The NCAA has instituted a four-team playoff system to determine the National Champion in football starting this season. A ranking system has also been put in place to try and ensure that the best four teams in the country will be included in this select field. A power conference such as the SEC may have an outside shot at getting two teams into the four-team field if everything falls into place, but for the other four majors you would have to think that winning the conference championship would be a prerequisite to getting into the playoffs.
Updated odds have been released for all five of the major conferences in Division IA football, including the Big 12 Conference. The team at the top of that list is the Oklahoma Sooners at prohibitive 2/3 odds to win this year’s conference title. There is no championship game in the Big 12, so this title is determined by a team’s conference record and head-to-head play as a potential tiebreaker.
The Sooners come into this season with their most talented roster in years lead by Heisman hopeful quarterback Trevor Knight on offense and a defense that returns nine starters from last year’s squad. Knight should be an interesting study as much of his hype has been generated by his performance in a single game. Last January he shredded Alabama’s vaunted defense for 348 yards passing and four touchdowns on the way to Oklahoma’s stunning 45-31 victory as a 17-point underdog in the Sugar Bowl. If he can duplicate that level of play throughout the entire 12-game regular season this year, the Sooners’ lofty odds will be justified.
Just in case Oklahoma stumbles along the way, bettors might want to take a closer look at the value in Baylor’s 11/4 odds to win a second straight Big 12 title this year. The Bears came out of nowhere last season to go 8-1 in conference play behind an offense that was the best in the nation at scoring with an average of 52.4 points per game.
Baylor also has a signal-caller that is a Heisman hopeful in Bryce Petty. He is a bit more of a proven commodity after throwing for 3,844 yards and 30 touchdowns last season. There are a total of six starters back from that dynamic scoring machine, including wide receivers Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman. Goodley hauled-in 71 receptions for 1,339 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Coleman added another 35 catches for 527 yards.
The team that has caught my interest is the Texas Longhorns at 15/2 odds to win the Big 12 this season in head coach Charlie Strong’s first season at the helm. After a disappointing run the past few seasons, the Longhorns appear poised to once again assume their role as perennial contenders for the Big 12 crown. Strong has already established himself as a no-nonsense disciplinarian with the dismissal of seven players from the team since he arrived in Austin, and you just know that he will work diligently to have this attitude carry over to the players that are on the field on game day.
Texas’s primary strength on offense will be its running game behind Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. This duo combined to produce 1,684 rushing yards last season, which will help take some of the pressure off the quarterback position if they can replicate those numbers. The Longhorns will have to improve a defense that was ranked 57th in the nation last season in points allowed to successfully compete with the likes of Oklahoma and Baylor, but they remain a sleeper in this title race.
The odds to win the Big 12 for the rest of the teams in the conference start with Oklahoma State and Kansas State at 10/1, followed by TCU at 14/1. Texas Tech comes in at 20/1 odds, and West Virginia is next on the list at 66/1. The two programs with the longest odds to win the Big 12 this season are Iowa State and Kansas at 100/1.
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