Welcome to Knight Sports Now’s new weekly feature, “Around the Big 12.” Each week of the 2023 season — UCF’s first in the Big 12 — we’ll be taking you back through the weekend that was in the conference. We’ll go team by team and result by result, finishing up with some quick thoughts on any results that impact the Knights.
For starters, we need a bit of an introduction of where the conference left off at the end of last year, don’t we? Today, we’ll go team by team and give a quick rundown of their 2022 season.
*We’ll go by the Big 12’s order of finish from last year, then we’ll dive into the four newcomers to round everything out.
**No, ensuing editions of Around the Big 12 won’t be this long.
***No, this won’t include Colorado, Utah, Arizona or Arizona State… yet.
- Kansas State (10-4, 7-2 Big 12 — Big 12 Champions)
Don’t forget that despite TCU’s remarkable run to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, it was Kansas State that won the Big 12 in 2022. The season started modestly enough for the Wildcats, as they beat South Dakota and Missouri to open the year. A 17-10 hiccup against eventual AAC champion Tulane followed, but that was quickly forgotten thanks to a 41-34 win at Oklahoma, the No. 6 team in the country at the time.
After beating the Sooners, the Wildcats beat Texas Tech at home and Iowa State on the road before another hiccup. This one was a 38-28 loss at No. 8 TCU, but they quickly rebounded with a 48-0 win against then-No. 9 Oklahoma State. The rebound was short-lived, though, as K-State came back out the next week and lost to Texas.
Wins at Baylor and West Virginia preceded a regular season-closing win against Kansas, and the Wildcats reached the Big 12 Championship Game. It was a real revenge game for Kansas State, as its 31-28 overtime win over TCU earned the program its first conference title since 2012. The reward for Chris Klieman’s team was a Sugar Bowl date with Alabama. That didn’t end well, as the Wildcats fell by a score of 45-20.
Player of the Year: Deuce Vaughn (293 carries, 1,558 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns; 42 catches, 378 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns)
- TCU (13-2, 9-0 Big 12 — Big 12 Runner-Up)
In so many ways, 2022 was a dream year for TCU. The Horned Frogs had one of the wildest seasons in recent memory, and they went from being picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 to crashing the College Football Playoff and playing for the national title. TCU finished the regular season 12-0, with wild wins against Kansas (38-31) Oklahoma State (43-40 in 2OT), Baylor (29-28).
By the time they played for the Big 12 title against Kansas State, it was pretty clear that the Horned Frogs would make the College Football Playoff no matter what happened. So while the overtime loss had to sting as it robbed them of a conference trophy, the story wasn’t over for Sonny Dykes’ first season in Fort Worth.
TCU played yet another thriller in the semifinal, beating No. 2 Michigan, 51-45, on New Year’s Eve to reach the national title game. It was there that the Cinderella run ended, though, as Georgia repeated as champions with a 65-7 thrashing of the Horned Frogs.
Player of the Year: Max Duggan (63.7%, 3,698 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, 8 interceptions; 137 carries, 423 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns)
- Texas (8-5, 6-3 Big 12)
It was another year of “what ifs” in Austin, as Texas failed to be “back” for yet another year. A 20-19 loss at No. 1 Alabama in Week 2 was a missed opportunity, and the loss of quarterback Quinn Ewers went on to hurt the Longhorns late in that game and then two weeks later when they lost 37-34 in overtime at Texas Tech.
After that 2-2 start, Texas won three straight. The biggest of those three victories was the second — a 49-0 dismantling of rival Oklahoma. But after getting to 5-2, Steve Sarkisian’s team lost two of its next three games, which ultimately would cost them a chance to play for the conference championship. Wins at Kansas and at home against Baylor got them to 8-4, but they will have felt they were destined for more in 2022.
It didn’t help that the Longhorns didn’t end the season on a high note, as they lost the Alamo Bowl, 27-20, to No. 12 Washington. Texas now heads into its final year in the Big 12 before departing for the SEC in 2024, and it will look to finish with its first conference title since 2009.
Player of the Year: Bijan Robinson (258 carries, 1,580 rushing yards, 18 rushing touchdowns; 19 catches, 314 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns)
- Texas Tech (8-5, 5-4 Big 12)
Depending on how 2023 goes, the Red Raiders may consider 2022 a warning shot. They finished above .500 in conference play for the first time since 2009 and they beat Texas and Oklahoma in the same season for the first time in program history. The season wasn’t without its challenges, though.
After starting 2-0 (including a win against No. 25 Houston), Texas Tech dropped its next game at No. 16 North Carolina State. An overtime win against Texas followed, but then came a back-to-back road losses against Kansas State and Oklahoma State. A win over West Virginia kept it from becoming a three-game losing streak, but then came two more losses to Baylor and TCU.
Joey McGuire’s group will look to build off its finish to the 2022 season, though. After sitting at 4-5, the Red Raiders beat Kansas, Iowa State (away) and Oklahoma to close the regular season. They made it a four-game winning streak to close the year, too, beating Ole Miss 42-25 in the Texas Bowl.
