I have no life, my beloved Royals suck, and that means it is time for me to focus on football. My plan for a winning college football season will largely be the same as in years past, that is sticking to what I know best. Living in the heart of Big 12 country (and being the graduate of a Big 12 school), I will be making many of my bets on Big 12 games. I will begin with this preview of the Big 12 so that you will know how I see this upcoming season shaking out, and perhaps get a view as to my biases.
I’ll begin with my overall predicted order of finish:
RM Steele Athlon’s Lindy’s B12 Media 247 O/U
- Oklahoma 1 1 1 1 1 11
- Iowa State 2 2 2 2 2 9.5
- TCU 3(t) 4 5 5 4 7.5
- Oklahoma State 5 5 3 4 5 7.5
- Texas 3(t) 3 4 3 3 8.0
- West Virginia 6 6 6 6 6 6.5
- Baylor 7(t) 8 8 8 8 5.5
- Kansas State 7(t) 7 7 7 7 5.5
- Texas Tech 7(t) 9 9 9 9 4.5
- Kansas 10 10 10 10 10 1.5
Looking at the overall standings, I see a small gap between #1 and #2, and a big gap between #2 and #3. I see very little gap between #3 and #8. The teams in the middle will largely beat each other up. As for the top of the league, you can make a strong case for either Oklahoma or Iowa State. However, I like Oklahoma. Looking over the unit rankings in Phil Steele’s College Football Preview, he ranks Oklahoma #1 at QB, WR, OL, DL, DB and Coaching (T-1 with TCU and ISU) in the Big 12. ISU is ranked #1 at RB, LB and Coaching (T-1). OU is #2 at RB and LB in his rankings and ST is #3. ISU ranks #2 at QB, WR, OL. However, they rank #5 at DL, #8 at DB and #9 on ST. Plus, I really look for Spencer Rattler to step up this season, and even Phil Steele believes he will win the Heisman. As for the middle, someone will step up and I believe this is where the money will be made for bettors who can read the tea leaves correctly.
Some of my teams to watch are as follows:
Sleeper team – TCU. With 18 starters returning off a team that won 5 of its last 6 games, TCU is the middle of the pack team that I believe will break through and rise to the top. I have never thought of Max Duggan as the QB that will lead TCU to the promised land, but he is a solid game manager. As I look at Phil Steele’s unit rankings for the Big 12 this year, none rank below #5 (that unit is WR). The schedule has them playing Oklahoma and Iowa State on the road, but overall, the schedule is favorable. TCU is solid all the way around with no apparent weaknesses. This will be TCU’s best squad since 2017. The projected O/U on the total wins is at 7.5 and I would be comfortable betting this Over.
Wild Card Team – Baylor. This team could finish the conference season anywhere from 1-8 to 8-1. Last season was a disappointment at 2-7. Remember that they had a new coaching staff, and that staff did not have a spring practice. Yet they were not that far off last year. A double OT loss at West Virginia, a last second FG loss at Texas Tech, and a potential game tying TD pass intercepted in the end zone at Iowa State in the last minute. Plus, their defense held Oklahoma to less than 300 yards total offense, the only time that has happened since Lincoln Riley showed up at OU as the OC in 2015. Baylor will have an outstanding defense, and that unit will keep Baylor in every game. The defense is athletic and aggressive. They were +8 in turnover margin last year (10th nationally), with a total of 17 takeaways. BU’s offense was awful last season. This year, there is a new OC (Jeff Grimes from BYU, where he helped mold Zach Wilson into the #2 overall draft pick last spring), a new OL coach, Eric Mateos (also from BYU), and a new WR coach, Chanci Stuckey from Clemson. I found out over the summer that I went to high school with Coach Mateos’s mother, but I digress. If the offense comes through, Baylor will spring some upsets. If not, 1-8 here we come. The offense still has huge questions at quarterback and on the offensive line. There is an overall woeful level of experience at QB. I think the OL will be much better, but QB production will go a long way towards determining the Bears’ overall success. They do have good skill position players on offense but getting them the ball will be a challenge. October will be a big month for the Bears (3 straight home games). Right now, the win total stands at 5.5, and I believe they will hit the Over. I will predict four conference wins for now, coming against Kansas, West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas Tech.
