Terry O’ Neill, who helped turn John Madden into a worldwide superstar with CBS Sports in the 1980s, once directed a distributor to always put the Green Bay Packers on Chicago stations whenever the Bears weren’t playing simultaneously.
The idea was that if Windy City fans didn’t have the Monsters of the Midway to cheer for, they darn sure could have a time cheering against the rival Packers.
That mentality is fine in the context of National Football League pigskin, especially for NFC North counterparts. Through the course of a season Chicago’s losses are usually Green Bay’s gains and so on, and it’ll stay that way until (Lord forbid) Super Bowl bids are determined by rankings and committees.
In NCAA ball, it’s probably a bad idea to wish ill on rivals and poke voodoo dolls of your division-mates. Unless your schools are playing each other on a given day, of course.
Rising tides lift all boats in a Power-5 conference.
Texas beat Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown last autumn, and Oklahoma had its revenge in the Big 12 Championship Game, and I’m sure that student-athletes from each program would describe the other as a real pain in the neck.
Yet look how the postseason ultimately shook out – Tom Herman’s Longhorns whipped Georgia in front of a nationwide Sugar Bowl audience, and Oklahoma got to play in the College Football Playoff while giving Kyler Murray reason to choose football over baseball.
The old foes made each other stronger in 2018-19, and just as importantly, UT and OU look stronger in the national title picture.
Big 12 football needed to develop more than a single national powerhouse to return the conference to relevancy. Oklahoma and Texas are looking so good in the 2019 preseason that league officials might have a brand-new concern – not that the 10-team league doesn’t have a high-enough Top 10 ceiling but that there are a pair of potential division-killers in the mix.
Vegas Futures Odds on the Big 12 Conference in 2019
Oklahoma is a massive (-150) favorite to win the 2019 Big 12 Championship at Bovada Sportsbook, an authoritative source for the odds if not always a fancy one.
I say a “massive” favorite at 1-to-1 ½ not because those payoff odds are typically associated with huge favorites, but because of the 2-fold nature of a conference title bid. OU must have a great regular season (and beat Texas) or else get exceptionally lucky and reach the championship scrum in Arlington anyway, and then win again against a powerful team – perhaps even Texas again.
It’s like betting on the New York Yankees to sweep a short series instead of simply winning the opener or the closer. (-150) gives a lot of respect to the Sooners post-Murray.
The Longhorns, meanwhile, are the 2nd-shortest market at (+350) while Iowa State’s underdog bid is 3rd-shortest at Bovada at (+800) or 8-to-1.
Never a bad idea to cross-examine Las Vegas lines with another bookmaker, though.
BetOnline keeps its college futures on the main grid, separate from the “futures” category full of NFL and NBA propositions. Once you find the page under the drop-down menu, browsing is easy thanks to a nice alphabetical list of 2019 conference championship markets.
But wait – that’s only for BetOnline’s division markets. For conference winners, the list begins with C, proceeds to S, then doubles-back around to A and B. That’s weird, but the odds on a Big 12 winner are standardized to the Bovada lines except for a (+400) market on Texas to prevail.
I’m thinking a 4-to-1 gamble on the Texas Longhorns might actually make a lot of sense, especially as the Longhorns host Oklahoma State, host Texas Tech, and technically host Oklahoma.
But Legit Gambling Sites can’t make that kind of call on an underdog without handicapping the whole Big 12 in 2019.
Odds-to-Win 2019 Big 12 Championship
Oklahoma Sooners (-150)
OU put up a never-say-die fight against Alabama in the 2018-19 College Football Playoff semis, and arguably gave Dabo Swinney, Trevor Lawrence, and Justyn Ross confidence that a high-IQ downfield passing game would hurt Alabama in the final.
Lincoln Riley has established himself as the new Okie pigskin guru. The skipper approaches this autumn on a trio of truly impressive streaks, including back-to-back CFP appearances, a pair of Big 12 trophies, and Heisman Trophy winners at the most important position on the gridiron.
Chances of another Heisman in 2019-20 might not be outstanding, but even with Kyler Murray wowing NFL audiences instead of NCAA (or baseball) fans this season, the Sooners won’t be “Hurts”-ing at QB. Alabama graduate transfer Jalen Hurts has thrown for 48 touchdowns in his celebrated career, but is also swift enough to command an 11-on-11 rushing attack.
Hurts inherits a stockpile of weapons on offense including WR CeeDee Lamb, who reeled-in 1,158 receiving yards last season. However, an OL depth chart full of green-horns is cause for concern.
It’s also kind of incredible that OU reached football’s final four last season, given that the defense ranked 114th in the FBS in yards-against. Kenneth Murray is a fine veteran LB who was all over the field in 2018, but Oklahoma cannot afford another season of pedestrian defense, and needs more than 1 or 2 players in the front-7 to step up. Hurts is used to playing alongside an excellent defense if not always the special-teams playmaking of Norman.