Player of the Year: Tyree Wilson (61 tackles, 36 solo, 7 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery)
- Oklahoma State (7-6, 4-5 Big 12)
Oklahoma State’s 2022 was chaotic. It started well, with the Cowboys going 6-1 in their first seven games (the one loss being by three in double overtime at TCU). But after the 6-1 start, everything spiraled out of control for Mike Gundy and his team.
A 48-0 loss at Kansas State was a sign of things to come, as Oklahoma State went on to lose 37-16 the next week at Kansas. A six-point win against Iowa State ended up being the Cowboys’ final win of the year, as they lost at Oklahoma on Nov. 19 before finishing the regular season with a 24-19 loss at home against West Virginia.
The poor finish to the season ended up being the least of Oklahoma State’s worries. They lost the Guaranteed Rate Bowl to Wisconsin, 24-17, before losing nearly 20 players to the transfer portal in the offseason — including eight starters.
Player of the Year: Jason Taylor II (99 tackles, 80 solo, 6 interceptions, 7 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery)
- Baylor (6-7, 4-5 Big 12)
Coming off of a Big 12 championship and Sugar Bowl win in 2021, Baylor started last season ranked in the top 10. The Bears didn’t last there for long, though, losing in double overtime at BYU in Week 2. After bouncing back with back-to-back wins, they then lost two straight to Oklahoma State (at home) and West Virginia (away).
Following a 3-3 start, Baylor began to get back on the right track. A 12-point home win over Kansas preceded back-to-back road wins at Texas Tech (45-17) and Oklahoma (38-35). With that, the Bears were 6-3 and bowl eligible.
But a bad stretch to end the season saw them finish 6-6. They lost 31-3 to No. 19 Kansas State, 29-28 to No. 4 TCU and 38-27 at No. 23 Texas. The Armed Forces Bowl didn’t provide Dave Aranda’s team with any reprieve either, as the season ended with a 30-15 loss to Air Force.
Player of the Year: Richard Reese (198 carries, 972 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns;
- Kansas (6-7, 3-6 Big 12)
Perennial losers, Kansas had an uncharacteristically good 2022 season. And there’s reason to believe they’re trending up under head coach Lance Leipold. The Jayhawks started the season 5-0 last year, thanks in large part to dynamic quarterback Jalon Daniels. They beat Tennessee Tech to start things off, then won a 55-42 overtime game at West Virginia the following week. Following its 2-0 start, Leipold’s team won a game at Houston (48-30) before returning home for back-to-back wins against Duke (35-27) and Iowa State (14-11).
An injury to Daniels began the second-half slide for Kansas, as it lost its next three games (vs. TCU, at Oklahoma and at Baylor). A 37-16 against No. 18 Oklahoma State snapped the losing streak, but that was the Jayhawks’ final win of the season. They lost to Texas Tech (away), Texas (home) and Kansas State (away) to close the regular season at 6-6.
Still, Kansas reached its first bowl game since 2008. It ended up being a thriller that they lost 55-53 to Arkansas in three overtimes. With Leipold and Daniels back in 2023, perhaps there’s more to come from the Jayhawks in the near future.
Player of the Year: Jalon Daniels (66.1%, 2,014 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions; 77 carries, 419 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns)
- Oklahoma (6-7, 3-6 Big 12)
Perennial winners, Oklahoma had an uncharacteristically bad 2022 season. Some of it was due to its porous defense, but some of it can just be chalked up to being on the wrong side of some close games. The Sooners were 0-5 in one-score games. The result was their first losing record since 1998, and now Brent Venables will look to rebound in year two — which is also his program’s final season in the Big 12.
With former UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel behind center, the Sooners started fast. They won their first three games comfortably, but things went downhill fast from there. A 41-34 loss to Kansas State was followed by a 55-24 defeat against TCU. Gabriel left that game after a brutal hit to the head, and that caused him to miss the following week’s game, which was a 49-0 loss to rival Texas.
Oklahoma won back-to-back games after its three-game losing streak, but subsequent losses to Baylor and West Virginia made it clear the season wasn’t salvageable. The Sooners split their final two regular season games to finish 6-6, then they lost the Cheez-It Bowl to No. 13 Florida State by a score of 35-32.
Player of the Year: Dillon Gabriel (62.7%, 3,168 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns, 6 interceptions; 89 carries, 315 rushing yards, 6 rushing touchdowns)
- West Virginia (5-7, 3-6 Big 12)
Outside of a 10-win season in 2016, the Mountaineers haven’t been much more than mediocre since joining the Big 12 in 2012. That continued in Neal Brown’s fourth season, as West Virginia went from back-to-back six-win seasons in 2020 and 2021 to a five-win campaign in 2022.
A wild 38-31 loss at No. 17 Pittsburgh started the season, then Brown’s team fell to 0-2 with a home overtime loss to Kansas. Wins against Towson and Virginia Tech followed, but returning to conference play against Texas after that meant returning to the loss column. A win against Baylor got the Mountaineers to 3-3, but they then lost three straight to fall to 3-6.
