The Big 12 Championship Game is set as the TCU Horned Frogs and the Kansas State Wildcats will battle for the second time this season, but this time around a Big 12 trophy will be on the line.
TCU (12-0, 9-0) and K-State (9-3, 7-2) both exceeded expectations this season, as they both outperformed their preseason win total by several games and find themselves at the top of the Big 12 standings. However, almost everyone else in the conference underachieved in 2022 and leaves this season with a bad taste in their mouth.
Sure, it hurts some more than others, but that has a lot to do with how wide-open the conference was perceived to be coming into the year.
Let’s check in on the teams that didn’t make the Big 12 Championship, and gauge their mood after the 2022 campaign, from best to worst.
Texas Tech Red Raiders: (7-5, 5-4); 4th Place Finish
Mood: Extremely Optimistic
Joey McGuire beat Texas and Oklahoma in his first season at the helm, which is something that no coach in Texas Tech history has ever done. Plus, the Red Raiders finished in sole possession of fourth place, its highest finish in the Big 12 standings since 2009. McGuire has given Red Raiders fans a look at the future of Texas Tech football; a tough, gritty, and opportunistic bunch that will be made up of West Texas talent. Texas Tech has a chance to finish the season with eight wins, and it will also have a new-look stadium to look forward to as renovations got underway shortly after their overtime win over Oklahoma. Things are looking up in Lubbock, perhaps more than they have in more than a decade.
Kansas Jayhawks: (6-6, 3-6); T-7th Place Finish
Mood: Very Excited
The Kansas Jayhawks finished 6-6 and will be going to a bowl for the first time since 2008, but they didn’t quite finish the season the way they’d hoped after a 5-0 start. Going 1-6 in the final seven games isn’t ideal, but they are bowl eligible and they have reached an agreement to keep their head coach Lance Leipold around for quite some time. The Jayhawks haven’t been relevant in the Big 12 picture for more than a decade, but now they are more than just a tough out, they’ve proven capable of scoring with the best that the Big 12 has to offer. Had Jalon Daniels not been injured against TCU and missed half the season, we might have seen the Jayhawks reach even higher heights.
Texas Longhorns: (8-4, 6-3); 3rd Place Finish
The Texas Longhorns came into the season with Big 12 Championship expectations, but they didn’t quite make it as Kansas State clinched the second spot with a win over Kansas last weekend. After a 5-7 finish in 2021, the Longhorns improved their stock going into 2023 and could finish with nine wins this season if they can manage to win a bowl game. Texas is among the most talented teams in the country heading into 2023 and a guy by the name of Arch Manning is set to arrive on campus in January. Texas fans are a bit disappointed with Quinn Ewers’ play down the stretch, as they should be, but help is on the way and the future looks much brighter than it did a season ago.
Baylor Bears: (6-6, 4-5); T-5th Place Finish
The Baylor Bears were picked to win the big 12 this season after claiming the 2021 big 12 title, but that never came to fruition as the Bears struggled to find consistency down the stretch. The defense wasn’t quite as good as it was last season, and Blake Shapen wasn’t nearly as effective in the passing game as many had hoped. While Baylor returned one of the best offensive lines in the country, the defensive line struggled to reach its level of output from a season ago, leading them to a 6-6 record. With expectations, sky-high, just being bowl-eligible doesn’t feel like enough for a hungry Fanbase. However, Baylor still has Dave Aranda at the helm, and with him, they have one of the best coaches in the country. His seat is nowhere, near hot, which is not something that many coaches after this point can say.
West Virginia Mountaineers: (5-7, 3-6); T-7th Place Finish
Mood: Understandably Upset and Wondering Why They Still Have a Head Coach
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown came into 2022 with one of the hottest seats in America it seemed, yet he’s still in Morgantown after another losing season. Athletic director Shane Lyons was let go just a couple of weeks ago after extending Brown after a 6-4 campaign in 2020, but Brown’s teams have been disappointing since that point. When the Mountaineers make their new hire at AD, there was expected to be an announcement made concerning Brown’s future, but that isn’t a sure-thing after ESPN announced that Brown was expected to return in 2023. Confusion about the direction of the program has been a theme in Morgantown, for quite some time now, and until Brown is relieved of his duties, I feel that will continue to be the case.
Iowa State Cyclones: (4-8, 1-8); 10th Place Finish
Mood: Disappointed But Not Too Surprised
Iowa State finished dead last in the Big 12 after winning just one game in conference play, but they also were tasked with replacing the top passer and one of the top rushers in school history with Brock Purdy and Bryce Hall moving onto the NFL after the 2021 season. Hunter Dekkers and Jireyl Brock weren’t able to replace the production that they lost after last year and that led to them having the lowest-scoring offense in the conference. The defense continue to be elite and lead the big 12 and many statistical categories, but it wasn’t enough to get the cyclones off the ground. Matt Campbell is not in any immediate danger because of what he has built in Ames, but Iowa State will need to improve next year.
Oklahoma State: (7-5, 4-5); T-5th Place Finish
Mood: Upset and Demanding Changes
The Oklahoma State Cowboys had a comfortable lead against TCU before falling 43-40 in double overtime to the Horned Frogs. Coming into that contest, the Cowboys were 5-0 and looked like true big 12 contenders as they were ranked eighth in the country. Then, Spencer Sanders’ shoulder started to give way as the season rolled along. After the TCU game, the Cowboys went 2-4 and finished with a 7-5 record leading them to finish tied for fifth place in the Big 12. The once-mighty Oklahoma State offense turned into something of an impairment for Mike Gundy’s squad late in the season and folks in Stillwater are feeling it’s time for a change at the office of coordinator position. Casey Don, who proved to be an elite wide receivers coach just isn’t cutting it as the play caller and because of that, he has lost what grace he had with Oklahoma State fans.
Oklahoma: (6-6, 3-6); T-7th Place Finish
Mood: Dazed and Confused
Before the 2022 season started, it would have been hard to imagine the Oklahoma Sooners sitting at 6-6, but that is where we are. Despite bringing in Brent Venables, who has been revered as one of the top defensive minds in college football for more than a decade, Oklahoma’s defense of woes continued. The sooner simply couldn’t make enough stops and made too many mistakes in clutch situations this season, which led to them falling from the mountaintop that they were once so comfortable sitting upon. If Oklahoma can win its bowl game, it will keep its nation-leading streak of winning seasons, alive, but this team has a long way to go before it resembles anything that we’ve grown to expect from the squad in Norman. Fans in and around the program expected a down year, but 2022 was quite the fall for one of the nation’s most prestigious football programs.