Preseason Power Rankings: Big 12

Please note that power rankings are meant to rank teams based on current team strength on a neutral field. It is not necessarily a projection of where I think teams will finish or who has a better resume. It is forward thinking but does not factor in strength of schedule, schedule breakdown, etc.

ICYMI Other Conference Preseason Power Rankings:

Mountain West
MAC
Sun Belt
Conference USA
American
FBS Independents
Pac 12

2022 Big 12 Preseason Power Rankings

  1. Oklahoma: It was a whirlwind offseason to say the least in Norman. HC Lincoln Riley bailed for USC and brought QB Caleb Williams & WR Mario Williams with him. In total the Sooners lost 8 transfers including their other 5-star QB Spencer Rattler. They return only 10 starters in 2022 but did add some transfers of their own. They brought in Clemson DC Brent Venables as head coach and he brings high energy and an attacking, aggressive defense. Venables brought in Jeff Lebby as his offensive coordinator who had previously been successful in the same roles at UCF and then last year at Ole Miss with Lane Kiffin & Matt Corral. Lebby will bring a fast-paced offensive system. They added transfer QB Dillion Gabriel from UCF who has thrown for over 8,000 yards & 70 TD in 2+ seasons. Gabriel actually played for Lebby in 2019 & 2020 and had a lot of success in that system so that familiarity is encouraging. The offensive line returns 3 starters and added a 2nd team All-Pac 12 transfer from Cal and RB Eric Gray (formerly with Tennessee) seems poised for a breakout year. Even with the departure of Riley & Williams, this looks like an offense that will put up big numbers in 2022. On defense Venables brought assistant coach Ted Roof with him from Clemson to be the defensive coordinator. The fact that Venables and Roof speak the same language should make the transition quicker on that side of the ball. Venables knows defense and even with only 5 returning starters I expect that unit to improve in 2022. He’s a great coach and even with all the transfers there is a lot of talent on Oklahoma compared to the rest of the conference. They’ve been recruiting at a different level the last four years though Texas might be starting to catch up.
  2. Baylor: Dave Aranda engineered one of the bigger turnarounds in college football last year when he led Baylor to a 12-win season, Big 12 championship, and Sugar Bowl win over Ole Miss. They beat five ranked opponents along the way. The biggest reason for the improvement was the huge turnaround on offense. Aranda brought in Jeff Grimes to take over at OC (fresh of a very successful season with Zach Wilson at BYU) and the offense improved big time scoring 31.6 ppg & gaining 422 ypg and 5.4 ypc. This years team returns 12 starters and the strength of the team will be the offensive and defensive line. Brett Ciancia of Pick 6 Previews thinks they have the best OL & DL in the conference and Phil Steele has the OLine rated #7 in the Nation. Blake Shapen (Sophomore) will take over at QB. Gerry Bohanon started the first 11 games last year and the Sugar Bowl but decided to transfer when Shapen beat him out for the job this offseason. Shapen played for an injured Bohanon in the B12 championship game and impressed people by completing his first 17 passes on his way to winning MVP of that game. They lost a lot of skill players, but Shapen’s potential has people excited and having such a strong OL in front of him will definitely help his development. Aranda’s specialty is defense having been the LSU Defensive Coordinator before accepting the Baylor HC job. Last year’s defense was very impressive allowing only 18.3 ppg & 346 ypg. They lose a lot of talent there this year with the departures of B12 DPOY S Jalen Pitre, LB Terrel Bernard & S JT Woods. The defensive line does return the entire 2-deep however and should be very strong again this year.
  1. Texas: Texas got off to a 4-1 start in Sark’s first season at HC, but then the wheels came off. They blew 3 double digit 3rd quarter leads (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor), another half-time lead to Iowa State, and lost to Kansas at home as a 31-point favorite during a 6-game losing streak. They finished the season 5-7. When I look at Texas this year they look like a really wide variance team. They have lots of talent at the offensive skills positions but also have big question marks at OL, QB & defense. The offense was the strength of the team last season under Sark. They scored 35.3 ppg & 425 ypg. They are loaded at RB & WR. RB Bijan Robinson is one of the top 2 RBs in the Nation & they have depth with Roschon Johnson. They