Big 12 college football preview, Part 1: Projections, burning questions, favorite players

In the past five years, Baylor has gone 1-8, 4-5, 8-1, 2-7 and 7-2, respectively, in Big 12 play.

Texas has gone 7-2, 2-7, 5-3 and 3-6 in the past four.

Oklahoma State went 3-6 in 2018 and 8-1 in 2021. TCU went 7-2 in 2017 and has gone under .500 in three of the past four years.

No power conference offers upward (or downward) mobility like the Big 12. Sure, there are some stable entities -- Oklahoma hasn't lost more than two conference games since 2014, Texas Tech hasn't won more than three since 2015 and Kansas hasn't won more than one since 2008 -- but for just about everyone else, their stock can rise or fall pretty dramatically from one year to the next.

The common denominator? Close games. Baylor and Oklahoma State finished near the sport's pinnacle last season -- BU finished fifth in the AP poll, OSU seventh -- by going a combined 9-3 in one-score games. The year before, they went 5-5. Iowa State's 2021 campaign felt terribly disappointing, as the Cyclones went from 9-3 in 2020 to 7-6 with an experienced squad; their overall quality didn't fall much, but they went from 4-2 in one-score games to 2-5.

Even though we're looking at the bottom half of the Big 12 today, keep in mind that one of these teams is only a few tight wins away from a sudden leap. Let's preview the teams projected Nos. 6-10 in what might be college football's most interesting conference.

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 (No. 1-5) | Independents | Pac-12 South | Pac-12 North | ACC Atlantic | ACC Coastal