As we approach the middle of April, spring football is winding down for most programs around the Big 12 conference.
Last year we saw the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Baylor Bears battle it out for conference supremacy. They edged out the Oklahoma Sooners, who missed the title game for the first time since it was brought back in 2017.
As we approach the 2022 season each team is trying to put themselves in a position to make a run at the title. The top teams will be Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and the Texas Longhorns. The latter reloaded through the transfer portal and on the recruiting trails for the season. Newcomer Quinn Ewers looks to bring Texas back to the top, while Oklahoma is under a new regime with former defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Next year will look completely different with the additions of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF. For now, we will focus on the biggest question facing each of the current members of the conference. We start with the defending Big 12 champions.
When it comes to the reigning Big 12 champions, it’s all about repeating the process. Dave Aranda finally got the Bears over the hump in 2021 after knocking off both the Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys on the way to a conference championship and a New Years Six victory over the Ole Miss Rebels.
As Aranda heads into year three, can he repeat as the top dog in the Big 12? It won’t come easy and now they have the targets on their back. Given how the defense has played under him, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Baylor do it once again. – Patrick Conn, College Wire Regional Editor
Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State is going to look completely different in the upcoming season. Head coach Matt Campbell no longer has a veteran quarterback in Brock Purdy and his bell-cow back Breece Hall is on the way to the NFL. This next year it will be about finding the new corp of players to lead the way.
It will be up to Hunter Dekkers and Jirehl Brock to carry the load in the backfield. For Iowa State to get over the hump and return to the Big 12 championship game, the duo will need to have huge contributions this season. – Conn
The Jayhawks finished the season with a 2-10 record and just one win in conference play. Given that this is year two under head coach Lance Leipold, the program needs to see some growth. Whether that comes from the team as a whole or from individuals stepping up.
Heading into 2022, KU needs to find some offense. Last year their average scoring margin was over 20 points. The defense surrendered 40+ points on a weekly basis and the offense could barely muster over 20. The defense needs to show signs of life and they will need a little more than 20 points per game if they want to go for two conference wins this season . – Conn
Kansas State Wildcats
After four lackluster seasons in Lincoln, Adrian Martinez transferred to Kansas State. He will battle it out for the starting job with Will Howard after Skylar Thompson graduated. While many believe Martinez will ultimately win the job, he still has to hold off a highly-toned young gun in Howard.
For Kansas State, their success will rely on Martinez. He needs to achieve the success many believed he would have with the Cornhuskers. Kansas State has a star in Deuce Vaughn, so it won’t only be on the shoulders of the quarterback. However, Martinez needs a big year for his draft stock from him and for Kansas State to be a major player in the conference. – Conn
The biggest question facing the Oklahoma Sooners is the turnover in their front seven. While they’ve got promising up-and-comers in Danny Stutsman, Ethan Downs, Reggie Grimes, Marcus Stripling, and Jalen Redmond, replacing four players that will be playing at the NFL level is significant. Nik Bonitto, Perrion Winfrey, Isaiah Thomas, and Brian Asamoah were big-time players and leaders for the Oklahoma Sooners and they’re not easily replaced.
In addition to the guys that sat behind them the last couple of years, Brent Venables brought in talented veteran defensive linemen Jeffery Johnson and Jonah Laulu to figure into the defensive line rotation. There’s talent, but how it all fits together in a new scheme is certainly a question. – John Williams, Sooners Wire Editor
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State faces similar questions on defense, but their issues are in the linebacker and defensive back groups. In addition to the loss of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, the Cowboys also lost star linebacker, Malcolm Rodriquez. In total, the Cowboys lost seven players who were in the top 11 of defensive snaps played in 2021. And that’s just the defensive side of the ball. The Cowboys also lost their leading rusher in Jaylen Warren and leading receiver in Tay Martin. With all of the talent heading to the NFL, if Spencer Sanders can’t protect the football, Oklahoma State may not have the horses to help him out. –Williams
TCU Horned Frogs
A new era of football has begun in Fort Worth. With Gary Patterson out as the head coach, the Frogs turned to their DFW rivals to snag the next lead man. Sonny Dykes brings a high-flying offense which will be a bit of a change for a team known for its defensive prowess.
Regardless of who the quarterback is, the biggest question is can Dykes’ offensive infusion be enough to springboard the Frogs into Big 12 contention once again? As Baylor proved last season, it can happen at a moment’s notice. – Conn
Not only is this the biggest question surrounding the Texas football program this offseason, it will be one of the most intriguing storylines to watch across the country. Will former five-star quarterback and Ohio State transfer Quinn Ewers be as advertised? Ewers was rated the No. 1 overall recruit in both the 2022 and 2021 recruiting classes after reclassifying. The pressure and expectations for him to have a successful career at Texas is enormous.
The Longhorns badly need elite play at the position, and whoever wins the quarterback battle between Ewers and Hudson Card will have a number of playmakers on offense. Card appears to have the edge at the moment due to it being his second year in Sarkisian’s system, and he seems to have become more vocal as a leader. This competition will likely trickle through fall camp as it did last season.
As close as this battle is expected to be, there is plenty of room for growth for both Ewers and Card this offseason. The eventual starter will need to show consistency, be comfortable in the pocket/under pressure, and be able to get the ball out quickly. – Cami Griffin, Longhorns Wire Editor
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Joey McGuire went from Texas high school legendary coach to Texas Tech head football coach. In his first gig as a college head coach, McGuire hit the ground running on the recruiting trail. However, the recruiting isn’t a question at this point given how he ended the 2022 cycle.
For Tech it is all about how well his team and new staff will gel in year one. He brought Zach Kittley back to run the offense and snagged former Oregon defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter to run his defense. After the Red Raiders won a Liberty Bowl battle with Mississippi State, the question is can the new man in town build on that momentum with another trip to the postseason? – Conn
West Virginia Mountaineers
Gone are the Jarret Doege days, now it is time for a new quarterback in former five-star prospect JT Daniels. He recently announced that he would transfer to West Virginia giving Neal Brown his best weapon at the quarterback position. But just how far could Daniels help the Mountaineers climb in the Big 12?
The WVU defense allowed just 23.8 points per game, while the offense averaged just over 25 on their side of the ball. That is good enough for .500 football. For Brown to have success in 2022, it will all depend on how much better the former USC and UGA quarterbacks can make this offense. – Conn
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism