Big 12 college football preview, Part 2: Burning questions, projections for conference's top teams

Almost no team in college football has been as consistently awesome as the Oklahoma Sooners. Over the past 85 seasons, they have finished in the AP top 10 45 times with shares of 47 conference titles and just six losing records. They've made basically two bad hires (Howard Schnellenberger and John Blake) since World War II.

In 2022, the Sooners will be wearing Sooner jerseys and Sooner helmets and working out of the Sooners locker room. Many key players will be former blue-chippers, as a majority of OU players tend to be, and the head coach has previous experience at OU and knows what he's getting into.

Is that enough to overcome extreme turnover?

Head coach Lincoln Riley left for USC and took some key players and assistants with him, leading to the return of former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables as his replacement. The transfer portal took 15 players away and brought in 13 new ones. Of the 17 Sooners who saw 300-plus snaps on offense, only seven return. The overall talent on the roster is not in doubt, but OU is projected fifth in SP+ for reasons that don't have a lot to do with the Sooners team that will take the field in 2022.

That makes OU a lot like Clemson (projected sixth overall), and it makes the Big 12 a lot like the ACC -- if projections go as planned, each race has a clear favorite. But there are tons of unknowns, and if OU isn't the favorite, I have no idea who is. That's awfully exciting. We previewed the bottom half of the league last week, so it's time to preview the top half.

Every week through the offseason, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 131 FBS teams. The previews will include 2021 breakdowns, 2022 previews and burning questions for each team.

Earlier previews: MWC West | MWC Mountain | AAC (Nos. 6-11) | AAC (Nos. 1-5) | MAC East | MAC West | Sun Belt West | Sun Belt East | Conference USA (Nos. 6-11) | Conference USA (Nos. 1-5) | Independents | Pac-12 South | Pac-12 North | ACC Atlantic | ACC Coastal | Big 12 (Nos. 6-10)