bring back receivers Xavier Worthy & Jordan Whittington. Worthy set a Texas freshmen record with 12 TD last year & Whittington was their top 3rd down receiver. They added a ton of talent in the transfer portal to compliment these guys. WR Isaiah Neyor (Wyoming) turned a lot of heads in Spring football & Tarique Milton started at Iowa State last year. They also added two super talented players from Alabama in TE Jahleel Bilingsley & WR Agiye Hall. Talent isn’t an issue for either of these guys, but character concerns might be. Nick Saban seemed to run out of patience with them but Sark knows them from his time at Alabama. If he can get them to live up to their potential….look out! Texas native QB Quinn Ewers transferred to the Longhorns this offseason. He graduated early from high school to spend a year sitting in meetings at Ohio State, before transferring back home. He was the consensus #1 recruit in 2021 and has talent for days. The spring reports we’re that he made some incredible throws, but needed to cut down on INTs. He’s incredibly talented but exactly how much production they get from him as a freshman is a bit of a question mark. It would certainly help him if the offensive line would improve. That was a weakness for the team in 2021. They certainly made that a point of emphasis in recruiting by signing the top OL class in the Nation. This year the OL will have 3 returning starters + 7 freshmen (2 of whom are 5-star recruits). The defense was an issue last year. They allowed 31.1 ppg and got crushed on the ground allowing 202 rushing yards/game & 5.1 yards/rush. They added long-time TCU HC Gary Patterson as a special assistant who may be able to help DC Pete Kwitatkowski figure something out. They do return 6 of their front 7 from last year including MLB DeMarvion Overshown who led the team in tackles in 2021 & was second in 2020. Overall this is a team that has plenty of flash but needs to show improvement on defense and the OL before we can take them seriously as a playoff contender. Sark has been crushing it on the recruiting trail though so things are trending in the right direction.
  1. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State was (literally) inches away from a playoff appearance last year. They lost to Baylor in the B12 Championship game when they failed to convert a 1st & Goal from the 2-yard line that ended with them coming up inches short on 4th If they won that game I believe they would have finished ahead of Cincinnati in the playoff rankings. They rallied though and came back to beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl after trailing that game 28-7. But this year they return just 11 starters and lose 8 starters from their very impressive defense. We saw a shift in program identity at Oklahoma State recently. The high scoring, high flying offenses we’ve seen in the past under Gundy gave way to a Multi TE, power run style last year that complemented their suffocating defense. The defense was #3 in the country, allowing just 298 ypg & 18.1 ppg. They led the nation with 57 sacks and went 6 straight games without allowing a 2nd half TD. They held 6 of their 9 conference opponents to season-lows in yardage. But how big of a step back will they take in 2022? They lose 9 starters, 6 of their top 8 tacklers, & are dead last in returning defensive production. To make matters worse they lost their DC Jim Knowles to Ohio State. They replaced him with Derek Mason (DC at Auburn but didn’t appear to get along with Harsin). It’s possible that Gundy might try to pick up the pace on offense again this year if the defense isn’t as strong. They scored 31.1 ppg & gained 417 ppg in 2021 but lose their 1K RB, 1K WR & 3 OL. Gundy has proven to be very good at developing skill players, so I’m confident they will be able to figure out the RB & WR positions, but we will wait and see with the OL. 4-year starter Spencer Sanders is back at QB. He earned all B12 honors but I find myself thinking he is somewhat overrated. Last year he threw 9 INTs & just 2 TD in their 3 biggest conference games. He does have elite talent, like he showed in the bowl game against ND, completing 67% for 371 yards with 4 TD & 0 INT. It’s always been the lack of consistency with him. Maybe this is the year he puts it all together?
