The 2022 college football season is upon us, which means it’s time to lock in the final predictions for what will happen this year.
For this roundtable conversation we will ask the big question: who wins the Big 12 conference in 2022?
Here are the picks from each Heartland College Sports staff member going into the year.
Pete Mundo: Baylor Bears
It’s a cliche, but football is won in the trenches and the Baylor Bears are set to have one of the best offensive and defensive lines in the Big 12 this season. Look at adding Tulsa transfer Jaxon Player to that defensive line with Siaki Ika. The offensive line is incredibly experienced with Connor Galvin, Khalil Keith, Jacob Gall, Grant Miller, and others. Then, there’s QB Blake Shapen. He won the Big 12 Championship Game last year, yet some are going to think this is a QB turnover situation in Waco. It’s not. He played down the stretch and played well. His ceiling is higher than Gerry Bohanon’s.
In a wide-open Big 12, Baylor is as well positioned as any team with a staff in place, depth and talent on both lines and a QB who has won a conference title game. Plus, their schedule is balanced and favorable, with two mini-bye weeks in mid-October thanks to a Thursday night game.
Dave Aranda has the potential to take Baylor to a place beyond where it was in the heyday of the Art Briles era and I believe that begins this season.
Bryan Clinton: Oklahoma Sooners
I’m going to take the Oklahoma Sooners to get back to the top of the Big 12 mountain, and here’s why. The buzz in Norman has been off the charts since Brent Venables took over in January, and the roster that he inherited is among the most talented in the country.
The importance of adding Dillon Gabriel can’t be understated and based on reports from fall camp, the offensive line in front of him is lightyears ahead of where it was this time last season, thanks to the return of S&C coach Jerry Schmidt. Oklahoma’s skill talent is impressive, with Marvin Mims, Jalil Farooq, Theo Wease, and Jayden Gibson making up one of the top WR corps in the conference. Meanwhile, Jeff Lebby feels good about having Eric Gray and Marcus Major at running back.
Defensively, the Sooners should improve on their numbers from a season ago despite losing key players up front. Key transfers add depth to a talented roster and the new S&C program has done the Sooners some favors up front, with several guys coming in at-or-around 300 pounds up front.
Brent Venables will have Oklahoma rolling in 2022 as a new era in Norman starts off with a bang.
Matthew Postins: Oklahoma State Cowboys
This Big 12 football season stands to be even more wide open than last season. Why? Well, last season most felt Oklahoma was a clear favorite. But the Sooners not only didn’t reach the Big 12 Championship game, lost coach Lincoln Riley to USC, and a group of Sooners and recruits who either followed Riley out west or transferred to other schools.
You can’t rule out Oklahoma, but the Sooners are not head-and-shoulders above anyone in this league. In fact, no one is, if we’re being honest. Baylor should be really good. So should Oklahoma State. Texas now has a stable quarterback situation and stands to be better. Even Kansas State, with Deuce Vaughn and Adrian Martinez, has a shot at this. It should be a lot of fun to watch.
I think we’ll see a repeat of last year’s Big 12 Championship game, with Baylor facing Oklahoma State and the Cowboys getting their revenge. But I would be completely unsurprised if I’m wrong.
Derek Duke: Oklahoma Sooners
I have been covering this conference for seven years now and I can’t remember a year where the Big 12 was this wide open for the taking. You can make a case for multiple schools to win the conference, but I must once again stick with the Oklahoma Sooners. We all know what went wrong last season and while they got hurt with some transfers, this is still an extremely talented football team Brent Venables has to work with. Dillon Gabriel is an experienced quarterback which is key due to the fact that many other teams in the league are going to have new faces under center.
When you look at the starting 22, it’s hard to argue they won’t be in Arlington come December. The offensive line will be strength on offense, and I believe Marvin Mims will finally have that breakout year we have been waiting for. Defensively, much like the offense, the line will be solid. Plus, there is a lot of talent in that secondary with guys like Woodi Washington, D.J. Graham, Key Lawrence, and Billy Bowman.
This may not be a sexy pick by any means, but I feel like it’s a safe one. The Sooners have the pieces across the board to get back to the top of the Big 12 once again.