It’s never too early for a little speculation on what next year will look like, especially when college football is the topic. We just finished the 2021-22 season last week with Georgia getting revenge on Nick Saban and Alabama, winning UGA’s first national title since 1980.
Now, as we drag into the offseason, it’s hard not to think about what 2022-23 will look like in the Big 12 and if the conference can top what it did this season: finish with three Top-10 teams in the final poll. Only the Big 12 and Big Ten can claim that after a crazy 2021 season.
So, what will it look like next year when Bowl Season rolls around? Well, according to Brad Crawford of 247Sports, Oklahoma and Baylor will be the teams to beat and not many will accomplish that task. Crawford released his predictions for the New Year’s Six bowl games and the College football playoff in 2022, and the Bears and Sooners made his shortlist.
Crawford has Baylor in the Cotton Bowl, facing off against future Big 12 foe Houston.
“Two Texas-based teams at AT&T Stadium? This matchup sounds like a win for all parties involved. The Big 12 champion goes to the Sugar Bowl unless that team reaches the College Football Playoff, so there’s going to be several programs vying for the No. 2 spot in the conference. Following last season’s script, Oklahoma State wound up in the Fiesta Bowl after league champion Baylor played in New Orleans. Those rolls could be reversed in 2022 with Baylor heading to the Cotton as the league runner-up. Texas still working out the kinks under Steve Sarkisian, Baylor facing arguably the toughest road slate in the conference and Oklahoma State replacing a slew of key contributors makes predicting the Big 12’s champion nearly impossible at this point, but we’ll try.
“Baylor expects to have four starting offensive linemen back and the coaching staff feels confident in their quarterback room as Gerry Bohanon battles Blake Shapen for the starting job. And the Bears just strengthened their defensive front with the addition of Tulsa transfer Jaxon Player, who was a top-10 available talent in the portal.
“Which team represents the Group of Five in the New Year’s Six in 2022? Going to venture to guess that Houston, Cincinnati or potentially Coastal Carolina emerges from an assortment of (expected) ranked teams. Houston brings back the bulk of firepower from a 12-win team while Luke Fickell’s Bearcats — despite heavy graduation and draft losses — simply garner a wealth of respect coming off consecutive perfect regular seasons. Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall skipped a shot at the NFL for another ride with the Chanticleers and if they go unbeaten, there’s a chance they could squeak inside the top 12 and seize a bid. The schedule’s lacking, but Coastal Carolina does play a road game at Virginia. That’ll be a great matchup between McCall and Brennan Armstrong, another early-round quarterback prospect for 2023.”
As for the Sooners, Crawford projects a Sugar Bowl berth against an old foe and future opponent: Texas A&M.
Assuming the Aggies figure things out under center between LSU transfer Max Johnson, Haynes King and freshman phenom Conner Weigman, Texas A&M welcomes back plenty of weapons offensively in 2022 including all six wide receivers on its two-deep. Devon Achane will also get more touches at tailback following Isaiah Spiller’s exit. To finish in the top-tier of the SEC however as a New Year’s Six team, Texas A&M’s overhaul on defense will need to show stability early considering the Aggies replace six starters there and will be relatively young from front to back.
Can Oklahoma win the Big 12 with first-year coach Brent Venables and a new-look roster on both sides of the football after heavy transfer losses? That’s going to be the expectation for the Sooners. The good news is Oklahoma likely will only face one nationally-ranked team away from home next season and the early-season slate is soft enough that both sides of the ball with first-year starters will have three games under their belts — probable wins — ahead of the conference opener vs. Kansas State.
On paper, Baylor and Oklahoma look like two of the top teams in the conference next year, along with Texas who is only in the conversation because of talent.
However, Oklahoma was supposed to be in the national title game this year and Iowa State was headed to another New Year’s Six bowl themselves; and that is why predictions are so much fun.