  1. Kansas State: Chris Klieman continues to improve at Kansas State as he has a built a hard-nosed, developmental program. Last year they finished 8-5 in his 3rd season and beat a depleted LSU team in their bowl game. The run-first offense was not up to Kleiman’s expectations last year, scoring 27.5 ppg & 362 ypg, so he made a switch at OC promoting his QB Coach (and former KState B12 champ QB) Collin Klein to OC. Klein promises to bring more creativity, aggressiveness & a faster tempo to the offense. We already started to see this aggressiveness when he was the interim OC in the bowl game and he continued to throw the ball with a big lead. QB Skylar Thompson is gone, but they added talented transfer Adrian Martinez from Nebraska. Martinez showed great dual threat talent, but infuriated fans with his inconsistency & turnovers. He will be helped out by the return of explosive RB Deuce Vaugh who gained 1872 scrimmage yards & scored 22 TD in 2021. While Martinez makes some throws that make you want to bang your head against the wall, I’m very intrigued by being able to pair his athleticism with Vaughn in the new offensive system. I think they could be a read-option nightmare for defenses. The OL loses some people but is almost always strong at Kansas State. They know how to develop linemen. The defense made huge improvements last year when they switched from 4-linemen sets to a 3-3-5 system. In total they allowed just 21 ppg & 345 ypg. They return 7 starters from that unit including their top tackler in LB Daniel Green & DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah who was 2nd in the conference with 11 sacks last year. I think when you combine this team’s toughness with their athleticism in the backfield you end up with a team that nobody is excited about playing. They will be a tough team to beat again this year.
  1. Iowa St: After having only one 8+ win season from 1979-2016, Iowa State has had 4 in the last 5 years under Matt Campbell. They came into 2021 a preseason Top 10 team with production coming back at every position, but ended up finishing below their preseason ranking. They ended up 7-6 (5-4) on the season but did average +104.3 ypg in Big 12 play despite the 5-4 record. This year they lose a ton of production including QB Brock Purdy, All-American RB Breece Hall & TE Charlie Kolar but will go back to the familiar position of being the hunter rather than the hunted. The offense returns just 5 starters from a unit that averaged 31.3 ppg & 425 ypg in 2021. Hunter Dekkers (Soph) will take over for Purdy at QB. He holds Iowa high school records for passing yards & TD and led TD drives last season against two Top 10 teams (Iowa & Oklahoma). The defense allowed 20.5 ppg & 310 ypg last year but lose their top 4 tacklers and return only 3 starters. They do bring Vance McDonald back who recorded 10.5 sacks in 2022 & 11.5 sacks in 2021. Overall this appears to be a rebuilding year for the Cyclones, but Matt Campbell’s teams are always well coached & play hard. He’s great at developing players and the Cyclones have been 21-4 at home in the last 4 years. They’re not going away.
  1. TCU: It’s going to be weird watching a TCU game and not seeing Gary Patterson on the sidelines. After a disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2021 the TCU legendary coach was let go. They brought in SMU HC Sonny Dykes to bring his air raid offense to TCU. Dykes inherits the most veteran team in the Big 12 with 18 returning starters. He’s proven he can recruit the state of Texas well while at SMU and that should only improve now that he is at a Power 5 school. He already has built the connections with the coaches. The biggest disappointment last season for TCU was the total collapse on defense. Under Patterson, TCU has been known for defense. They had the #1 defense in the Nation 5 times during his tenure. But last year was a different story. They gave up 462 ypg & 34.9 ppg (2nd worst defense in the Power 5). Dykes has brought in DC Joe Gillespie from Tulsa and he will transition them from a 4-2-5 to a 3-3-5 (similar to what Iowa State runs). The offense will improve under Dykes. At QB they will have their pick between 3-year starter Max Duggan & Chandler Morris. Duggan has the experience but Morris might have a little more upside and did upset Baylor in 2021. The RB position took a hit when Zach Evans transferred to Ole Miss, but KeAndre Miller is still around and he rushed for 623 yards last year. Their top 4 WR are back. If you play fantasy college football, learn the name Quentin Johnston. The 6’4 WR is an athletic freak and is going to put up huge numbers in Dykes offense. This looks like a really high variance team. They get 5 home games in conference, which is an advantage. If things break right, they could be a surprise team. But there still are enough question marks that I have them in the lower half of the conference.