Most Overrated Team – Texas. The hiring of Steve Sarkisian has the Texas faithful all excited, but then again so did the hiring of Tom Herman. I have long thought that Texas has a culture problem. They have unbelievable talent, with only Oklahoma having more talent. They easily have more talent than Iowa State, but look at the difference in cultures between Matt Campbell and Iowa State, and the culture of privilege and arrogance that exists at Texas. I do not think that Sarkisian will turn that around in a season. Sark did not have a lights out coaching record before going to Alabama, and let’s face it, Nick Saban’s former assistants have not set the world on fire (except for Kirby Smart at Georgia). On the field, this team has a lot of holes to plug on defense, and they are quite inexperienced at QB. The projected win total here is 8, but they have a brutal early schedule, and I think 8 could be a stretch.
Game of the Year – Iowa State at Oklahoma, Nov. 20
A Few Final Thoughts:
Kansas State - The Wildcats return 10 starters on offense including QB Skylar Thompson. However, Thompson has a surgically repaired right (throwing) shoulder. KSU likes to run the QB a lot in their offense, and this will be severely limited this season. Combine it with a low powered receiver corps, and that puts lots of the load on Deuce Vaughn. KSU returns 6 starters on defense, and that D will not be good. Look for a big drop from the Wildcats this year. I will not be looking to bet them in too many conference games this year.
Kansas - I really like the hire of Lance Lepold. KU will still suck this year, but they could surprise some people in the 2H of the season (and by surprise I mean cover the spread, perhaps easily in some cases).
Texas Tech - Matt Wells is the coach on the hot seat this year. Not looking for big things from Tech.
- Baylor at Kansas, Sep 18
- Iowa State at Texas Tech, Nov 13. A home game against Texas on Nov 6, and the showdown at OU on Nov 20. And in between? A road trip to Lubbock. Should be easy for ISU, and it may be, but that is the one obvious let down spot. Also be aware of TCU on Nov 27.
- Kansas – None
- Kansas State – None
- Oklahoma – at Kansas State, Oct 2. The Wildcats have had the Sooners’ number the past couple of years. Plus, this is the week before the OU-Texas game, which is far and away the biggest game on OU’s schedule. Also watch out for the game at Baylor on Nov 13. This is the week before the Iowa State game. Last year, the Bears became the only team to hold a Lincoln Riley head coached team to less than 300 yards.
- Oklahoma State -at Texas Tech, Nov 20. The Cowboys play TCU at home on Nov 13, and host in state rival Oklahoma in the Bedlam Series on Nov 27. In between is a trip to Lubbock, which could turn into a nightmare for the Cowboys.
- Texas – at TCU, Oct 2. TCU Coach Gary Patterson has owned the Longhorns, and he loves to beat Texas. This is also the week before the OU game, so Texas could be looking ahead.
- TCU at Texas Tech, Oct 9. Tech sure shows up on a lot of my trap games! This is the week after TCU plays Texas and the following week, the Frogs go to Norman. Easy to look past Tech in this situation.
- Texas Tech – None
- West Virginia – None
- Baylor – vs Texas Oct 30
- Iowa State – at Oklahoma Nov 20 (the only possible upset on their schedule)
- Kansas - either vs Baylor on Sep 18 or West Virginia on Nov 27
- Kansas State – 3 in a row over Oklahoma?
- Oklahoma – None
- Oklahoma State – at Texas, Oct 16.
- Texas – None
- TCU – I wouldn’t call this an upset, but vs Texas, Oct 2
- Texas Tech – either TCU on Oct 9 or Kansas State on Oct 23
- West Virginia – vs Oklahoma State Nov 6