How did USA TODAY Sports grade each of the Big 12 teams from the 2021 season

·5 min read

The 2021 college football season is fully in the rearview, and the Big 12 squads are looking to the transfer portal and finalizing their recruiting classes to retool their teams ahead of the 2022 season.

It was an up and down year in Big 12 play as several teams surprised, and others failed to live up to preseason expectations. USA TODAY Sports handed out letter grades for each of the 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

As we continue our look back at the 2021 season, let’s look at how they graded each Big 12 team.

Baylor Bears: A+

Dec 4, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA; Baylor Bears running back Abram Smith (7) hurdles Oklahoma State Cowboys defensive tackle Israel Antwine (95) during the first half of the Big 12 Conference championship game at AT&T Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12 champion after a 2-8 season in 2020 is a remarkable turnaround and one that Dave Aranda and the Baylor Bears should be proud of. They got an incredible performance from Abram Smith who made the switch from linebacker to running back, and the Bears defense stood tall in big games against Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.

Oklahoma State Cowboys: A

Nov 27, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback Christian Holmes (0) celebrates after an Oklahoma Sooners tackle during the second half at Boone Pickens Stadium. Oklahoma State won 37-33. Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys ended the Big 12 regular season with as much momentum as any team in the country in their 37-33 win over Oklahoma. Unfortunately, that didn’t carry over for Oklahoma State as Spencer Sanders’ turnover woes reared their ugly heads and they fell just inches away from pulling off a Big 12 title comeback win over Baylor.

Oklahoma Sooners: B

Oct 16, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley speaks with Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Caleb Williams (13) and quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) during the first quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Based on preseason expectations, the 2021 college football season was nothing short of a disappointment for the Oklahoma Sooners. The six-time defending Big 12 champion came into 2021 as the favorite in the conference and failed to reach the title game after losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State.

Kansas State Wildcats: B

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Given the injuries the Wildcats suffered at quarterback throughout the season, it’s easy to see their 8-5 record as respectable. Chris Klieman did a nice job keeping the Wildcats competitive despite the loss of Skylar Thompson for much of the year.

Kansas Jayhawks: C+

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

More than the two wins the Kansas Jayhawks achieved in 2021, it was the way they looked in the losses that stood out the most. Lance Leipold had this team believing they could play with anyone in the last half of the season. They made Oklahoma fight for a win and beat Texas. Who knows if this will translate into 2022, but Kansas looks to be a team slowly on the rise.

Texas Tech Red Raiders: C+

Sep 11, 2021; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders wide receiver Erik Ezukanma (13) rushes against Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks safety Jeremiah Davis (11) in the second half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech’s season was a bit of a mixed bag. They started out strong, had some struggles in the middle of their schedule, leading to Matt Wells being fired, and then finished the season with bowl eligibility and a blowout win over Mississippi State.

TCU Horned Frogs: C-

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

Much like Texas Tech, who fired their coach midseason, the Horned Frogs were a bit of a mixed bag in 2021. They got the big win over Baylor, but lost to West Virginia. A new coaching staff has provided some optimism for the future of the Horned Frogs program.

Iowa State Cyclones: D+

Nov 20, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Brian Asamoah (24) causes Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) to fumble during the second quarter at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As disappointing as Texas was in 2021, they didn’t come into the season with top 10 hype and as one of the teams thought to be able to knock Oklahoma off of the Big 12 pedestal. That was Iowa State. And they failed to live up to expectations. They still secured a bowl bid, though they lost in to Clemson in a low-scoring affair. This was supposed to be the team that put Iowa State over the top and now Matt Campbell goes back to the drawing board looking to retool.

West Virginia Mountaineers: D+

Oct 30, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; 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

Had West Virginia had any semblance of an offense, they probably would have threatened for eight to 10 wins. Jarrett Doege wasn’t it and the Mountaineers struggled again in 2021.

Texas Longhorns: F

Oct 9, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Marvin Mims (17) makes a touchdown catch in front of Texas Longhorns defensive back Darion Dunn (4) during the fourth quarter at the Cotton Bowl. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Texas failed to make a bowl game and lost to Kansas in Steve Sarkisian’s first season as head coach. Now, this isn’t the end of Texas football, but it was a bad season based on what people expected of the Longhorns heading into 2021.

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