For all of the flack that the Pac-12 Conference gets on the national landscape, maybe we need to focus our negative attention on the Big 12 Conference.
The Big 12 brought back the title game in 2017 and the Oklahoma Sooners have won all four of those games. They’ve also played four different opponents in the process, which gives you an idea of how the rest of the league stacks up. The Sooners have then gone on to the College Football Playoff and been beaten three times.
The Rose Bowl game against Georgia was an instant classic, but the Orange Bowl against Alabama and especially the Peach Bowl against LSU were not competitive games. The Big 12 got shut out in the playoff last year and deservedly so.
The Big 12 just doesn’t have enough good teams. The Big 12, which is actually a 10-team conference, has seen upstarts like Baylor or TCU make some runs, but the fact that Texas and Oklahoma State have perennially underachieved is so unacceptable for this league. Even Oklahoma finds a way to lose a game that shouldn’t be lost basically every season.
The sad thing is that it doesn’t look like anything will change this season.
Big 12 Football Championship Odds
THE PRESEASON BIG 12 CONFERENCE ODDS
Oklahoma is chalk across the board to win the conference for the fifth straight year. While you have to give a ton of credit to Lincoln Riley for his recruiting, coaching, and ability to bring in transfer quarterbacks, you also have to sit there and question what every other team in this conference is doing.
Maybe Oklahoma has the pick of the litter nationally, with the opportunity to go up against Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, and Ohio State for talent, but Texas is full of excellent high school football players and programs like Texas and TCU aren’t doing enough to maximize that talent. Oklahoma State isn’t recruiting well enough across state lines.
Come on. Iowa State is listed as the second-likeliest team to win the league. Iowa State! The Cyclones have been in the Big 12 since 1996 and have one CO-DIVISION championship in that span. They did so by going 4-4 in the conference in 2004. Their only conference championship game appearance came last season.
That’s the team that the conference has pinned its hopes on to dethrone Oklahoma. That isn’t good enough. Maybe it’s time for the Texas Longhorns to get it together with Steve Sarkisian now as the head coach, but high-profile hires of Charlie Strong and Tom Herman didn’t seem to work. Maybe things will go differently now?
The hardest part about betting on conference futures in the Big 12 is that none of these teams except for Oklahoma has proven to be worth your investment.
There may be some value in Oklahoma here. Unless Texas or Iowa State have magical seasons, Oklahoma will be favored by a decent amount in the title game and likely have a money line price higher than the -140 to -170 range that you see out there. It is extremely hard to see Oklahoma losing at least twice and not being in the championship game.
There are no divisions in the Big 12, so Oklahoma doesn’t have to worry about getting upset and then losing on tiebreakers to a division foe. There needs to be two teams that are clearly better than Oklahoma, either by actual record or by head-to-head victories. Even if Oklahoma were to be the “#2 seed” in Arlington for the game, the Sooners would still likely be favored and at a price higher than what you see listed here.
BIG 12 CONFERENCE FOOTBALL HANDICAPPING
Defense is mostly optional in the Big 12. That has been to Oklahoma’s benefit by simply outscoring teams or to the Sooners’ benefit by actually having a competent defense in a conference with very few. Iowa State wins with defense and by playing with a balanced offense. The other teams in the league may have one or not the other. They may have a passing game, but no running game.
The reality is that the recruiting riches in the Big 12 are so unevenly distributed that you will get the occasional upset, but a team might beat Oklahoma one week and then lose to West Virginia or Texas Tech the next. It isn’t enough to bring in three, four, and five-star recruits. You have to get consistency from those players.
Oklahoma has had the most consistency since 2017 when the conference championship game was resurrected. As the odds imply, it is hard to see another way that this goes this season, but stranger things have happened and the fact that there are no divisions in the conference can open doors that would otherwise be shut.
By and large, the conference is full of good coaches, too. Even guys like Chris Klieman at Kansas State and Neal Brown at West Virginia are solid sideline generals. It can just be tough to recruit kids to Morgantown, WV and Manhattan, KS. There are a lot of uphill battles for teams to climb in this league, which is why a team that gets to the top has so much staying power.
From a game-by-game standpoint, there can be a lot of good situational handicapping in this league because some of the destinations can be tough to get to and there are always going to be look-ahead spots and rivalry games since everybody plays everybody year in and year out.