2014 Odds to Win the Big 12 Conference for College Football with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 7/23/2014
The Big 12 was, not too long ago, a very mighty conference that was always nationally relevant. The last few years have not been particularly kind, though. They lost the conference realignment battle in a big way. The marquee program, Texas, has been a punchline. Oklahoma hasn't done enough to fill in the gaps. Baylor has been a bright light but not yet on a truly national scale. Other programs - Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas Tech - have had their moments but haven't been able to maintain it. It all just adds up to a disappointing conference. Someone has to win it, though, and picking that winner is something we can bet on. Here are the odds to win the Big 12 for college football, with picks and predictions as well:
The odds (from Bovada)
Kansas State (10/1)
Oklahoma State (10/1)
Texas Tech (33/1)
West Virginia (66/1)
Iowa State (100/1)
Breaking it all down
Oklahoma: There is a lot to like about Oklahoma. They are coming off a huge bowl win against Alabama. They not only have an excellent quarterback in Trevor Knight but also a strong backup, Baker Mayfield, a Big 12 Player of the Week last year at Texas Tech, who has transferred and is expected to be eligible this year because he was a walk-on. They have a defense that should easily be the best in the conference. They also have a schedule that suits them well - they face their best opponents at home or at the Cotton Bowl. Add it all up and they are deservedly in the driver's seat in the conference. There is a concern, though - Bob Stoops. This is not the first time in recent years that Stoops has come into the season with a highly-touted team poised to shine in the conference and beyond. Each previous time he has found a way to fall short. Does he still have what it takes to deliver a champion? You'd better hope so if you are willing to bet at this price. For me, I believe that they will win the division but not enough to find any value here.
Baylor: QB Bryce Petty is the best offensive player in the Big 12. He leads an offense that has lost seven starters, but their system made them incredibly potent last year, and there is no reason to doubt that they will be explosive with the ball again. If, that is, an offensive line that has gone through a lot of changes can perform at a high level. That is really the problem with this team. They have lots of talent, but uncertainty in key spots - o-line, secondary, receiver - makes it tough to completely trust them. They also have to travel to both Texas and Oklahoma. Their chances of winning it and defending their very rare Big 12 title are not accurately reflected by this price.
Texas: Charlie Strong has already faced a massive adjustment to the realities of coaching at Texas, and that is only going to amplify for the quiet Strong as the season begins. There will be growing pains. There will also be pain at quarterback - mostly because he doesn't have one he can trust. This team has been lousy for a couple of years now. They have some talent and should be better than they are, but expecting too much out of Strong too soon is a recipe for disaster. Having Texas at this price at this point in their progression is a clear sign of just how much of a public team they are.
Kansas State: The Wildcats started 2-4 last year. They finished 6-1. Schedule had something to do with that, but they also played a much better overall brand of football in the second half. They need to carry that forward. There are some nice pieces - Jake Waters is a very promising quarterback, and he has a strong line and a loaded receiving corps to work with. There is a lot to like, though they face a tough schedule - with trips to both Oklahoma and Baylor being the lowlights. Still, if you are looking for a long shot in the conference to embrace you couldn't do any better than this.
Oklahoma State: They lost 28 seniors (!). They have a very tough schedule. It all adds up to a rebuilding year. The fact that they are at the same price as Kansas State only makes the Wildcats more attractive.
TCU: The Big 12 has not been kind to TCU so far. They are clearly not in the Mountain West anymore, and their struggles on offense last year in part reflected the increase competition level. The defense is going to be solid again, so it all comes down to whether they can kickstart that offense. I am optimistic, but only sort of - they will be improved and will make a bowl game again after falling short last year, but hey aren't ready for prime time.
Texas Tech: It is very tough to judge this team in Kliff Kingsbury's second year. On offense they should be better as their QB play should be more stable, and the offensive line is better. Defense was a big issue last year, though - especially on the line - and we don't know how improved that will be just yet. They looked heavily to junior colleges to fill their defensive gaps, so believing in them requires a leap of faith. Add it all up, though, and they deliver at least a touch of value as serious long shots here.
Iowa State and West Virginia: I'll throw these two together because they have no chance of winning, few reasons to get excited, and I don't feel like writing much about them.
Kansas: Is Charlie Weis still coaching at Kansas? Yes. And that marks the end of our need to handicap this team. Disaster awaits. And any team that would hire Weis deserves every bit of it.
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