Big 12 Conference Championship Odds: Is the Conference Still Oklahoma’s To Lose?
By: Travis Pulver
When ‘Big Game Bob’ stepped down at Oklahoma, the rest of the Big 12 breathed a sigh of relief. Fan bases across the conference thought (hoped) the mighty Sooners would fall from grace. But they haven’t. With new head coach Lincoln Riley leading the way, the Sooners won the last three conference titles.
But there is a reason to believe that could change. It’s not because the Sooners are going to struggle this season or anything like that. Riley inherited an incredibly good situation, a superstar starting quarterback in Baker Mayfield and a future superstar in Kyler Murray. When Jalen Hurts transferred in, the streak continued.
However, this coming season, he does not have a superstar in waiting on his roster or looking to transfer to Norman. Now he does have Spencer Rattler in the wings, the highest-rated quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class.
If he can live up to the hype, then the rest of the conference might want to accept that second place may be their ceiling. But if he doesn’t, or takes too long to get on track, someone else could take control of the division.
Big 12 Conference Championship Odds: Will Someone Knock the Sooners Off Their Pedestal?
At this point in the offseason, the DraftKings oddsmakers don’t see anyone knocking the Sooners off (Big 12 Odds: -143). It is not hard to see why. In the Big 12, offense is key, and Lincoln Riley has proven he can work wonders on that side of the ball.
Now, he has had the benefit of having a Heisman caliber quarterback and first-round talent at wide receiver. It is not clear if he has a similar wide receiver on the roster this year, but expectations are high for Spencer Rattler.
At the same time, expectations are just as high in Austin for the Texas Longhorns (Big 12 odds: +175). But is that because they are that good, or because we are talking about Texas? No team gets the benefit of the doubt quite like the Longhorns do for some reason.
Sam Ehlinger is an excellent quarterback, and the rest of the roster looks pretty good on paper, too. However, talent has not been an issue for Texas. Figuring out how to get something out of it has been, though. Tom Herman hired new coordinators this season, but maybe he is the problem.
With the return of Heisman-hopeful Chuba Hubbard, the Oklahoma State Cowboys (+450) could be the team to watch. He could use a better offensive line and some more help from Spencer Sanders and the passing game.
But all the offensive help in the world will matter little if the defense allows 32.5 points a game again.
The Longer Shot Big 12 Championship Odds
Iowa State has the fourth-best odds in the conference (+1000). Matt Campbell has done a good job with the Cyclones but will likely need someone to emerge if Iowa State is going to win the conference. If Baylor doesn’t lose a step under Dave Aranda, they could be a steal at +1800.
West Virginia (+1800) was not great last season, but Mountaineers Fans are optimistic that the second season under new head coach Neal Brown is going to go much better. They appeared to find their starting quarterback towards the end of the season last year. But for West Virginia to win the conference, they are going to need a lot of guys to step up/improve.
Kansas State (+2200) didn’t miss a beat under Chris Klieman going 8-5 in his first season. They were a good team and should be a little better with their starting quarterback and running back returning. However, since they are replacing their entire offensive line, a step back may be more likely.
As for TCU, the Horned Frogs have one of the better coaches in the conference in Gary Patterson. But he will need to have quite a few players emerge this season along with the further maturation of quarterback Max Duggan. TCU (+2800) will likely be a more competitive team this year than last, but good enough to win the conference?
That may be a bit of a stretch.
It may be even harder to see Texas Tech (+4000) winning it all, though. The Red Raiders went 4-8 last year and 2-7 in conference play but were competitive in most of the losses. Key roles are going to need new guys to step in and contribute immediately, and quarterback Alan Bowman will have to stay healthy—and improve.
Then there’s Kansas (+10000). Does the outlook and possibility of them winning anything of significance need to be discussed? Les Miles may have them competitive in a few years, but banking on them this year would be a questionable decision.
So—who should you bet on?
Conventional wisdom would say to stick with Oklahoma and trust in Lincoln Riley. But the Cowboys have some real talent and a good, veteran head coach. Losing Matt Rhule could be fatal for Baylor, but the Bears hired Dave Arranda for a reason. Who knows— maybe this year, Texas will be back (again).
The Big 12 may not have a College Football Playoffs-caliber team (or at least not an obvious one), but the conference does have several good teams. Any of them could win the conference this year. Yes, even Kansas.