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Big 12 Football: Oklahoma Eyes Fifth Consecutive Title

Odds to win the 2019 Big 12 Title

Since the beginning of the College Football Playoff format in the 2014-15 season, there has been a Big 12 squad that has been in the mix to compete for the national championship in three of the five seasons. It just so happens that it was the same team over those three appearances, the Oklahoma Sooners, who are favored to win a fifth Big 12 championship in a row.

Online sportsbook Bovada has the Oklahoma Sooners as the -125 favorites to win the Big 12 championship, followed by the Texas Longhorns at +285, the Iowa State Cyclones at +1050, the West Virginia Mountaineers at +1100, the Baylor Bears, Oklahoma State Cowboys and TCU Horned Frogs at +2000, the Texas Tech Red Raiders at +2200, the Kansas State Wildcats at +4000 and the Kansas Jayhawks at +10000 to round out the conference.

Red River Showdown for the Title Again?

Heading into the 2019 season, from a betting perspective it is Oklahoma, Texas and the rest. A similar story could have been written last year as the Sooners and Longhorns were the only two teams in the conference to finish with double-digit wins. Oklahoma finished 12-2, including 8-1 in the conference, and Texas was a step behind at 10-4 (7-2 in the Big 12). The two met in the Red River Showdown with the Longhorns collecting a narrow 48-45 road victory. However, OU earned revenge with a 39-27 win in the Big 12 championship game.

A big issue for Oklahoma last year was its defense, which ranked 107th in yards allowed per game and 96th in points allowed per game. This issue may have cost the Sooners a shot at a championship as they were able to score 34 points against Alabama in the Orange Bowl but surrendered 45 points.

They are hoping they have rectified this issue with the hiring of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who spent time with Washington State and Ohio State. Offensively, the Sooners lost 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray but have brought in former Alabama starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, so they should be just fine.

Youth is the key word to Texas’ upcoming season. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger took a major step forward in his second season last year, improving in nearly every aspect of the game, while the team hopes a similar story can be written for running back Keaontay Ingram as he heads into his second season.

Defensively, the Longhorns return just three starters from the 2018 campaign and the squad doesn’t have a ton of time to jell before hosting LSU in Week 2. Although the team is very young, Texas has had back-to-back years of ranking in the top three in recruiting so the talent is there. It’s just a matter of whether they perform at the next level.

Value Outside of the Favorites

Oklahoma State (+2000) was a very frustrating team in 2018, earning victories over ranked squads Boise State, Texas and West Virginia while falling 48-47 at Oklahoma. However, the Cowboys then lost at home to Texas Tech and Iowa State and lost at Kansas State as well.

Heading into 2019, there could be a quarterback battle between redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders and Hawaii transfer Dru Brown. The pieces around them are solid and much of the defense is returning, outside of the d-line, so if one of the QBs can take the bull by the horns, the Cowboys could potentially shake up the Big 12.

The Baylor Bears (+2000) took a big jump forward, from 1-11 in 2017 to a victory over Vanderbilt in the Academy Sports and Outdoors Texas Bowl to finish with a 7-6 record in 2018. The Bears were gobbled up by Oklahoma and West Virginia but did play tough in Texas, falling 23-17.

There are a lot of returning players, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and Charlie Brewer also returns at the helm. Baylor had a decent offense, ranking 63rd, but the defense needs to take a step forward from its No. 87 ranking last year. I do think the Bears are a step behind talent-wise but they have the potential to create an upset or two that could make significant waves in the conference.

2019 Big 12 College Football Conference Betting Odds
Oklahoma Sooners-125
Texas Longhorns+285
Iowa State Cyclones+1050
West Virginia Mountaineers+1100
Baylor Bears+2000
Oklahoma State Cowboys+2000
TCU Horned Frogs+2000
Texas Tech Red Raiders+2200
Kansas State Wildcats+4000
Kansas Jayhawks+10000

Odds as of July 18 at Bovada

The landscape of the Big 12 will look much different in 2018 compared to 2017. Especially with Baker Mayfield, the leader of the potent Oklahoma team that has won the conference crown each of the past three seasons, playing on Sundays. Despite losing the Heisman winner, Oklahoma remains the favorite to win the conference championship for a fourth consecutive season.

Big 12 Betting Favorite: Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma is a +130 favorite to win the Big 12 this season despite an abundance of holes to fill all over the roster. Aside from Mayfield, the Sooners lost their starting tight end, left tackle, both outside linebackers and both safeties. Luckily, Oklahoma nabbed a top-end recruiting class for 2018, highlighted by five defensive backs.

Lincoln Riley will have plenty of pieces to play with on offense and is fortunate to get Kyler Murray as his starting QB. However, the running back duo of Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon, as well as a young receiving tandem in Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb, would have made it easier if Murray didn’t return.

Oklahoma has the consistency and the pieces to deserve the nod as the preseason favorite. There’s been a lot of turnover, leading to some external concern, but the Sooners are confident heading into Week 1.

Can Texas Finally Ascend The Ladder And Win The Big 12?

For fans in Austin, it feels like an eternity since the Texas Longhorns were truly good. But things are looking up after Tom Herman’s first year guiding the team. Texas is coming off its first winning season since 2013 thanks to solid play out of quarterback Sam Ehlinger and a better-than-expected defense.

The offense will remain largely intact with Ehlinger and leading receivers Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey all back. Ehlinger looked good as a freshman but had key collapses late in big games that resulted in losses. As long as No. 11 can grow and improve, then the Texas offense should take a step forward after a mediocre season. Getting any semblance of a running game going would be a big help too.

The defense offers far more questions left unanswered as the season draws near. Gone are Malik Jefferson, Poona Ford, DeShon Elliott and Holton Hill. Those four key players were all huge contributors to Todd Orlando’s defense in 2017. However, the defensive line should be steady with senior bookends Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu while the secondary has more natural ability than any other group in Austin.

If Texas wants to challenge for the Big 12 championship, the offense needs to get better and the defense needs to quickly fill holes left from last season. I tend to think they are a season away but if Herman can get the team to mesh and a few other Big 12 contenders falter, Texas might claim its first conference crown since 2009.

Big 12 Sleeper Pick: West Virginia

The Big 12 is known for its high-octane offenses and West Virginia should be able to outscore anyone this season. The Mountaineers will be returning Will Grier, his top two receivers and the bulk of a stellar offensive line. As long as Grier is fully healed from his finger injury that ended his 2017 season early, West Virginia will be in contention for the best offense in the entire conference.

On the other hand, the defense in Morgantown is in utter shambles. Between graduations, injuries and unexpected transfers, WVU may be replacing nine starters on defense. There are pieces all over – especially the defensive line – but almost completely changing your defense in one offseason is a massive hurdle.

To be frank, West Virginia’s defense wasn’t really good last season either. So, maybe an overhaul will be good for coach Dana Holgorsen’s squad. At the very least, WVU will be able to hang in every game this season thanks to what should be a ridiculously good offense. The Mountaineers’ season may ride solely on their final month (@ Texas, vs TCU, @ Oklahoma State, vs Oklahoma) but there is reason to believe WVU is worth a punt for bettors.

2018 Big 12 College Football Conference Betting Odds
Oklahoma Sooners+130
Texas Longhorns+325
Oklahoma State Cowboys+700
West Virginia Mountaineers+700
TCU Horned Frogs+700
Iowa State Cyclones+2500
Kansas State Wildcats+3000
Texas Tech Red Raiders+4000
Baylor Bears+6000
Kansas Jayhawks+80000

Odds as of August 29 at Bovada