Big 12 Media Days 2022: What to expect from Texas, Oklahoma and the debut of the new conference commissioner

The most wonderful time of the year will begin as the Big 12 begins its run of annual media day events on Wednesday and Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Baylor will return to the site of its first Big 12 championship game win in 2021 with expectations to defend the crown thanks to rising star coach Dave Aranda. However, many eyes will be on Texas and Oklahoma as both try to bounce back from disappointing years in 2021.

There’s still more than a month until the college football regular season kicks off, but below are some of the top stories to watch during Big 12 Media Days.

Reorganization chatter

A year ago, then-Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he made five bucks because no one asked a realignment question at media days. Unfortunately, his joke goes down as an all-time gaffe as Texas and Oklahoma were members of the SEC until the end of the month, sparking one of the most chaotic realignment sagas in college football history.

Now, the Big 12 is relatively stable and has a chance to be a buyer in the next round of realignment initiated by USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten. Administrators around the Big 12 will be on hand, so don’t be surprised to see rumors fly or news drop, even if decisions from Pac-12 schools could still be months away.

Four new programs will participate in Big 12 Media Days in 2023 (Cincinnati, BYU, Houston and UCF), so much of the conversation should center around the impending new era.

Baylor tops the polls

The Baylor Bears are picked to win the Big 12 for the first time in program history. Although the Bears have won the league three times — including back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014 — the Bears have traditionally battled from the bottom half of the bracket to reach the top.

While the Bears are the favorite, their advantage isn’t huge at all. Baylor received 17 of the 41 votes submitted in the annual media poll. Oklahoma was close at 12 first-place votes with Oklahoma State at nine. Texas and Iowa State also received first-place votes in the poll, despite a combined 12-13 record in 2021.

This is on pace to be one of the most parity-driven seasons in Big 12 history. It will be interesting to see if the hosts recognize the opportunity to take down the Big 12 crown.

Welcome to the party, Brett Yormark

The new Big 12 commissioner will make his first public appearance as a college sports executive Wednesday morning. Yormark officially begins his duties on Aug. 1, but he has already been active and aggressively inserted himself into conversations about the future of the Big 12 before his tenure actually begins.

Yormark arrives at the conference from the pro sports and entertainment world. He spent the last few years at Jay-Z’s Roc Nation conglomerate and previously ran business operations for the Brooklyn/New Jersey Nets. Yormark is a true outsider to college athletics. It will be fascinating to hear what drew him to the work.

Oklahoma, the underdog?

Last season, Oklahoma led the way overwhelmingly with nine players named to the Preseason All-Big 12 team. This year? Only sixth-year player Michael Turk was honored. Oklahoma’s talent teams are never really rebuilding, but there is a definite rebranding as many key players left for the NFL or the transfer window after Brent Venables took over the program after Lincoln Riley left for USC.

Fortunately, we will get a preview of the new era. UCF quarterback transfer Dillon Gabriel is joining the Sooners at media day, along with junior defensive end Ethan Downs. Venables is a defensive-minded coach, and it will be fascinating to hear if he thinks his Sooners are ready to compete for a Big 12 championship right away.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Sooners aren’t the underdogs. This makes them even more dangerous than usual.

The uncertainty of the quarterback

The Big 12 was previously known as a home for high-powered offenses led by dynamic quarterbacks. However, the league has transformed dramatically. Suddenly, only one program has a true returning starter that didn’t face a quarterback competition in the spring — Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders.

Four programs brought in transfer quarterbacks who could change the game. Two of the more notable offseason moves were former Nebraska star Adrian Martinez landing at Kansas State and former five-star JT Daniels taking over at West Virginia. Only four programs are bringing quarterbacks to media days, so trying to glean information from other attendees will be a fun game.

Spoilers try to get up

Two programs were dead in the Big 12 preseason poll: No. 9 Texas Tech and No. 10 Kansas. However, both programs hired excellent coaching staffs in the last 18 months. We should learn some valuable information about the progress in media days.

Kansas showed it was headed in the right direction by beating Texas in overtime and following it up with highly competitive games against TCU and West Virginia. Texas Tech posted a winning record for the first time since 2015 before bringing in Texas high school football legend Joey McGuire to add some energy.

With tough schedules ahead, both have treacherous paths to reach bowl games. In the end, though, it won’t matter. Both Kansas and Texas Tech are capable of catching a contender and derailing a season. Hearing the mindset of players in both rebuilding programs will give us an early indication of whether the programs are optimistic.

Texas hip

Last season, Texas experienced its worst losing streak since 1957 and the worst freshman season by a head coach since Dana X. Bible in 1937. Despite that, buzz has returned after Steve Sarkisian landed quarterback of transfer Quinn Ewers, built a top-five recruiting class and earned a commitment from the gem of the 2023 recruiting class, Arch Manning, during the offseason.

Now, actual results on the field will take center stage as Sarkisian tries to bounce back from a dismal first season. While Ewers won’t be in the building, all eyes will be on Texas’ offensive talent — led by Bijan Robinson — who will provide an early preview of whether the Longhorns can have the Big 12’s best offense .

Texas is the betting favorite to win the Big 12 at some sports books. Needless to say, 5-7 for the Big 12 champions would be unprecedented.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.