This a huge season for several Big 12 programs, and the national spotlight will just add pressure.
The Big 12 likely has some of the best storylines in all of college football this season, but at the same time that just equates to higher standards and expectations.
While none of the players and coaches that I’ve mentioned below are at risk of being fired, there will be a sense of added pressure due to the heightened expectations associated with this season.
For one, Texas is hoping hoping that third times a charm in terms of finding a successful head coach after Mack Brown, otherwise their program may never be back. Iowa State’s recent success has them viewed as one of the best teams in the nation, but are they ready to take that next step? Oklahoma has dominated the Big 12, but that win in the playoff still eludes them. There will be fresh faces in new places, and the pressure to resurrect the program is on the weight of their shoulders.
I’ve identified five players and coaches in the Big 12 who are facing the most pressure to succeed this season. As a reminder, none of the coaches mentioned are at risk of losing their job, but that does not mean they are not under pressure.
Let’s take a look at the five individuals who are under the most pressure to excel this upcoming season.
Tyler Shough, Texas Tech Quarterback
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While this may come as a surprise, there is likely not a transfer quarterback with more riding on this season than Oregon transfer Tyler Shough. After getting off to a great start to the season last year, leading the Ducks to a 3-0 record, Shough's success was pulled out from under him. He would go on to lose the next two games was having major turnover issues. The Ducks did win the Pac-12, but were only playing in the game due to Washington being hit with COVID-19. Shough and the Ducks made a Fiesta Bowl appearance, that saw him lose his job mid-game to Anthony Brown. Shough is expected to not only help Texas Tech win games, but any hopes of a professional career ride on this season, and head coach Matt Wells' job is on the line as well. Now Texas Tech likely won't contend for the Big 12, they are still expected to be a much improved team with Shough at quarterback.
Whomever wins the starting quarterback job at Texas
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When a competition is as close as this one has been, it only adds pressure to the winner. Although they won the job, there is likely a thought in the back of their mind that the other guy is fully capable of coming in and taking the spot. Not to mention, Sam Ehlinger was the first consistent and solid quarterback since Colt McCoy, and I am sure neither Casey Thompson or Hudson Card want to be the guy that sets the program back. There has been little to no inclination of who will win the job, as Sarkisian is likely trying to keep it under wraps. He did say this has been one of, if not the toughest, quarterback competitions he has been a part of. Being the quarterback at Texas is pressure enough, but add that to the fact that Texas has a huge target on their back for heading to the SEC, and the stakes are only going up. There will also be immense pressure to win games right away and contend in the Big 12. This decision of who wins the job will greatly affect the beginning of what is now the Sarkisian era.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State Head Coach
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The Iowa State program has never had as much as pressure as they do now. They are starting the season ranked No. 7, which is the highest they have ever started a season ranked. The expectations went from winning the Big 12, to contending nationally and anything less will be considered a disappointment. The Cyclones cannot afford to lose a game early in the season, which is a possibility for instate rival Iowa, or even Northern Iowa. Both teams who have given the Cyclones trouble in past matchups. The team is returning practically everyone, and I personally worry about teams who decide to take one more shot, because it rarely works out. Campbell is also the hottest coaching name on the market, and although he is under contract until 2028, there will likely be better jobs calling. Especially considering the fact that the Big 12 is imploding after the Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC announcement. We do not really know what the roster looks like after this season, maybe this is the golden age of Cyclone football and this is their only legitimate shot at contending. I do know that any slip up this season will be detrimental.
Steve Sarkisian, Texas Head Coach
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Of the three hires that Texas has completed in order to replace Mack Brown, I would say this one has the most pressure. The expectations are to contend, and to do it right away, and while that is likely very hasty, it is the reality. Sarkisian is viewed as the best offensive mind in college football, and he chose this job over replacing Nick Saban at Alabama when his time was up. He is looking to do what Charlie Strong and Tom Herman could not, and that is wake up the sleeping giant, who has been out cold for over a decade. This is also his third head coaching stint, and his last one did not end so well. He has overcome his personal issues, and is looking to take the program to the level that fans think they should be at all times. Not to mention, he is attempting to do so with one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and with Texas heading to the SEC, the pressure to win a Big 12 title has never been higher. The whole world has their eyes on Texas, and is waiting for yet another coach to fail at bringing the program back.
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma Quarterback
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Rattler is tasked with attempting to do what Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts could not, and that is win a title. They all fell one game short, and Oklahoma as a program has a ton of pressure to get over that hump. Not to mention, Rattler is trying to show that he is the best quarterback in the nation. This is likely the most complete Oklahoma team we have seen in years, as we all know the offense is stacked, but Alex Grinch had them looking like they could be one of the most underrated defenses in the nation. In their past playoff experiences, the team was a half decent defense away from winning, as they had the offense, but now they have both. It's just the pressure on Rattler to be the guy to lead them to that has grown.