2018 Big 12 Championship Game Picks: Texas vs. Oklahoma
Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners, Saturday December 1, 10 p.m. ET
It's always fun when a conference championship game also happens to be a showdown between hated rivals. It is easier for that to happen in the Big 12 than any other conference because they don't use divisions like every other conference. And the intensity of the hatred between the squads is only heightened after Texas served up Oklahoma's only loss of the year in the first meeting this year - also on a neutral field. The stakes are very high in this one - Oklahoma is fighting for a playoff spot, which they would be well positioned to get with a win and a Georgia loss. Texas can't go that far. However, beyond being able to play spoiler, a conference championship would be another huge boost to the Herman regime and further proof that the program is on the right track.
Texas vs. Oklahoma Betting Storylines
Kyler Murray isn't likely to win the Heisman unless Tua Tagovailoa falls on his face on Saturday. However, for a guy who is just killing time until he starts his baseball career, what he has done is incredible. Baker Mayfield won the Heisman last year, led his team to the playoffs, was drafted first overall in the NFL Draft, and is off to a heck of a start as a pro. Yet you could make a pretty solid argument that this offense is more dynamic and generally more dangerous under Murray. Murray is the first player in FBS history to average at least 300 passing yards and 60 rushing yards per game for a season, and this is the first offense ever to post more than 500 total yards of offense in at least nine games. The team has scored at least 45 points in each of the last eight games the team has played, and this is the top offense in both total yards and points scored. This is going to be a very tough test for the Texas defense.
The Longhorns have played better defensively in their last two than they have overall, but it has barely been an average defense on the year and has particular vulnerabilities against the pass. The last time these teams met, Murray went off for 304 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air and added a score and 92 yards on the ground. If anything, Murray is improved now from what we saw back then - more confident and determined - so it seems very reasonable to expect that Oklahoma is going to be able to score lots this time around.
So, can Texas score enough to keep things interesting? The short answer is - probably, yes. Sophomore QB Sam Ehlinger isn't as good as Murray, but his numbers are more than sound - 23 touchdowns and just four picks, with a completion rate north of 64 percent. And when you look back at his performance this year, what stands out most is that he is at his best when things are loose and defense isn't a priority. His four best passing days have been against Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. All of those teams have explosive offenses and defenses that are not exactly a priority. Oklahoma's defense ranks 110th nationally in totals yards allowed and 127th in passing yards. There are only 130 teams in the FBS. In other words, Oklahoma is a mess defensively - they have allowed an average of 47 points per game in their last four and are undefeated over that stretch. Texas is going to be able to score.
Texas vs. Oklahoma Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Oklahoma favored by 7.5, and that has since moved up slightly to eight points. A small majority of bets have come in on Texas, so the line movement suggests that sharp money is tilted slightly towards the Sooners. The total opened at 77.5, climbed up to 79 fairly quickly, and has dropped back to the opening level again.
The Longhorns are 13-5-2 ATS in their last 20 games against teams with winning records and 5-1 ATS in their last six neutral-site games. The Sooners are a dismal 2-9 ATS in their last 11 neutral-site games and a rough 0-3-1 ATS in their last four conference games.
Texas vs. Oklahoma Predictions and Picks
Our approach to the Oklahoma and West Virginia game worked, so we are going to go right back to it. I lean towards Oklahoma here, but this number is too big to be attractive. But it's not big enough to make Texas happily playable. But what is playable is the "over". It's a crazy high number, but this has serious makings of a shootout, and these teams could easily combine to go over this number. In fact, it feels like they will. The over is the play.
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