Power 5 preview: Most important name for each Big 12 team
There's massive change coming to the Big 12 in the near future, but for the 2022 season, it's status quo for the conference.
Here's the most important name for each team in the Big 12, with last year's overall record in parentheses.
Baylor (12-2) - Dave Aranda
Aranda orchestrated an incredible turnaround in his second year with Baylor, improving from a dismal 2-7 record in 2020 to a conference title-winning 12-2 mark in 2022. That performance should give Baylor fans confidence that Aranda can maintain a level of excellence despite some significant roster turnover.
The offense loses the explosive production of Abram Smith, Tyquan Thornton, and R.J. Sneed, but starting quarterback Blake Shapen is aided by the return of four of five starters on one of the Big 12's best offensive lines. Shapen starred in the season finale and the Big 12 title game after taking over due to injury, throwing five touchdowns for 434 yards and no interceptions between the two games.
The defensive side of the football looks similar to the offense, with significant experience on the line but new faces at other positions. Look for Aranda to get the most out of the new players and further cement his place among college football's coaching elite.
Oklahoma State (12-2) - Spencer Sanders
Sanders has been on campus at Oklahoma State since 2018, and if the Cowboys are going to repeat last year's incredible success, it will be on the arm of the senior quarterback.
Last year's stout defense carried the team to the Big 12 title game, but with only five starters back and a new coordinator in Derek Mason, the offense will need to step up in 2022. Oklahoma State ranked eighth in the Big 12 last year in yards per play on offense and severely lacked in big plays, with only eight of 40 yards or more.
Sanders will be in tough without star wideout Tay Martin and the help of standout running back Jaylen Warren. The biggest issue for the 22-year-old is turnovers, as he led the conference with 12 interceptions last season. Head coach Mike Gundy will need to help the quarterback limit those mistakes if the Cowboys hope to reach the conference title game again.
Oklahoma (11-2) - Brent Venables
The winds of change blew heavy through Norman this offseason, with the end result of Venables finally beginning his head coaching career as the new boss at Oklahoma. Lincoln Riley is gone - drawn to the bright lights and heavy dollars of Los Angeles - with the longtime Clemson defensive coordinator taking over.
Venables is no stranger to the Sooners, having previously served on Bob Stoops' staff from 1999-2011, but the task is a big one in his first job as the head honcho. Oklahoma is playing out its Big 12 contract for the next couple of seasons before ultimately jumping to the SEC.
In terms of immediate challenges, Venables must re-tool an offense that loses a number of top players, including star quarterback Caleb Williams. The replacement at that spot is former UCF standout Dillon Gabriel, who enters as three of the four top receivers and running back Kennedy Brooks also depart.
The defense also had a number of top players leave, including pass-rusher Nik Bonitto and defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey. However, that area is less concerning as Venables has delivered a top-flight defense on a seemingly annual basis, regardless of where he is.
Kansas State (8-5) - Deuce Vaughn
Vaughn is arguably the most impressive player in the country on a pound-for-pound basis. Generously listed at 5-foot-6 and 176 pounds, Vaughn is one of the most versatile offensive weapons in the sport and is unquestionably the focal point of the Kansas State attack.
Vaughn has a new partner in the backfield a year after leading the conference with over 1,850 yards from scrimmage, as Nebraska transfer Adrian Martinez takes over at quarterback. Martinez is a very capable runner who can also give a boost to a passing attack that ranked second-worst in the Big 12 last year.
With four new starters on the offensive line, Vaughn may be hard-pressed to find the space he did last year. That will be new offensive coordinator Collin Klein's biggest challenge because, as Vaughn goes, so does the Wildcats' offense.
Iowa State (7-6) - Tom Manning
Matt Campbell is certainly the face of the Iowa State program, but offensive coordinator Manning might be the most important person on the coaching staff this season in Ames. The task this year for Manning: replace the program's all-time leading passer, second-leading rusher, and fourth-leading pass-catcher.
Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, and Charlie Kolar are gone, leaving receiver Xavier Hutchinson and a whole lot of questions for Manning and the offense. New quarterback Hunter Dekkers certainly possesses a stronger arm than Purdy, and it's up to Manning to ensure that it is used properly in the new-look offense.
