The merits of preseason polls have been debated and will continue to be debated, for as long as college football fans can remember. Personally, the number in front of the program always provides more juice so I am all for everyone announcing what they think of a team based on last year’s team and who came back. No single poll also signifies the start of the college football season is around the corner than when the first AP Top 25 poll is released in mid-august. How the Big 12 will shake out this year is anyone’s best guess. Without a clear-cut favorite, and a wide-open outlook for the conference, how many Big 12 teams will make that coveted first preseason AP Poll for 2022?
Which Conference Will Have The Most Teams?
This shouldn’t come as a big shock, but the SEC should garner the most selections in the first top 25. The defending national champions (Georgia) and runner-up (Alabama) are almost guaranteed to find themselves both in the top four. Texas A&M is coming off a historic recruiting class, and recent success will make the Aggies another shoo-in. Kentucky, Arkansas, and Ole Miss will almost assuredly find themselves in the poll. The wild cards are Tennesse and Florida. So even in a worst-case scenario of six teams, with a best case of eight teams, the SEC will once again dominate the AP Poll.
Preseason AP Poll Projections For The Big 12
There are three teams that absolutely will find themselves in the Preseason AP Poll when the season kicks off. But where exactly will they land?
Final 2021 ranking: No. 10
Two major factors are going to buoy the Sooners to a top 10 appearance in the first preseason AP poll, their blue-chip ratio (ie roster talent on paper) and their brand. Without a quarterback and coaching change, seeing the Sooners start the season in the top 10 would not be anything to blink at. But the fact is Oklahoma had a ton of turnover, both on the roster and coaching staff. Brent Venables is going to bring his patented energy to the sidelines in Norman this year. He also brought on Jeff Lebby as offensive coordinator. Lebby gets reunited with quarterback Dillon Gabriel. When both of them were at UCF in 2019, they orchestrated a top 10 offense. How quickly all the new pieces with this team gel will determine if the Sooners simply pick right up where Lincoln Riley left off.
Final 2021 ranking: No. 5
The Bears are no longer a Fixer Upper in college football. Dave Aranda tore it down to the studs, and it showed after a two-win debut season. But Baylor is coming off a Big 12 championship and a Sugar Bowl victory. Blake Shapen takes over at quarterback for the Bears. The offensive line returns a ton of production and the best offensive linemen in the conference. The Baylor defense was one of only two in the Big 12 to surrender less than 20 points per game last season. Much of that production is back for the 2022 campaign. But this is new territory for the Bears. Will 2022 show cracks in the foundation, or have the Bears truly established themselves in the top tier of the Big 12?
Oklahoma State: 16
Final 2021 ranking: No. 7
In the last 15 seasons, Oklahoma State has averaged 9.2 wins a season. Seven of those produced double-digit wins. They haven’t missed a bowl game since 2005. All Mike Gundy does is win football games, and occasionally grows a mullet. It stands to reason that Gundy’s team will be right back in the thick of the college football national landscape. The Cowboys’ 2021 season came two inches short of a Big 12 title. Another two inches and the Cowboys are possibly playing in the college football playoff. Oklahoma State has a seasoned, veteran quarterback in Spencer Sanders to guide this offense. Oklahoma State did a major piece to last year’s top-three defense. Jim Knowles departed to Ohio State for the same position and it will be up to former Auburn coordinator and Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason to keep things rolling on the defensive side of the ball.
Wild Card: Texas
Final 2021 ranking: Unranked
There is no reason a 5-7 team should be ranked in the top 25 to start a new season…right? Much like Oklahoma, the brand of the Longhorns and their roster talent could be enough for voters to buy into the Longhorns. But, plenty of voters have seen Texas fall well short of expectations. In fact, Texas has only won more than seven regular season games on two occasions since the 2009 season.
That said, running back Bijan Robinson and wide receiver Xavier Worthy are both considered to be (at worse) top five nationally at their respective positions. And even if Quinn Ewers is just average to what should be expected from a 1.00 ranked recruit, the offense would be one of the best nationally. The defense has problems; a lot of them. So only time will tell if they can stop anyone. Will it be a surprise to see Texas ranked to start the season? Of course not. But are there enough voters who have decided Texas has to prove they are worthy of consideration in the top 25? We will all find out together when the preseason AP Poll rolls fresh off the press very, very soon.