  1. West Virginia: West Virginia returns just 11 starters from a team that went 4-5 in conference last year, but lost both games to the B12 Championship game participants (Baylor & Oklahoma State) by a combined score of 69-23. This team is still far away. The offense has been the problem under HC Neal Brown. Over his 3-year tenure the WVA offense has ranked just 61st out of 66 Power 5 teams in opponent adjusted offensive percentiles (per Brett Ciancia). Sensing a change was needed, they brought in Graham Harrell to be the new offensive coordinator. Harrell will implement a more pass friendly offense and has experience with transfer QB JT Daniels from their time together at USC. Daniels was a 5-star recruit who started as a freshmen at USC before injuries kind of derailed his career at USC (& then at Georgia). West Virginia appears to be his last opportunity to live up to his hype out of high school. I’m really not very high on him at this point and the WVA receiving corps was destroyed by the transfer portal; losing 4 receivers (3 of their top 5 from 2021) to transfer. Unlike the offense, the defense has held up its end of the bargain under Brown. While the offense ranked just 61st out of 66 during his tenure, the defense ranks 19th in the Power 5. Last year they we’re very strong allowing just 23.8 ppg & 350 ypg but they lose a ton this year. Overall I’m just not very high on this team right now. The Harrell hire is intriguing but Daniels hasn’t proven he can stay healthy and doesn’t have much talent around him. I expect the defense to slide a little bit with all the talent they lost this offseason.
  1. Texas Tech: It never worked out for Matt Wells as the Texas Tech head coach & they finally made it official when they fired him in the middle of the season last October. He didn’t have Texas roots and that was apparent by the dip in recruiting during his tenure. So the University made the decision to go in a completely different direction with the hire of Joey McGuire. McGuire is a Texas high school football legend who has spent the last five years as a Baylor assistant where he established himself as a strong recruiter. He knows Texas football and has a strong relationship with the coaches there. The early returns are already positive with the first recruiting class he is putting together. On offense, they will be going back to the Air Raid days like they had under Mike Leach. McGuire brought in Zach Kittley as OC who spent last season putting up video game numbers in the same position at Western Kentucky. They will throw the ball on basically every down. It is currently a 3-man battle for the starting QB position with the most recognizable name being former Oregon QB Tyler Shough. The offensive line lost 4 starters from the 2021 team. It might take the offense time to learn the new system, but eventually it will get humming. The defense gave up 405.6 ypg & 30.2 ppg in 2021. They brought in new DC DeRuyter who has experience at 7 different FBS schools. He places an emphasis on creating turnovers. Last year while at Oregon his defense recorded 17 INTs. While they do lose their top 3 tacklers from last season, they do have 5 players with 20+ FBS starts & 4 more with 10+ starts. I think McGuire was a great hire for TTU. I think his Texas roots & enthusiasm will be nice for the program. He might struggle for a little bit though until he gets his guys in place.
  1. Kansas: Last year was more like a Year 0 than a Year 1 for new HC Lance Leipold. I say that because he got hired so late (after Spring football, when Les Miles got in trouble) that he barely had any time to implement his systems. Despite that, Kansas did show improvements from where they had been. They went 2-10 but beat Texas in Austin as a 31-point underdog & led against Oklahoma in the 3rd They got lots of experience last year and return a total of 17 starters. The offense scored 20.8 ppg & 324 ypg and showed improvement as the year went on. They found their QB in Jalon Daniels, who started the last 3 games. The stats speak for themselves: Kansas averaged 15.1 ppg in their first 9 games, but 37.7 ppg in their last 3 games with Daniels at QB. They also return 4 OL from a unit that showed tremendous improvement in 2021 going from #124 to #24 in pass protection sack rate. While the offense showed improvement throughout the year, the defense unfortunately did not. On the year they gave up 42.2 ppg. They do return 8 starters this year so hopefully that experience and now having a regular offseason with the new system will help them. Overall I think Kansas will continue to show improvement and be more competitive this year.

2 thoughts on “Preseason Power Rankings: Big 12

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