The Big 12 is changing fast. No, it’s not about conference realignment, the departure of certain schools, and the future of expansion. Coaches who were once conference staples have departed for greener pastures over the past five seasons.
Lincoln Riley is now out west intent on bringing a national title to USC. Gary Patterson is now training as an analyst in Texas after a two-decade career at TCU.
Kansas State veteran coach Bill Snyder will be leaving for four years this fall. Meanwhile, Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas have continually been looking for a long-term head-coaching answer since the days of Mack Brown, Mike Leach and Mark Mangino, respectively.
The roster will change next year with the arrival of BYU’s Kalani Sitake, Central Florida’s Gus Malzahn, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell and Houston’s Dana Holgorsen, but which coach has earned the right to be called the No. 1 as of 2022?
Here are RedRaiderReview’s Big 12 trainer rankings after the media days:
10. Joey McGuire – Texas Tech
McGuire ranks last due to experience. Not only has he never been a head coach at the FBS or FCS level, but McGuire has also never been a coordinator. That said, the veteran high school coach ran Cedar Hill as a lower-tier college during his 14 seasons at the helm.
He is also considered one of the top recruiters in the state. He buys stock in McGuire and the future of the Red Raiders now before it’s too late.
9. Brent Venables-Oklahoma
Like McGuire, Venables has never been a head coach. Unlike McGuire, the veteran Clemson assistant has been regarded as one of the best defensive minds in college football since his days on Bob Stoops’ staff in the 2000s. During his time at both schools, Venables has helped the defenses to finish in the top 10 nationally while also keeping his team in the running for more than 10 winning seasons and appearances in the College Football Playoff.
Venables was only willing to give up his coordinator role for the right job. He’ll be fine down the draft path, but what about on the field as the final decision maker?
8. Neal Brown – West Virginia
If there’s a conference coach on the bench, Brown is the default pick. Two underperforming seasons in Morgantown is not what fans expected from Troy’s former coach when he was hired. He very well could be training for his job after losing over 20 players on the transfer portal.
The good news is that the Mountaineers have a new offensive coordinator in Graham Harrell and perhaps the best quarterback in the conference in former Georgia starter JT Daniels. Will the duo be enough to get West Virginia over the hump and back into contention?
7. Steve Sarkisian – Texas
He has to prove it this year. Some might consider this too low, but after floundering in the second half of games, Sarkisian and his catchphrase “All Gas” ran out of gas while the fan base ran out of patience. The first-year coach finished with the worst record for a new play since 1937 and also led Texas to its worst losing streak since 1956.
Sure, adding quarterbacks Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning helps, but winning the draft battle is half the job. Winning games on the real course is the second part and a requirement in Forty Acres.
So far, Sarkisian has shown he can be a nine-win coach once since taking over in Washington in 2009.
6. Sonny Dykes – TCU
At the Group of Five level, Dykes could end up being one of the top names. He led SMU to a 30-18 record during his five seasons and the first 10-win season since 1983. He also did a great job of winning not only in the draft but also on the transfer portal with proven talent.
For now, Dykes has to prove he can show similar potential in the Big 12. During his time at Cal, he went 19-30 and finished over .500 once. He has conference experience, coaching for Texas Tech and TCU for seven seasons. Dykes also has a head start in recruiting from the DFW area, giving the Horned Frogs an edge.
5. Lance Leipold – Kansas
To begin with, Leipold beat Sarkisian toe-to-toe, giving him the upper hand. Second, he has won everywhere he has been since his early days in Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. In eight years with the Warhawks, he posted a 109-6 record and won six DIII national titles. In Buffalo, Leipold led the Bulls to three winning seasons and a Top 25 finish in 2020.
The Jayhawks were also competitive in games against Oklahoma, TCU and West Virginia to go along with the win over Texas. That hasn’t happened in over a decade. Keep an eye on the Jayhawks to improve for years to come thanks to Leipold’s coaching.
4. Chris Kleiman – Kansas State
Klieman is a proven winner. He won four national titles at North Dakota State and lost four games in five seasons overall. Outside of a negative year from COVID-19, he has won eight games a season in Manhattan since he was hired in 2019.
The Wildcats are expected to be a dark horse in the conference this season with the arrival of quarterback Adrian Martinez. Klieman has improved the program each year, not only in the recruiting route but also in field production. By this time next season, Kleiman could be at the top of this list and be the face of the future of the Big 12.
3. Matt Campbell – Iowa State
As a leader, few would match Campbell for the top spot. As a coach? The 2022 season will tell how big his potential can be at Ames. A season after leading the Cyclones to an AP top 10 finish, the shine faded, leading to a 7-6 finish, with five of the six losses coming by one touchdown.
Iowa State enters a new era of football. Gone are the likes of Mike Rose, Greg Eisworth, Charlie Kolar and Breece Hall. Enter new faces like running back Jirehl Brock, receiver Joe Scates and defensive back Anthony Johnson. Was 2020 a one-year wonder, or will Campbell keep Iowa State in contention with conference realignment?
2. Dave Aranda-Baylor
The silent ones are always the hardest to crack. The Big 12 found out last December that Baylor is back and Aranda is the main reason why. His training style is unorthodox. His cool and calm demeanor won’t work on every show, but he excels in Waco.
Baylor is coming off its first 12-win season in program history. While the Bears are replacing a plethora of talent, they remain the favorites to win the conference before 2022. The reason? Aranda. And in a new conference realignment, who’s to say he’s not the next Gary Patterson or Bob Stoops?
1. Mike Gundy – Oklahoma State
With Patterson in Fort Worth, Gundy is now the godfather of the Big 12. He is the longest tenured coach in the conference and the most proven in terms of wins. The Cowboys have posted 16 consecutive winning seasons, seven of which ended with 10-plus wins. OK-State has also finished in the Top 25 ranking nine times, twice inside the top 10.
Gundy is as consistent as it gets. He is arguably one of the top 10 coaches in the sport and continues to send talent to the pros. Riley goes to the Pac-12, leaving the top spot open among the coaches. Gundy takes the title for 2022 and there really isn’t a close second.
You can follow Cole Thompson on Twitter at @MrColeThompson
Follow the Red Raider review on Facebook Y Twitter!
Follow the Texas Tech Red Raiders Daily Blitz Podcast HERE
Want more Red Raiders news? Check out the latest Texas tech news here