2017 Big 12 Football Predictions with Betting Odds and Expert Analysis
Forget the odds. The Big 12 features the most wide-open race in college football.
The Big 12 has five teams currently in the Top 25, and a sixth (TCU) is the next team off the list. The league has only 10 teams. So if six of them are among the best 26 squads in the country then that makes the league the densest group of talent in the nation. And because the Big 12 plays a true round robin format, with every team playing one another, there aren't the same gaps and unbalanced schedule-laden mirages in this league that you get with some others.
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Further, the Big 12 has finally reinstituted a conference championship game. This will give the league, which has been repeatedly snubbed by both the BCS and the playoff selection committees, an opportunity for a late-season showcase to prove that its clubs are among the sport's elite.
Here are Doc's Sports 2017 Big 12 Conference football predictions (with odds to win the conference title in parentheses):
The Favorite: Oklahoma (+100)
When Bob Stoops took over at Oklahoma, current Sooners coach Lincoln Riley wasn't even old enough to drive a car. But Riley was thrust to the forefront of one of the most successful programs in the country when Stoops shockingly stepped aside this summer. The causes and consequences of Stoops' departure will be debated and determined, respectively. But regardless of who is leading them, the Sooners enter the season as a national title contender. Baker Mayfield guides a sensational offense that welcomes back nine starters from last year's 44-points-per-game group. And defensively OU has seven starters, six of their top eight tacklers, and a stacked secondary back in the fold. The Sooners ended last season with 10 straight wins and closed the year with four straight victories against Top 25 opponents by an average of 21 points per game. OU will be tested early - they travel to Ohio State in Week 2 - and often - league road games at Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. But they have the firepower to make some serious noise.
The Challenger: Oklahoma State (+300)
It will be nearly impossible to stop this Oklahoma State offense this season. Mason Rudolph and James Washington are both four-year starters and one of the most prolific QB-WR combos in college football. They have four senior starters along the offensive line and a second team all-Big 12 running back in Justice Hill. I will be stunned if this group doesn't average 40 points per game. So the question becomes: can the Cowboys defense get enough stops to make OSU a title contender? Oklahoma State's defense excels at forcing turnovers. But I always have a problem trusting heavy favorites with a defense that struggles to generate stops on its own. And that's OSU. They will face a host of monster spreads this year. And they won't continue their against the spread success (72-51 ATS L10 years) if they can't bow their backs on defense.
The Dark Horse: Texas (+300)
Odds, and wagers, on the Longhorns to win the Big 12 and reestablish themselves as a national power have surged over the past two months. Everyone is on the Longhorns' bandwagon right now. So I guess all they have to do is deliver. New coach Tom Herman inherits a stacked squad. Charlie Strong did a great job recruiting and seasoning this roster. And their 17 returning starters makes the Longhorns one of the most experienced teams in the Big 12. The key for this group will be how quickly they can adapt to Herman's new offense. Defensively I expect this group to be more than fine. Overwhelming even. But the key will be generating enough points to keep up with teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. We're going to get a great sense of this team early on as they take on USC on Sept. 16. And how they perform there will give us a great barometer on what the true ceiling is for this group. But as the hype builds around this sleeper team the value continues to wilt.
The X-Factor: Kansas State (+650)
If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times: Bill Snyder is a god damn national treasure. He is one of the best coaches in college football history, and he has been a pure moneymaker for backers over the past decade. Snyder's charges have gone 71-53 ATS over the last 10 seasons, and he is again armed with an undervalued group heading into the fall. Jesse Ertz is a dual-threat quarterback and the focal point of a Top 25 rushing attack. K-State has loads of power and experience along the offensive line, at tight end and at fullback, and this team should be able to steamroll some of the lighter Big 12 defenses. Their own stop unit will be a work in progress after losing five of their top eight players. But they were in the Top 25 in scoring last season. And if they are even close to that again this year then the Wildcats could be a sleeper team to make the Big 12 title game.
The Disappointment: Baylor (+2500)
I felt that the Bears overachieved last year amidst a rash of off-field issues. The bottom didn't drop out for the Bears last year. But I think it could this season. They hired new coach Matt Rhule, erstwhile of Temple, and I don't think that his style and system fits with what the Bears had been doing at all. Further, Baylor's dirty secret over their five-year renaissance was that the Bears routinely benefited from some of the easiest schedules in the country. They aren't so lucky this year. They have two layups at home in the nonconference and draw weak sister Iowa State in Waco. But their three easiest games past that are all on the road, and I don't think this transitioning team will have enough to take down any of the top half of the league. I think Baylor's bowl streak will get snapped at six.
TCU (+800) - Gary Patterson's group was all over the map last season. They knocked off No. 13 Baylor and nearly took down Arkansas and Oklahoma. But they also lost to Texas Tech and got thumped during a 2-4 late-season slide. But TCU is stacked with one of the most experienced teams in the nation, including 10 offensive starters (17 returning starters total). Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill was erratic last year. But if he can reign things in and take care of the ball then the Horned Frogs could see a massive leap in scoring output. The strength of the defense will be the secondary, with a trio of three-year starters and four upperclassmen manning the back line. TCU has to travel to Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Oklahoma this year. But it wouldn't stun me to see them win at least two of those games. This team will definitely be in the mix for the Big 12 championship.
Texas Tech (+3000) - The luster has clearly worn off Kliff Kingsbury, who is entering his fifth year in Lubbock. Kingsbury has conned his way to a pair of bowl games thanks to some of the softest schedules in the country. But he is just 24-26 in his four seasons, and the Red Raiders haven't even been close to a threat in the Big 12. Nor do they appear to be this season either. Kingsbury has to replace first-round draft pick Pat Mahomes at quarterback. And after giving up nearly 44 points per game each of the past two seasons, the Red Raiders desperately need to find some answers on defense. Tough nonconference games against Arizona State and Houston won't leave this group any margin for error.
Iowa State (+1800) - Paul Rhoads was able to lift this team to respectability for about five minutes from 2009-2012. But Iowa State hasn't topped the three-win mark over the past four seasons and can't even be considered an also-ran near the bottom of the Big 12. This year's squad is weak along the offensive and defensive lines. But if they can get a big jump in production from former Georgia recruit Jacob Park at quarterback then they might be good for an upset or two. But it would be nothing short of miraculous if this team won six games to get back to a bowl.
Kansas (+5000) - Every day deeper into football they get is one day closer to basketball season for the Jayhawks. David Beaty is trying his hardest. But Kansas hasn't even approached respectability since ousting Mark Mangino in 2009. They have gone just 14-70 straight up this decade, and this team is just cashing checks.
West Virginia (+10000) - Apparently Dana Holgorsen has nine lives in Morgantown. He was able to wiggle his way off the hot seat yet again last year thanks to a 10-win campaign that earned him a contract extension. However, Holgorsen is back to square one this year with one of the least experienced teams in the country. Holgorsen has just eight starters back and is breaking in a new quarterback, Florida transfer Will Grier. WVU's defense lost 8 of its top 11 (and 12 of its top 19) tacklers and is completely green. And if this group doesn't beat either Virginia Tech in the opener or win at Kansas in the road opener then I don't see them getting to bowl eligibility. Holgorsen has increased the Mountaineers' win total each of the past three years. He won't be that lucky this season.
Projected Big 12 Standings
4. Oklahoma State
5. Kansas State
6. Texas Tech
9. Iowa State
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