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Gundy Says Big 12 May Return to Its Offensive Roots in 2022

Point totals could rise in 2022.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Mike Gundy has been around college football enough that when he makes a prediction about the sport’s landscape, he is usually right.

Whether it be the transfer portal’s effects on the per class scholarship limit or eventual playoff expansion (which seems to be coming eventually), Gundy isn’t often too far off on the road he thinks college football is going down. He made another prediction this week with Dave Hunziker that should excite those who enjoy points. Gundy said he thinks the Big 12 could be turning back into an offensive league with some of the conference’s recent coaching hires. And it sounds as if OSU might partake in the high-octane fun.

“What’s gonna be interesting in this league is this: From what I see, the outside looking in, is TCU is now gonna become a turbo, fast-paced team with [Sonny Dykes],” Gundy said. “Texas Tech is gonna run the all no-huddle, throw passes, old Mike Leach deal. That’s new. OU is gonna try to play faster than anybody in the league. I was told Kansas State is playing fast now. West Virginia has the capability, Neal (Brown) has got it, whether he wants to do it or not, he can. We’re gonna do it.”

Oklahoma led the conference in scoring in 2021, averaging 39.1 points per game. In 2015, four Big 12 teams averaged more than 41 points a game. In 2015, Big 12 teams scored at least 44 points on another Big 12 team 25 times. That happened just 15 times in 2021.

The league once known for gaudy yardage totals and Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield playing in a game that ended 66-59 with 1,708 yards of total offense had found a way to rein things in because of strong defensive minds like Dave Aranda, Gary Patterson, Jim Knowles and Matt Campbell. While Aranda and Campbell will still be a part of the league in 2022, they’ll have some new competition.

TCU hired Sonny Dykes of the Mike Leach coaching tree. Dykes has spent the past four seasons as SMU’s head coach, where the Mustangs averaged 41.8 points a game in 2019, 38.6 points a game in 2020 and 38.4 points a game last season. Someone from Leach’s coaching tree has to be quite a bit different than Patterson’s sustained defensive success.

Joey McGuire was hired as Texas Tech’s coach. Although McGuire has more of a defensive background, he added Zach Kittley as his offensive coordinator. Kittley was the offensive coordinator Western Kentucky last season. The Hilltoppers averaged 44.2 points per game, second in the FBS.

Oklahoma also made a defensive head coach hire with Brent Venables, but Venables added Jeff Lebby as his OC. Lebby has spent time under Art Briles and most recently Lane Kiffin, two revered offensive minds in college football. For what it’s worth, Ole Miss mustered a measly 7 points against Aranda and Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.

Gundy wondered how, if at all, national perception will change this time around if the Big 12 goes back to busting bulbs on scoreboards. The Big 12 still hasn’t totally escaped the stereotype of not playing defense despite more games being played at a Big Ten and SEC pace the past few seasons. Gundy brought up the example of how no one said anything when Mayfield and OU got in the College Football Playoff in 2017 and hung 31 points against Georgia in the first half before falling 54-48. The SEC’s ability to play defense wasn’t called into question.

“There’s a lot of coaches across the country and media that downplayed the coordinators in this league [from] about 2011ish to 2019ish,” Gundy said. “Then we saw the teams in this league that were averaging 45 points a game would go play in a bowl against a team from another conference that had a top-ranked defense and got 50 hung on them. That’s a non-bipartisan part of the media that never would look in the eye and say, ‘We were wrong.'”

It’s an interesting time in the conference’s history. Style of play aside, the league’s brand names are prepping for an exit, and four new programs are joining next year. Then on the field, Baylor, the Big 12’s reigning champs, probably won’t subscribe to the high-octane offensive style that Gundy is foreshadowing while teams elsewhere around the conference seem to be stocking up offensive firepower through recent hires.

“If you look at the teams in this league, you say, ‘OK, Iowa State is probably not gonna play real fast,'” Gundy said. “Kansas was starting to do it, but I’m gonna say maybe no. Baylor, I’m going to say maybe no. The other schools, whatever’s left, they’re gonna play fast. So, it’s gonna transition right back to myself, (Kliff) Kingsbury, Dana (Holgorsen), (Art) Briles — back when we had six or seven teams that were playing lightning fast, now it’s looking like it’s gonna go back to that again.”

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