Beating Oklahoma 23-20 briefly kept West Virginia’s bowl hopes alive, but a 48-31 loss to Kansas State the next week was the team’s seventh loss. That meant the finale of their season would come against Oklahoma State, and they at least finished on a high note by beating the Cowboys 24-19.
Player of the Year: Bryce Ford-Wheaton (62 catches, 675 receiving yards, 7 receiving touchdowns)
- Iowa State (4-8, 1-8 Big 12)
It was an ugly 2022 for the Cyclones. They won their first three games, 42-10 against Southeast Missouri State, 10-7 at Iowa and 43-10 against Ohio. But that was about it for Matt Campbell’s team in his seventh season. They lost five straight after that, with four of them coming by one possession.
The offense didn’t get out of neutral during that five-game losing streak. After scoring 24 in a loss to Baylor, Iowa State scored 11 and nine points the next two weeks, respectively. The next two losses saw the team score 21 and 13 points, which wasn’t much of an improvement.
After losing five straight, the Cyclones stopped the bleeding for one week by beating West Virginia 31-14. From there, though, they lost their final three games (20-14 at Oklahoma State, 14-10 vs. Texas Tech and 62-14 at No. 4 TCU. Iowa State missed bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016.
Player of the Year: Xavier Hutchinson (107 catches, 1,171 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns)
UCF (9-4, 6-2 AAC)
For UCF, 2022 was a year of missed opportunities. A touchdown called back (an a bad showing by the offense) cost the Knights an early-season win over Louisville. After they rebounded to win the next four, there was buzz about them potentially hosting College GameDay against Cincinnati. All they had to do was beat East Carolina, but instead they lost 34-13 on the road.
Gus Malzahn’s squad bounced back well, racking up three consecutive wins — two over ranked opponents (25-21 vs. No. 20 Cincinnati and 38-31 at No. 17 Tulane. At 8-2, the Knights were in prime position to host the AAC Championship Game. Only they then lost 17-14 at home to Navy.
After surviving a near disaster at South Florida in the regular season finale, a beat-up UCF team was no match for Tulane a second time around. The Green Wave ran away with a 45-28 win and the conference title in UCF’s final AAC contest. The Military Bowl was just as disastrous, with the Knights losing 30-13 to Duke.
Player of the Year: John Rhys Plumlee (63%, 2,586 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns, 8 interceptions; 159 carries, 862 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns
Cincinnati (9-4, 6-2 AAC)
The 2022 season began with Cincinnati’s 22-game regular season win streak coming to an end with a 31-24 loss at No. 19 Arkansas. The regular season then finished with the end of the Bearcats’ 32-game winning streak at Nippert Stadium, with Tulane winning 27-24 to clinch a spot in the AAC Championship Game. Then, Luke Fickell left to take the head coaching job at Wisconsin.
Everything in between for the Bearcats was pretty much inconsequential. They beat Kennesaw State, Miami (Ohio), Indiana and Tulsa after their loss to Arkansas. Close calls against South Florida and SMU then came before a road loss at UCF. Then, after rebounding nicely from that loss to the Knights with wins over Navy, East Carolina and Temple, that season-ending loss to Tulane kept Cincinnati from three-praying as conference champions.
The Fickell-less Bearcats finished 2022 by losing the Fenway Bowl to Louisville, the former program of their new head coach, Scott Satterfield.
Player of the Year: Tyler Scott (54 catches, 899 receiving yards, 9 receiving touchdowns)
Houston (8-5, 5-3 AAC)
Dana Holgorsen’s Cougars were largely a disappointment. They began their season with a three-overtime win over UTSA before losing to future conference mates Texas Tech and Kansas. After a bounce-back win over Rice, Houston fell to 2-3 with an overtime loss to Tulane.
Wins at Navy and Memphis — then a win over South Florida — got the Cougars to 5-3, but they followed that three-game winning streak with a loss at SMU. Then, after wins over Temple and East Carolina, Holgorsen’s team lost its AAC finale to Tulsa, falling 37-30.
After a 7-5 regular season, Houston earned a spot in the Independence Bowl. The Cougars closed the season on a good note, beating Louisiana 23-16 to send their seniors off right.
Player of the Year: Clayton Tune (67.3%, 4,074 passing yards, 40 passing touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 128 carries, 546 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns)
In its final year as an independent, BYU overcame the loss of Zach Wilson and managed to win eight games. The season started strong, as the Cougars beat South Florida 50-21 before a double-overtime win over No. 9 Baylor. A loss at No. 25 Oregon was a quick hiccup, but BYU won its next two to get to 4-1 through five games.
A four-game losing streak in October badly damaged the Cougars’ season. They lost to Notre Dame, Arkansas, Liberty and East Carolina before finally recovering when November came around. Wins at Boise State and Stanford (with a 52-26 win over Utah Tech mixed in) got Kalani Sitake’s team to 7-5 at the end of the regular season.
BYU’s final game as an independent came in the New Mexico Bowl, and it was a 24-23 win over SMU. It was the fifth straight winning record for the Cougars and their 16th in the last 17 seasons.
Player of the Year: Jaren Hall (66%, 3,171 passing yards, 31 passing touchdowns, 6 interceptions; 86 carries, 346 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns)