Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas A&M were all powers at some point or another in the former Big 12.
Now, in 2022, they all stink.
Oklahoma and Texas ran the Big 12 from 2000 to 2021, with a team like Oklahoma State, TCU, K-State or Baylor sprinkled in everyone once in a while. Meanwhile, Texas A&M finished second fiddle to both OU and UT most years but has made a bowl in every year since leaving the Big 12 for the SEC.
However, Texas A&M will miss a bowl in 2022 as it now sits at 3-7 on the year, Oklahoma is sitting at 5-5 and will need to find a way to win one of its two remaining games to get to a bowl, and Texas sits at 6-4 in yet another disappointing season in Austin.
Money isn’t the issue for any of this trio as Texas (T-1st, $147M), Texas A&M (T-1st, $147M), and Oklahoma (6th, $129M) are all among the most valuable college football programs in the country, according to a 2021 report from 247Sports.
However, the other teams that surround them in these rankings are having sustained massive success. Michigan (3rd, $139M) is 10-0. Alabama (4th, $134M) is 8-2. Ohio State (5th, $132M) is 10-0. Georgia (7th, $125M) is 10-0. So, why are the three teams in question a combined 14-16 through 11 weeks of the 2022 college football season? Let’s take a look at the details with each of them.
Oklahoma Sooners (5-5, 2-5)
Oklahoma’s issues are the easiest to explain away of the three, so let’s start there. In the five years preceding the 2022 season, Oklahoma was 56-10, with 55 of those wins under Lincoln Riley, excluding the 2021 Alamo Bowl. In the five years before Riley took over, the Sooners were 51-14 under Bob Stoops. That’s a combined record 107-24 and in that time Oklahoma won seven Big 12 Championships.
Now, Oklahoma is in the middle of a 5-5 season under first-year head coach Brent Venables and looks like a team without an identity. What happened?
Well, quite simply, Oklahoma lost so much production and identity after last season that this should’ve been more of the expectation. Members of the media, including myself, bought into the interlocking OU logo on the side of the helmet and assumed that they would find a way to win games like they always have. As it turns out, losing around 40% of your roster, over half your coaching staff, and nearly all of your offensive and defensive production in one offseason is too much even for the Sooners to overcome.
I’m not here to drive home some narrative that Norman is falling and that Oklahoma is going to fall into annual mediocrity. I don’t believe that whatsoever, nor do I believe that Brent Venables isn’t the right guy for the job in Norman. There are several insiders around Oklahoma that have spoken of the internal issues that Venables inherited after taking over last December. Locker room issues can take time to resolve, and sometimes it takes massive turnover to get rid of problems that leak out onto the field.
2023 might be another tough year for the Sooners and they might be in a fight to win eight or nine games, but by 2024 Oklahoma should really look like itself again.
Texas Longhorns (6-4, 4-3)
The second Big 12 team in this tirade is the Texas Longhorns, who were in the Big 12 title race coming into last weekend but lost 17-10 to No. 4 TCU. Now, they have a hill to climb and would need some help to get back in the race, but it wasn’t long ago that we were talking about the Longhorns being a potential playoff contender. Texas went 5-7 a year ago, but I can guarantee that 6-4 wasn’t what Texas boosters had in mind when they brought in Sarkisian over Sonny Dykes.
We can’t pretend that Texas is suddenly having issues though, as the situation in Austin has been much different than that in Norman in recent memory. In the five years prior to 2022, Texas has gone 37-25 under Tom Herman and Steve Sarkisian. In the five years prior to that, the Longhorns were 33-30. Texas football has a long and successful history, but 70-55 over the previous 10 years isn’t something Texas fans will look back on and relish. So what’s the issue?
I believe that Texas’ issues are quite unique, but also quite simple. Last year, I dove into this in great detail and it all comes down to who makes the decisions at the top for the Longhorns. Since Mack Brown made the decision to leave Texas, it seems that the donors are the ones pulling the strings in Austin, and that all comes back on the athletic director, Chris Del Conte. Many people may not know, but DeLoss Dodds left UT in 2013, after spending 32 years as Texas’ AD. Steve Patterson was his successor and after Patterson came Del Conte. Both of those guys failed to do what was needed, and that is keep a buffer between the coaches and the donors. Building a program takes time and space, and anybody after Mack Brown has had neither of those in their corner in Austin.
Texas A&M (3-7, 1-6)
The Aggies are having an all-time disappointing season in 2022, and a lot of that comes from how high expectations were coming into the year. Texas A&M signed the best recruiting class in college football history in 2022, so naturally, they were expected to have success immediately following that. However, they have put together their worst season under Jimbo Fisher and the worst season they’ve had since leaving the Big 12.
The first issue is A&M seems to have brought in more problems than solutions, as the program is rotting from the inside. Much of that stems from their focus on NIL and using literal bags of cash to bring in top-tier talent, regardless of their fit within the program. There have been several players suspended for various reasons, some of which were reportedly caught smoking marijuana inside the Aggies’ locker room. That’s not something that is conducive to winning football. NIL is a great opportunity for college athletes, but only when it is used as it was intended. It’s clear, thus far, that A&M has abused NIL and it has hurt them.
Another issue I see from the outside has been Jimbo Fisher’s inability or lack of desire to update his offensive scheme. Texas A&M is running an offense that has been outdated for the last half-century. In an age of high-flying offenses like Steve Sarkisian, Lincoln Riley, and Jeff Lebby run, Fisher has decided to keep his scheme the same and their offense has struggled mightily because of it. Bringing in somebody like Garrett Riley would help them out tremendously, and I would be surprised if the TCU offensive coordinator doesn’t get a call from College Station this off-season.
Unfortunately for A&M, I believe that Fisher needs to go for Texas A&M to climb out of its current hole, but they have 86 million reasons to hold onto him. Until boosters decide to funnel that money into a fund to pay his buyout instead of thinking NIL is what will solve the problem, they will have to continue seeing this graphic get worse and worse.