemson and should make an impact right away on this side of the ball for the Sooners. – Lassan, Athlon Sports

It’s incredibly early the Oklahoma Sooners will worry about proving it on the field. What’s evident is the top of the Big 12 will be competitive once again. Baylor and Oklahoma State should be strong contenders for the conference title again in 2022. Oklahoma looks to rebound and get back into the Big 12 title game. And you never know what you’re going to get with Texas. After a terrible year, the Longhorns could bounce back and find themselves in the Big 12 race as well.

Here’s how Lassan ranked the Big 12 members.

Baylor Bears

Jan. 1, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana; Baylor Bears running back Abram Smith (7) runs the ball against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half of the 2022 Sugar Bowl at the Caesars Superdome. Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest surprise from the 2021 season next to Kansas’ win over Texas was the resurgence of the Baylor Bears under Dave Aranda’s leadership and defense.

Oklahoma Sooners

Dec. 29, 2021; San Antonio, Texas; Oklahoma Sooners running back Eric Gray (0) eludes Oregon Ducks safety Jordan Happle (32) to score a touchdown in the second half of the 2021 Alamo Bowl at Alamodome. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma ended the 2021 season on a high note with its win over Oregon, and there’s an optimistic outlook on the Sooners’ 2022 campaign with new leadership in place.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma State’s disappointing Big 12 championship showing shouldn’t take away from the fantastic season it had in 2021. Another year to develop should do wonders for Spencer Sanders, who was the Big 12’s first-team quarterback.

Texas Longhorns

Oct. 9, 2021; Dallas; Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian walks on the sideline during the second quarter of their game against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Cotton Bowl. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Good Texas or bad Texas? That is the question surrounding the Longhorns heading into the offseason. A strong recruiting class and the incoming transfer of Quinn Ewers provides an optimistic outlook for Steve Sarkisian’s bunch. Can they return to contention after a 5-7 season.

Kansas State Wildcats

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Klieman and the Kansas State Wildcats looked prime for contention in 2021, but injuries at quarterback left them stuck in the middle of the pack. Getting Adrian Martinez from Nebraska helps offset the loss of Skylar Thompson, but can the Wildcats get over the Big 12 hump?

TCU Horned Frogs

Oct. 16, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma; TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan (15) throws against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

New head coach Sonny Dykes has brought a lot of energy to TCU since his hire. The Horned Frogs landed Jordan Hudson, the one-time five-star commitment to the Oklahoma Sooners, and are in contention for USC transfer quarterback Jaxson Dart. Much like the Wildcats, TCU seems stuck in the middle of the Big 12. Can Dykes change that?

Iowa State Cyclones

Nov. 20, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell reacts during the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Arguably the most disappointing team in the Big 12 in 2021, the Iowa State Cyclones face the biggest turnover, losing Brock Purdy, Breece Hall and Charlie Kolar. Though last season didn’t go the way they wanted it to, you know Matt Campbell will use that to keep a chip on his team’s shoulder heading into 2022.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Nov. 13, 2021; Lubbock; Texas Tech Red Raiders place kicker Jonathan Garibay (46) kicks a 62-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jones AT&T Stadium. Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Another team that saw a coaching change, Red Raider country is fired up about the hire of Joey McGuire. After Matt Wells was fired, Texas Tech rallied to get bowl eligible and proceeded to blow out Mississippi State, 34-7, in the Liberty Bowl. Can the Red Raiders carry that into 2022?

West Virginia Mountaineers

Oct. 30, 2021; Morgantown; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton (0) catches a pass for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Iowa State Cyclones at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia played some tough contests in 2021, but a stagnant offense couldn’t take advantage of a strong defense in Morgantown. West Virginia hired former USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell to reinvigorate an offense that was at one point one of the most feared in college football.

Kansas Jayhawks

Devin Neal #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks rushes for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Nov. 13, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Prospects are looking up for the Kansas Jayhawks despite just two wins in the 2021 season. Though coaches and players will tell you there are no moral victories, the Jayhawks did a lot of good things in the second half of the season, and they were far more competitive than they had been in recent years. That’s a credit to Lance Leipold and his coaching staff for keeping the players motivated and believing. It’s a new day in Manhattan, Kansas.

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