Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Note: Talking Points will preview a college football conference every week leading up to the Aug. 28 kickoff of the season. Check out part one here, part two here, part three here and part four here. Scroll to the bottom of the page for already-released Big 12 game lines.
Odds to win the Big 12
- Oklahoma: 4-to-5
- Baylor: 5-to-2
- Texas: 15-to-2
- Kansas State: 10-to-1
- Oklahoma State: 12-to-1
- TCU 12-to-1
- Texas Tech: 20-to-1
- West Virginia: 66-to-1
- Iowa State: 100-to-1
- Kansas: 100-to-1
- Numbers from Bovada.lv
Big 12 win totals
- Oklahoma: 10.5 (over minus-120, under Even)
- TCU: 8 (over plus-140, under minus-160)
- Kansas State: 7.5 (over minus-150, under plus-130)
- Texas: 7 (over minus-145, under plus-125)
- Numbers from Westgate Superbook
Like a coastline vulnerable to rising sea levels, the Big 12 Conference is gradually disappearing.
If one of the big five conferences were to cease to exist within the next several years, the Big 12 is the heavy favorite even though its shrinking is barely visible to the naked eye. Entering the football season with 10 teams for the fourth straight year, the Big 12 has settled into its new landscape comfortably enough to escape any imminent danger.
It takes a view from a specialized vantage point with unique measuring instruments to notice the conference’s decline. From Las Vegas sports books, the weakening of the Big 12 is evident.
Heading into the season, the Big 12 has just two teams listed at less than 100-to-1 odds — Oklahoma at 7-to-1 and Baylor at 25-to-1 — to win the national championship at the Westgate Superbook. Only four teams are posted with over/under win totals — Oklahoma at 10.5, TCU at 8, Kansas State at 7.5 and Texas at 7.
The Big 12 is tied with the ACC on both accounts for the fewest among major conferences.
That could mean there’s value betting on a Big 12 team in the future book. Bettors shouldn’t concern themselves with the continued flood of worries over whether the Big 12’s lack of a conference championship game will affect its selection prospects in the debuting college football playoff.
Any Big 12 team that goes undefeated is making the playoff. A one-loss representative is also likely. In essence, gamblers should pay a keen eye to the Big 12 because its champion has one less hurdle to clear to play into January.
The problem comes with determining the right team to back. The Big 12 may have become the smallest conference, but it’s also turned into the most unpredictable.
Baylor, which was the fifth choice at 12-to-1 at this time in 2013, became the conference’s fifth different champion in five years last season. The Bears were also the fourth straight Big 12 champion that wasn’t the preseason favorite in Las Vegas.
They also followed another troubling trend from Big 12 champions, putting on a mediocre bowl-game performance. Baylor, a 16-point favorite, lost 52-42 to UCF in the Orange Bowl.
Since Texas upset USC as a 7-point underdog to win the national championship in the 2006 Rose Bowl, the Big 12 champion is a grievous 2-6 straight-up, 1-7 against the spread in their awarded BCS bowl game.
Eight out of the current 10 teams in the Big 12 have reached the coveted BCS since 2008 in yet another illustration of the league’s parity. But their combined performances aren’t any prettier at 5-6 straight-up, 3-8 against the spread.
One of those wins was West Virginia’s 70-33 beatdown of Clemson as a 3-point underdog in the 2012 Orange Bowl — when the Mountaineers were still in the Big East.
There’s never any outcry over the struggles, though. In recent years, it seems like there’s always something masking the Big 12’s larger issues.
Last season produced a particularly sturdy piece of armor. Aside from the national championship game, Oklahoma’s 45-31 victory over Alabama as 15-point underdogs in the Sugar Bowl was the talk of the postseason.
One of the best single-game performances of the entire year boosted the Sooners’ profile going into 2014, spurring enough bets on them to win the national championship at sports books that they now have the fourth-lowest odds of anyone.
The Big 12 starts with the Sooners, as they have better than a 42 percent of winning the conference at plus-120 (risking $1.20 to win $1) according to the offshore odds.
Oklahoma is traditionally better, however, when preseason expectations are more relatively middling. Dating back to 2005, the Sooners have won four outright Big 12 championships. Three of them — 2006, 2007 and 2010 — came in years when they weren’t the conference favorite.
The exception was 2008 — Oklahoma ultimately fell to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game that season — when Texas was considered neck-in-neck. In the seasons like this year where the Sooners are considered a cut above — 2009, 2011 and 2012 — the results have been humbling.
Oklahoma has gone 28-11 straight-up, 18-20-1 against the spread in those years. Although the betting market is coming off as unconcerned with steam on the “over” 10.5 wins for Oklahoma, reasons for pause endure.
Much of the hype is bred around sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight, who tore apart the Crimson Tide with 348 yards and four touchdowns on 32-for-44 passing. But before the Sugar Bowl, Knight had lost his job to current tight end Blake Bell and completed 52 percent of his passes with the same number of touchdowns and interceptions.
Knight will have the help of an experienced offensive line, anchored by tackles Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson, and a defense with nine returning starters, including a vicious pass-rushing duo of linebacker Eric Striker and defensive end Charles Tapper.
But arguably no player in history has stirred a bigger perception shift after one game than Knight. He went from a disappointment to the market’s ninth choice to win the Heisman at 18-to-1 offshore.
The Big 12’s leading passer who threw for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns and three interceptions in 2013 is only slightly ahead of Knight in Heisman odds at 12-to-1. Baylor’s Bryce Petty reigned over one of the most prolific offenses ever in college football as the Bears gained 618 yards per game, second in the all-time record book.
Baylor moves into new digs at McLane Stadium this season, where it will try to build on a quiet penchant for being close to unbeatable at home. The Bears closed the old Floyd-Casey Stadium with 10 consecutive wins and covers.