Remember that there are no divisions in the Big 12 but rather 10 teams jockeying for a position in 1st or clean 2nd as the season winds down. OU will play host to ISU and TCU in November but must travel to face Oklahoma State on “Bedlam” Saturday.
Texas Longhorns (+400)
They say politics is like religion, and maybe it is, but sports can be religion too.
Americans laugh at Chinese old-timers who still think kung-fu is superior to Mixed Martial-Arts even as MMA fighters crush fabled martial-artists from old-school disciplines. At the same time, we hold prejudices of our own that simply won’t go away in the face of all evidence.
Texas, (eventually) a 10-4 team from the Big 12, embarrassed Georgia – pride of the SEC – in the Sugar Bowl back on New Year’s of 2019.
When a row between live mascots prior to kickoff actually predicts the next 2 hours of football, you know the 1st half is plenty lopsided.
Yet it would be redundant of me to recap the rationalizations and excuses made for the Sugar Bowl outcome since then. My favorite is the canard that SEC schools “just don’t try as hard” when the national title isn’t on the line. As if a failure of the league to get its athletes ginned-up for a New Year’s Six bowl is actually a sign that the other 9 conferences are the problem.
The Longhorns now become more of a target, but that’s the good news. Texas is a national contender again…even if Las Vegas isn’t exactly treating the school like it.
Sam Ehlinger returns as a junior, quietly among the better veteran QBs returning to a brand-name FBS school this season. The conscientious quarterback threw for 3,292 yards, rushed for 482 yards, and produced 41 touchdowns while only throwing 5 interceptions last season.
An improved running attack would help Ehlinger’s cause, and sophomore Keaontay Ingram is expected to have a breakout year after tallying 708 yards on carries in his freshman season.
Defense may be the culprit keeping Texas at 4-to-1. There’s enough turnover to keep bettors anxious, but quality material is there with which to shore-up the holes left to graduation and draft picks.
The defensive backfield will be a bright spot, with Brandon Jones leading all returning tacklers on the squad. Just like a Big 12 team – a safety is making all of the tackles, but there are few complaints after clobbering Oklahoma in the Red River scrum in 2018.
Iowa State Cyclones (+800)
Matt Campbell’s ISU Cyclones went on a hot streak to cap off 2018, and Ames is brimming with confidence. Many scouts believe that this is Campbell’s finest upperclass since taking over the program and that the fruits of patient and effective recruiting are finally in harvest.
Strong defense gives Iowa State a unique identity in a conference filled with PlayStation teams. In 2018, the Cyclones topped the Big 12 in total D and ranked in the top-40 defenses nationally despite facing world-class passing games all season. Stud DE JaQuan Bailey powers the front-7 and heads into his senior season looking to crack the 10-sack barrier.
Here’s the Cyclone pass rush wreaking all kinds of havoc against WVU last season.
The question mark is always the offense, and Cyclone fans are anxious to see what Brock Purdy can produce in his maiden go-around as the starter at Iowa State. Purdy emerged as a freshman and helped lead the team to its impressive 7-2 finish down the stretch. Just as noteworthy as the W-L record, however, the youngster’s passes were “purdy” with 67% accuracy and a manageable T/O rate.
ISU must visit Baylor, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma in ’19.
Baylor Bears (+1500)
Baylor flipped the script with a competitive season and a bowl win last season. Behind the arm of junior Charlie Brewer, the Bears can boast one of the most prolific offenses in the conference. Brewer capped off his sophomore season by eclipsing 3,000 passing yards.
Weapons abound at skill positions, as they always seem to at Baylor. 6’3” senior Denzel Mims is a potential TD machine and Tyquan Thornton produced a 17.7 yard catch average and 3 touchdowns his freshman season.
The defense returns a bunch of veteran play-makers, including senior linebacker Clay Johnston. There may be issues with in-the-trenches depth on both sides of the pigskin, however, and the OL did not do a good job of protecting Brewer late in games in 2018.
Baylor hosts OU and Texas, but I’m still not touching the Bears’ futures line-to-win the whole Big 12 this season at 15-to-1.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (+1600)
I’ve given Mike Gundy – who is a MAN and can take it – lots of grief over the years for having a 1-sided program, or maybe a 2/3 sided program in Stillwater. Fabulous offense, terrific speed and skill-sets on special teams…and a wet noodle of a defense that never lives up to promise or potential.
But I’ve got to feel sympathy for Gundy this offseason, because woe comes to Oklahoma State whenever there’s no big-time QB to take snaps and score the necessary 40+ points-per-game to make the HC’s annual winning plan a reality.
Figuring out the starting QB position remains the focal point in the Cowboy camp as the late-August start approaches. Redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders and Hawaii transfer Dru Brown continue to stage a showdown for the starter’s job, which is fine, but the engine needs to get cranked early in the season or else the Cowboys are in trouble.
OK State has a deceptively easy OOC schedule followed by a trip to Austin in September. Sophomore Chuba Hubbard is primed for a breakout season at RB, but it’ll be the 1st time a new passing game is put in motion against an elite opponent of any stripe.
