After a season with no CFP entrants, the Big 12 looks to rebound and even expand on their recent Power 5 success when it comes to the top of the conference. The last few years, we have seen this conference appear as though it was Oklahoma’s to lose, with teams like Texas and Oklahoma State being a thorn in their side.
This season, we could have the best Oklahoma team under Riley and 2 other true contenders in the conference that can convince themselves that they are ripe for a playoff berth this season in Texas and Iowa State. While the rest of the conference is a long shot, we could definitely see a dark horse or two pop up in a conference that is known to have their fair share of upsets and Cinderella stories.
Sooners Look to Maintain Dominance
Oklahoma, -165 to win the conference, has dominated the Big 12 since 2015, even though it hasn’t been in truly dominant fashion. They never look unbeatable and it’s never out of the realm of possibilities that they slip up; we know that they’ll have a chance at the title late in the season. Oklahoma returns their most defensive talent since Lincoln Riley took over and this is what Oklahoma backers will hang their hat on, especially within the Big 12. The national outlook for the Sooners will likely start with the return of Spencer Rattler while CFP usuals Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State all lose first-round QBs.
In the Big 12, I think that the emergence of a truly good defense will be enough to get Oklahoma over their usual slip-ups that occur in games where they are turnover-riddled. The defense has been inconsistent at best in recent years and it always makes Sooner backers uncomfortable when they do get into a close game. I expect the most consistent Oklahoma team of the Riley era and we will have to depend on Rattler to keep the offensive output high. I don’t love the receivers relative to some other OU teams, but if we see a healthy Jadon Haselwood alongside Marvin Mims, they should remain a top 10 offense with ease.
Dealing with the Hype
Iowa State and Texas are the two teams that we expect to give Oklahoma a real run for their money this season at +375 each. Iowa State had really used the Covid-19 eligibility forgiveness to their advantage returning close to their entire team while Texas hired the OC of one of the best offenses in CFB history last season.
My biggest concern with Iowa State is their lack of offensive dominance in a conference that will produce points at some point. While I expect Iowa State to be favored in almost every single game, they are bound to play in too many close games to bet on at this price.
I like the offensive upside of Texas, but their two biggest issues under Herman were personnel development and recruiting, two things that are almost impossible to turn around in year 1 for a coach. If Texas were a great offensive mind away from being a powerhouse, this number would make sense, but Sark can’t bring in 10 5-Stars and add 4% of muscle to each player in one offseason.
My Favorite Longshot
TCU has more talent than they have had in recent years with a former 5-star running back in his second year and 3 QBs that other teams would feel comfortable starting if necessary. While I don’t think they are headed to the CFP, I do think they have the chance to prop themselves up early in the season with a win against Texas.
Their schedule isn’t very friendly with games at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State, but if they could escape their toughest 4 games at 2-2, I think they have a chance to slip into the title game and give you a nice hedge opportunity.
Oklahoma is the best bet here, even at -165, but I don’t mind sprinkling TCU at +1600 for a bit of a deeper bet. I don’t even mind them together with hedge opportunities later in the season, as we aren’t betting TCU to go undefeated anyways.