Under coach Art Briles the last six years, Baylor is 25-12 against the spread at home. Briles has gone 45-29 against the spread overall in Waco, Texas.
He edges Kansas State coach Bill Snyder for the most profitable coach to bet on in the Big 12, though Snyder’s colossal sample size makes his prolonged consistency more impressive. Another 8-5 against the spread record in 2013 — and 8-5 straight-up — inched Snyder’s career mark closer to 60 percent at 147-100 in 23 years at Kansas State.
The Wildcats project as underdogs four times in 2014 — against Auburn, at Oklahoma, at TCU and at Baylor. Shrewd bettors are waiting to pounce, as Kansas State is 12-2 against the spread, 7-7 straight-up when taking points over the last three years.
Like Baylor last year, Kansas State was considered the fifth-most likely champion when they won the Big 12 two years at 10-to-1 in the preseason.
Texas and Oklahoma State hope to extend the long shot pattern this year. After failing as 5-to-2 co-favorites in the Big 12 last season, the Longhorns and Cowboys fall back towards the middle.
The teams’ commonalities end there. Oklahoma State is one of the most profitable teams to bet on in the conference with only one losing record against the spread in entrenched coach Mike Gundy’s nine years in charge.
Texas has trashed sports books’ floors with losing tickets frequently, managing a winning record against the spread just once in the last five years. New coach Charlie Strong has an above average 15 returning starters including two standout Malcolm Browns — a senior at running back and a junior at defensive end.
Oklahoma State returns a Big 12-low eight starters with no identically named counterparts on the roster.
Oklahoma State is listed at 12-to-1 to win the conference, the same as TCU. The Horned Frogs haven’t transitioned easily into the Big 12.
In seven years in the Mountain West, TCU went 48-7 straight-up and 37-16-2 against the spread in conference. TCU matched the losing total in one Big 12 season last year to bring its lifetime conference record in the new home to 6-12 both straight-up and against the spread.
The Horned Frogs came into the Big 12 alongside the West Virginia Mountaineers, which have faced a similar uphill battle. West Virginia is 6-12 straight-up, 7-10 against the spread through two seasons in the Big 12 after 10 straight years of winning conference records elsewhere.
If one of the two teams is to break through in 2014, it looks like TCU. The Horned Frogs were maligned by injuries and variance last season, losing key players on both sides of the ball and going 1-4 in games decided by less than a touchdown.
Texas Tech is another potential sleeper. The Red Raiders’ trajectory could mirror the Sooners’ in one regard.
Like Knight, Texas Tech sophomore quarterback Davis Webb exploded in his team’s bowl game. The Red Raiders overcame a plus-14 spread to beat Arizona State 37-23 behind 403 yards and four touchdowns from Webb.
It’s easy to forget Texas Tech started 7-0 straight-up, 5-2 against the spread last season before not covering or winning a game the rest of the regular season.
Iowa State and Kansas aren’t currently listed as favorites in a single Big 12 game this season, though one of the bottom-feeders will have to be when they meet Nov. 8 in Lawrence, Kan. The game will bring Mark Mangino’s return to Memorial Stadium.
The new Iowa State offensive coordinator memorably led moribund Kansas, which has gone 2-33 straight-up and 15-20 against the spread in Big 12 play since his departure, to a 2008 Orange Bowl victory as head coach.
That was a different age for the Big 12, one in which the conference crashed alongside the likes of the SEC and Pac-12 on Las Vegas betting boards. This season, there’s a Big 12 dry spell at major sports books across town as prominent shops like the Superbook, CG Technologies, William Hill and South Point aren’t offering future odds on the conference.
The primary reason is the Big 12 not holding a championship game, but the omission brings to light an inconvenient truth: The conference is no longer making the same waves.
Golden Nugget Games of the Year lines
Sept. 6: Texas minus-6 vs. BYU
Sept. 13: Oklahoma minus-19 vs. Tennessee
Sept. 13: Texas minus-8 vs. UCLA in Arlington, Texas
Sept. 18: Kansas State plus-13 vs. Auburn
Sept. 20: Oklahoma minus-17 at West Virginia
Sept. 25: Texas Tech plus-7 at Oklahoma State
Sept. 27: TCU minus-10 at SMU
Oct. 4: Oklahoma minus-14 at TCU
Oct. 4: Baylor minus-3 at Texas
Oct. 4: Texas Tech plus-7 at Kansas State
Oct. 11: Texas plus-9 vs. Oklahoma in Dallas
Oct. 11: West Virginia plus-10 at Texas Tech
Oct. 18: Kansas State plus-14 at Oklahoma
Oct. 18: Baylor minus-16 at West Virginia
Oct. 25: West Virginia plus-19 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 25: Texas plus-3.5 at Kansas State
Nov. 1: Oklahoma minus-22.5 at Iowa State
Nov. 1: Oklahoma State plus-3.5 at Kansas State
Nov. 1: Texas plus-1 at Texas Tech
Nov. 8: Baylor plus-11 at Oklahoma
Nov. 8: Kansas State plus-4 at TCU
Nov. 8: West Virginia plus-13 at Texas
Nov. 15: Texas plus-2 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 15: Oklahoma minus-10 at Texas Tech
Nov. 20: Kansas State minus-7.5 at West Virginia
Nov. 22: Oklahoma State plus-9 at Baylor
Nov. 27: TCU plus-9.5 at Texas
Nov. 29: Baylor minus-6.5 at Texas Tech
Nov. 29: Kansas plus-25 at Kansas State
Nov. 29: West Virginia pick’em vs. Iowa State
Dec. 6: Kansas State plus-6 at Baylor
Dec. 9: Oklahoma State plus-11 at Oklahoma