Meanwhile, if the defense gets any worse it’ll average allowing 500 yards per game.
TCU Horned Frogs (+1600)
The 2018-19 Horned Frogs were doomed by constant issues at QB. Gary Patterson has unwisely let a lack of clarity bleed-over into the offseason and into late summer, with as many as 4 potential candidates still vying for playing time in autumn.
Coaches sometimes say, “the quarterback is just like any other position.” What they mean is that nobody thinks the HC changes his religion whenever he replaces a tailback or a cornerback for a series of plays, and so quarterback – a position which can, like any other, be upgraded at all times – should not be any different insofar as reporters making assumptions about the “meanings” of play-calls and substitutions.
However, I’m afraid some skippers take the slogan the wrong way – just because Bill Belichick might replace a 40-year-old Tom Brady with a 30-year-old Johnny Unitas for a few games doesn’t mean he thinks less of Brady’s enduring skills. But at the same time, The Hoodie knows that clarity at the QB position is important – that’s why coaches (usually) announce starters early. Patterson prides himself as unconventional at TCU but the truth is Texas Christian looks awfully damned conventional with a fast-paced passing game led by inconsistent QBs. He’s got to make a decision and develop a long-term plan for 1 or more signal-callers soon or turn TCU into a gimmicky outfit with the ball once again.
Pressure will be on senior tailback Darius Anderson to increase his production. WR Jalen Reagor is one of the Big 12’s most dangerous pass catchers – let’s hope he can get into a rhythm in ’19.
The TCU defense loses a lot of material, but Jeff Gladney leads a ball-hawking, shut-down secondary.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (+2200)
A horrendous 5-game losing streak at TTU led to the dismissal of Kliff Kingsbury and the hiring of Utah State head coach Matt Wells. Much like some of the tenured coaches in the Big 12, the “rookie” is faced with a conundrum behind center.
If healthy, sophomore Alan Bowman is likely to be named starter after throwing for 17 touchdowns and completing 69.4 percent of his passes prior to suffering a collapsed lung in ’18.
T.J. Vasher fronts a talented group of pass catchers.
The defense could be surprisingly tough up the middle, led by LB Jordyn Brooks.
Kansas State Wildcats (+3300)
The illustrious tenure of Bill Snyder ended last season, with former NDSU head coach Chris Klieman new taking the reins hoping to reproduce his winning FCS formula in Manhattan.
I’m skeptical, largely because North Dakota State uses its lower-level dynasty status to collect FBS-level talent – some would contend Power-5 level talent – at an FCS program with FCS competition.
Klieman is now in the Big 12 and there’s no next-level league to catch the scraps from in recruiting…unless guys start pulling out of the NFL to play for the Wildcats.
Skylar Thompson is a capable QB without any world-class tailbacks to rely on. Meanwhile, the pass rush struggled mightily in Snyder’s final year…maybe the new skipper can help revive it.
West Virginia Mountaineers (+4000)
Like the hair on crown of his head, ex-WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen knew exactly when to disappear. New Mountaineer skipper Neal Brown arrives from Troy to steer a program which has lost quarterback Will Grier and its 4 top pass-catchers from 2018.
Jack Allison and Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall are battling to become the new gunslinger in Morgantown. Upperclassman Kennedy McKoy will carry the rushing load after leading the team with 802 yards last season.
Senior S Jovanni Stewart is a bright spot, but the defense has holes to fill too.
Kansas Jayhawks (+8000)
The woeful Jayhawks made a splash in the offseason, hiring former LSU head coach Les Miles.
Frosh standout Pooka Williams has also been reinstated after a lengthy domestic abuse lawsuit. The 1,125 yard rusher will be suspended the season opener before returning to the lineup.
Juco transfer Thomas MacVittie is the front-runner to start at QB, while the secondary is thought to be the strength of the defense in ’19.
Secondaries always tend to get overvalued at losing programs because they make all the tackles – when KU linemen and LBs start making more headlines we’ll know that Miles is on to something.
Big 12 Predictions and 2019 Conference Futures Picks
Few national-title contenders employ bona-fide dual-threat offenses because a fat number of team rushing attempts is thought to be a deterrent in recruiting and motivating NFL prospects at skill positions.
Oklahoma might have hit a sweet spot with Jalen Hurts, who Norman’s WRs will be dying to play for whether he takes off running often or not.
Look for a consistent, dogged, 11-on-11 OU rushing attack to control the bean and choke-out all but the top few underdogs in the 2019 Big 12 conference race.
However the Sooners aren’t the best bet to prevail in Arlington because the (-150) line is simply too short. Texas is rising, and ISU deserves a good look at 8-to-1 payoff odds.
If Ehlinger and Purdy wind up in a QB’s battle on November 16th to determine which squad goes to the Big 12 Championship Game, look for the veteran to find ways to beat the green-horn despite the Cyclones’ home-field advantage.
But does Purdy have enough of a puncher’s chance – and is the ISU pass rush dangerous enough – to give Iowa State more value at (+800) than Texas enjoys at half the payoff?