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

The most wonderful time of the year begins when the Big 12 kicks off our annual media event series on Wednesday and Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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

The college football regular season is still more than a month away, but below are some of the top storylines to watch during Big 12 Media Days.

Rearrangement chatter

A year ago, then-Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby joked that he made five bucks because no one asked a realignment question on media days. Unfortunately, his prank went down as an all-time gaffe, as Texas and Oklahoma were SEC members by the end of the month, setting off one of the most chaotic realignment sagas in college football history.

Now, the Big 12 is relatively stable and has a chance to be buyers in the next round of realignment started by USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten. Administrators around the Big 12 will be available, so don’t be surprised if rumors float or news comes out, even if decisions by Pac-12 schools could still be months away.

Four new programs will attend Big 12 Media Days in 2023 (Cincinnati, BYU, Houston and UCF), so a lot of conversation should center around the upcoming new era.

Baylor atop 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 struggled from the bottom half of the bracket to reach the top.

Although the Bears are the favorite, their advantage is by no means overwhelming. Baylor received 17 of the 41 votes cast in the annual media poll. Oklahoma was close behind with 12 votes in first place 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 shaping up to be one of the most even seasons in Big 12 history. It will be interesting to see if those in attendance recognize the opportunity to wrest the Big 12 crown.

Welcome to the party, Brett Yormark

The new Big 12 commissioner will make his first public appearance as a college athletic director on Wednesday morning. Yormark officially begins his duties on Aug. 1, but he was already active and aggressively involved in conversations about the future of the Big 12 before his tenure actually began.

Yormark comes to the conference from the worlds of professional sports and entertainment. He spent the last few years at Jay-Z’s Roc Nation conglomerate, and before that ran business operations for the Brooklyn/New Jersey Nets. Yormark is a true underdog in college athletics. It will be interesting to hear what drew him to the job.

Oklahoma, the underdog?

Last season, Oklahoma led by an overwhelming majority with nine players named to the preseason All-Big 12 team. This year? Only sixth-grader Michael Turk was excellent. Teams with Oklahoma’s talent never recover, but there is a clear rebrand after many key players left the NFL or the transfer portal after Brent Venables took over the program after Lincoln Riley left for USC.

Luckily, we’ll get an early preview of the new era. UCF defensive end transfer Dylan Gabriel joins the Sooners on media day, along with junior defensive end Ethan Downs. Venables is a defensive 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 have not been chased. This makes them even more dangerous than usual.

Quarterback uncertainty

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

Four programs brought in potentially game-changing quarterbacks. Two of the most notable offseason moves were former Nebraska star Adrian Martinez arriving at Kansas State and former five-star prospect JT Daniels set to take over at West Virginia. Only four programs feature quarterbacks at media days, so trying to get information from others in attendance will be a fun game.

Spoilers try to rise

Two programs were left for dead in the Big 12 preseason poll: No. 9 Texas Tech and No. 10 Kansas. However, both programs have hired a great coaching staff over the past 18 months. We got to learn valuable information about the progress of the media days.

Kansas showed it’s headed in the right direction by beating Texas in overtime and followed it up with very competitive games against TCU and West Virginia. Texas Tech earned a winning record for the first time since 2015 before bringing in Texas high school football legend Joey McGuire to add a dose of 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 sweeping an opponent and derailing a season. Hearing the attitudes of players in both rebuilding programs will give us an early indication of whether the programs are optimistic.

Texas noise

Last season, Texas experienced its worst losing streak since 1957 and the worst first-year season by a head coach since Dana X. Bible in 1937. Regardless, the hype returned after Steve Sarkisian took over at transfer quarterback Quinn Ewers, who landed a top-5 recruiting class and earned a commitment from the gem of the 2023 recruiting class, Arch Manning, in the offseason.

Now the actual results on the field will take center stage as Sarkisian tries to bounce back from a miserable 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 a preview of whether the Longhorns can have the Big 12’s best offense.

Texas is the favorite to win the Big 12 in some sports betting. Needless to say, going 5-7 to the Big 12 Champions would be unprecedented.

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