It was a wild 2021 college football season. The two teams that most expected to play for the Big 12 title, Oklahoma and Iowa State, both missed out on the title game. Baylor, who had won just two games the year before completed an incredible turnaround.
There were fantastic performances and finishes throughout the season that reminded everyone of the quality of play in the Big 12 conference. If the conference season wasn’t enough evidence, its 5-2 record and a 3-0 record against the SEC, should stand at evidence that the conference is very strong.
Let’s take a look at how these teams stack up heading into the offseason in the final Big 12 power rankings of the 2021 college football season.
Kansas Jayhawks: 2-10 (1-8 Big 12)
AUSTIN, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 13: 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 November 13, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Got their first Big 12 win in a while and over the Texas Longhorns no less. While not a big improvement in their record, the quality of play was much better for the Kansas Jayhawks in Lance Leipold’s first season at the helm.
Best Win: 57-56 over the Texas Longhorns
Worst Loss: 55-3 to Oklahoma State
Texas Longhorns: 5-7 (3-6)
AUSTIN, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 13: O.J. Burroughs #5 of the Kansas Jayhawks intercepts a pass intended for Xavier Worthy #8 of the Texas Longhorns in the end zone in the fourth quarter at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 13, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
It was certainly a down year for the Texas Longhorns. However, landing quarterback Quin Ewers and a top-five recruiting class from 2022 have Steve Sarkisian well-positioned for the future. The problem has rarely been talent coming to Austin, it’s been what the Longhorns do with it when it gets there.
Best Win: 38-18 over No. 23 Louisiana
Worst Loss: 57-56 to Kansas
TCU Horned Frogs: 5-7 (3-6)
Nov 6, 2021; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Chandler Morris (14) throws during the second half against the Baylor Bears at Amon G. Carter Stadium: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
TCU was being billed as a dark horse for the Big 12 crown. A midseason firing of Gary Patterson and a 5-7 record appeared to have the Horned Frogs trending in the wrong direction. Then they hired SMU’s Sonny Dykes to take the helm and now things are looking up for TCU.
Best Win: 30-28 over No. 12 Baylor
Worst Loss: 48-14 to Iowa State
West Virginia Mountaineers: 6-7 (4-5)
Nov 20, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Winston Wright Jr. (1) catches a pass for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Another team that appeared ready for contention on the backs of a stout defense, the West Virginia Mountaineers played some of the more inconsistent football in the Big 12. They beat Iowa State and Texas but went 0-3 against Oklahoma, Baylor, and Oklahoma State.
Best Win: 38-31 over No. 22 Iowa State
Worst Loss: 34-17 to Kansas State
Texas Tech Red Raiders: 7-6 (3-6)
Nov 13, 2021; Lubbock, Texas, USA; 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
Texas Tech finished the season strong with a dominating win over Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl. The hiring of Joey McGuire gave the Red Raiders a shot in the arm heading into 2022 and Donovan Smith’s play provides a ton of optimism for the offensive outlook heading into the offseason.
Best Win: 34-7 over Mississippi State or the 41-38 win over Iowa State
Worst Loss: 52-31 vs. TCU
Iowa State Cyclones: 7-6 (5-4)
Sep 18, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Breece Hall (28) is hit by UNLV Rebels defensive back Nohl Williams (2) during a game at Allegiant Stadium. Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
It was a disappointing season for a Cyclones team that started the year in the top 10 of the USA TODAY AFCA Coaches Poll. Losses to Iowa and Baylor derailed what many thought could be a push for national relevance, but it was the losses to Texas Tech and West Virginia that were the real letdowns of the 2021 season.
Best Win: 24-21 over No. 8 Oklahoma State
Worst Loss: 38-31 to West Virginia
Kansas State Wildcats: 8-5 (4-5)
Nov 13, 2021; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats running back Deuce Vaughn (22) runs away from West Virginia Mountaineers safety Alonzo Addae (4) during the third quarter at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas State’s season went about as well as it could have as they dealt with injuries to quarterback Skylar Thompson and even Will Howard missed time. The Wildcats beat the teams they were supposed to in 2021, but could rise to the occasion against the top of the conference, going 0-4 to Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Iowa State. Dropping the season finale to Texas was a bit of a low note considering how Texas’ 2021 season went. Against an undermanned LSU team, the Kansas State Wildcats put together one of the more impressive wins of their season. They beat the Tigers 42-20 in a game where LSU was starting a wide receiver at quarterback.
Best Win: 24-7 over Stanford
Worst Loss: 22-17 to Texas
Oklahoma Sooners: 11-2 (7-2)
Oct 9, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Kennedy Brooks (26) runs for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Despite all of the turmoil, the Oklahoma Sooners finished the 2021 college football season on a strong note with a resounding 47-32 win over the Oregon Ducks. What the future holds is anybody’s guess. Though it looked to be resting on the shoulders of Caleb Williams, his transfer portal entrance and Dillon Gabriel’s arrival provide optimism for 2022 and beyond.
Best Win: 55-48 over Texas
Worst Loss: 27-14 to Baylor
Oklahoma State Cowboys: 12-2 (8-1)
Nov 27, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) throws a pass against the Oklahoma Sooners during the first quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
The Oklahoma State Cowboys had a fantastic 2021 season. Sometimes teams can be a matchup problem and that’s just what the Baylor Bears were for them in the Big 12 championship game. The Oklahoma State Cowboys finished the 2021 season on a strong note with their comeback win over Notre Dame.
Best Win: thanks 37-33 over Oklahoma
Worst Loss: 21-16 to No. 9 Baylor
Baylor Bears: 12-2 (7-2)
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 Baylor Bears completed an incredible turnaround from Dave Aranda’s first season in Waco to becoming the Big 12 champions and capping it off with a nice Sugar Bowl win over Ole Miss. They overcame the loss of Gerry Bohanon and will be a team in contention again in 2022.
Best Win: 21-16 over Oklahoma State
Worst Loss: 30-28 to TCU