Unfortunately for the Cyclones - Manning, Dekkers, and the offense won't have much of an adjustment period this season. The rivalry game against Iowa and its vaunted secondary looms in Week 2.
Texas Tech (7-6) - Tim DeRuyter
Once again, Texas Tech enters a season with its biggest question mark on the defensive side of the football. The Red Raiders gave up 35.6 points per contest in Big 12 play last year, which makes it very difficult to win games no matter how prolific your offense may be.
That prompted a coaching change, with Joey McGuire being the new head man in Lubbock, coming to the college ranks after an extremely successful high school coaching run. One of his first moves was to bring in DeRuyter, installing the former Fresno State head coach as his defensive coordinator
As noted above, the job of running Texas Tech's defense is difficult enough, but DeRuyter's real value might also be in his experience at college football's highest level.
"There's been so many times I've walked in his office and said, 'Hey, take your defensive coordinator hat off, put your head coach hat on, and make sure I'm going in the right direction,'" McGuire said at Big 12 media days, according to Zach Barnett of Football Scoop.
If DeRuyter can help strengthen the defensive unit, the offense has plenty of firepower to make the Red Raiders a trendy sleeper pick in McGuire's first season.
West Virginia (6-7) - JT Daniels
The winding road that is Daniels' college career has settled on its latest stop in Morgantown. The former USC star turned Georgia backup is now onto his third program as quarterback for West Virginia. His addition could be the catalyst to kickstart the program as Neal Brown enters his fourth season with an overall 17-18 record.
The Mountaineers' offense struggled mightily to push the ball down the field last year, with Jarret Doege ranking among the bottom of the conference in yards per attempt. Daniels' arm strength should be an improvement on that front, but the junior could be rusty after almost three seasons on the sideline.
Brown has helped on that front, hiring Graham Harrell to run the offense - the same man who was the coordinator during Daniels' standout freshman season at USC.
Texas (5-7) - Quinn Ewers
There are plenty of names in the loaded Texas offense to focus on, from Heisman candidate Bijan Robinson to star receiver Xavier Worthy. However, it's the quarterback battle for the starting spot between the highly-touted Ewers and Hudson Card that's making headlines with the Longhorns.
"I think I have an idea in my head," head coach Steve Sarkisian said on the QB competition, per Shehan Jeyarajah of CBS Sports. "But I'm not going to tell you guys."
The best bet is that it will be Ewers under center when the season begins, and the Texas high school legend will be counted on to keep the explosive offense firing. The Longhorns averaged 35 points per game in 2021 - good for second in the Big 12 - but will need even more to compensate for one of the weakest defensive units in the conference.
Ewers certainly has the ability to be an instant star in Austin but will likely need an adjustment period as he hasn't played a game since the 2020 high school season. Unfortunately for Ewers and Texas, a Week 2 matchup with mighty Alabama awaits. It's sink or swim very early for the local product.
TCU (5-7) - Sonny Dykes
The first iPhone was still seven years from launch the last time TCU began a season without Gary Patterson as its head coach. The veteran bench boss made his move to join the Texas staff, and former SMU coach Dykes takes over in Fort Worth.
Given Dykes' track record of explosive passing attacks, it's a safe bet that the Horned Frogs' offense should immediately improve in the 2022 season. TCU ranked near the bottom of the conference in passing attempts per contest, with 14 less per game than Dykes' SMU squad.
Too often, teams were able to stuff the box against TCU and bottle up the rushing attack, leading to struggles on offense. If Dykes can resurrect the passing attack, the Horned Frogs could have a bowl game appearance in his first season with the program.
Kansas (2-10) - Jalon Daniels
While a two-win season is certainly nothing to be thrilled about, Kansas still delivered one of the most captivating games of the 2021 season. The 57-56 overtime triumph over Texas snapped a 56-game road losing streak in Big 12 play for the Jayhawks. It also cemented Daniels as the quarterback for Lance Leipold's team going forward.
The California native started the final three games for Kansas, finishing with 706 yards passing with six touchdowns in that stretch. That performance resulted in the win over Texas and two narrow losses to TCU and West Virginia.
After years of being the Big 12 basement-dweller, don't be shocked if Daniels can continue his strong play and bring the Jayhawks off the bottom of the pile.