- Big 12 football in 2023 will be one of the wildest conference seasons in memory.
- Texas and Oklahoma are the most talented teams in their final Big 12 season.
- Baylor, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State all have claims to dark horse contention.
- UCF should remain competitive, but don’t expect too much from the new arrivals.
No college football conference will bring more raw intrigue this year than the Big 12.
Longtime conference stalwarts Texas and Oklahoma are playing their final season in a 30-year partnership before leaving for the SEC. At the same time, four former G5 standouts – UCF, Cincinnati, Houston, and BYU – are all entering the conference.
All four will get the taste of a true P5 schedule in a deep conference with very few easy wins.
There’s also the remaining Big 12 old guard. Baylor, TCU, and Kansas State will likely have something to say about this year’s conference championship before it’s all said and done.
With all these disparate groups and a conference that’s suddenly swollen to 14 members, who’s actually going to come out on top in the Big 12 football championship odds?
Big 12 Football Team Rankings
|Rank||Team||Record||Next Opponent (Week 1)|
|4||Kansas State||10-4||Southeast Missouri (FCS)|
|5||Texas Tech||8-5||at Wyoming|
|7||Oklahoma State||7-6||Central Arkansas (FCS)|
|9||West Virginia||5-7||at Penn State|
|10||Kansas||6-7||Missouri State (FCS)|
|11||Iowa State||4-8||Northern Iowa (FCS)|
|14||Cincinnati||9-4||Eastern Kentucky (FCS)|
It always feels dangerous to list chronic underachiever Texas as the top team in the Big 12. This year, though, it’s clear that the Texas football odds to win the Big 12 make a lot of sense at the top of the table. Conversations about Texas and the College Football Playoff odds also seem sensible.
College football magazine legend Phil Steele recently came on The Lion’s Edge, my handicapping podcast, and was definitive about how good Texas should be in 2023.
“When I did the first write-through process of the magazine, the one thing I had set in stone was that I am not picking Texas/Oklahoma because everybody’s gunning for them this year,” Steele said. “Yet I have Texas No. 1, or tied for No. 1, in all eight position categories. They are the most talented team in the league with the fewest amount of question marks.”
If there’s one thing we know about second-year head coach Brent Venables, it’s that he knows defense. Somehow, the long-time Clemson defensive coordinator presided over the No. 46 defensive unit, per Football Outsiders’ FEI Defense rating. The Sooners finished 6-7.
Oklahoma should bring an improved defensive unit in Year 2 of the Venables era, and Dillon Gabriel remains an effective, veteran quarterback.
This isn’t a Sooners team of yore, but they can do enough to reach the championship game and cash some overs in the Oklahoma football odds market, with a dash of luck.
Baylor won the conference in 2021, but inconsistent quarterback play in 2022 relegated them to a middle-of-the-pack finish.
With sharper play from Blake Shapen and a typical Dave Aranda defense, Baylor should be in position to compete for a Big 12 championship as the calendar turns to November. Baylor football odds are one of my favorite buys of the summer.
Phillip Slavin, founder of the Ten12 Network and frequent Lion’s Edge guest, agrees.
“With eight home games on the schedule this year, there’s a strong case to make for Baylor to be the true dark horse in the Big 12 this season,” Slavin said.
I believe Chris Klieman is the best coach in the Big 12, so I refuse to be surprised if last year’s conference winner provides a better-than-expected title defense in 2023.
That said, Kansas State lost major offensive pieces in Adrian Martinez and Deuce Vaughn. The offensive line could be the best in the conference, but the remainder of the offense will likely regress, even with some continuity with Will Howard.
Buy in on Kansas State football odds near the top of the market at your own peril.
The Red Raiders have achieved darling status, and Texas Tech football odds are one of the trendiest targets of the summer. After winning eight games in 2022, Joey McGuire brings back 17 starters (including 15 super seniors) for his second season in Lubbock.
The problem is the quarterback room. Texas Tech hasn’t had a consistent starter running the offense since Patrick Mahomes left for the NFL.
If Tyler Shough (or someone else) can break through to remain both healthy and consistently effective, Texas Tech (+1000) is a dark horse to win the Big 12.
Last year’s national runner-up lost a monstrous amount of talent to roster turnover, so it feels right to expect some regression to the mean underneath the roster turnover. TCU football odds are a popular fade target for many bettors this summer.
Perhaps that shouldn’t be the case, though. Steele told me that he talked to TCU head coach Sonny Dykes this summer in the course of his regular magazine prep process. Dykes told him that he feels TCU is “as good or better” at several different positions relative to last year’s College Football Playoff team.
The Cowboys are often at their best when they’re flying under the radar, and that’s exactly where the Cowboys have been this offseason. Oklahoma State odds are in the bottom half of the conference table, yet Mike Gundy rarely authors a total belly flop in Stillwater.
Then again, the Cowboys did face a challenging offseason. Quarterback Spencer Sanders left the program, as did Defensive Coordinator Derek Mason. This is the second straight year that Oklahoma State has lost its DC; this time, Gundy opted to bring in Bryan Nardo, who was a Division II defensive coordinator last year at Gannon University.
The positives include a friendly schedule that could have OSU closer to the title game than some might anticipate.
“There’s good depth at multiple positions, some underrated transfer portal additions, and a very manageable schedule,” Slavin told me. “FCS Central Arkansas, Arizona State, South Alabama, and all four Big 12 newcomers – which should make OSU at least a sleeper team in the conference this year.”
I don’t expect much from the Big 12 newcomers in Year 1. The lone exception is UCF, who won nine games last year and brings back 15 starters, including quarterback John Rhys Plumlee.
“Of the four, I think UCF is set to do it,” Steele said. “When I talked to Coach Malzahn – remember, he coached in the SEC. He flat-out said, ‘We’ve been preparing to go to the Big 12 for two years now.’ So he’s ready. He feels like this team is ready to go.”
Thus, the UCF Knights’ futures odds have become something of a contrarian dart throw among bettors.
West Virginia has one of the toughest non-conference schedules in all of college football this year, drawing games with old-school rivals at Pitt and Penn State. The win total is set low, at 4.5.
After really diving into the roster this past month, I must admit I’m cautiously optimistic about what the ceiling is for this WVU team. (Full disclosure: I am a lifelong West Virginia fan.) I have a position in the West Virginia football odds market on over 4.5 wins. I also grabbed a WVU +21 ticket for its Week 1 game at Penn State.
The offensive line will be among the best in the conference, and quarterback Garrett Greene will add some dynamism to an already-potent ground game.
Nobody should mistake West Virginia for a title contender, but this is a team capable of winning seven or eight games. That’s a stark difference from where the college football win totals betting market sees them.
We finally found someone who is high on #WVU football this season.
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Kansas looks like a classic, stereotypical Big 12 team. Jalon Daniels and the Jayhawks offense will rack up huge yardage totals and post gaudy scores, but the defense might be among the worst P5 units in FBS college football.
For that reason, I’m a little skeptical of this year’s Kansas football odds market, which seems a little too aspirational for me after last year’s publicly beloved campaign.
Still, that’s got to be better than what Kansas football fans have grown accustomed to over the last few years.
Head coach Matt Campbell has grown Iowa State into an unexpected conference power over the last few years, but the lingering specter of a betting scandal involving quarterback Hunter Dekker (and potentially others) could completely sidetrack this season.
At the time of publishing, some Iowa State football odds (like the win total) are off the board at BetMGM. The Cyclones are available at +8000 to win the conference.
Of the three newcomers not named UCF, BYU may be best positioned to step into a full P5 football schedule.
That’s certainly what the BYU Cougars futures odds market suggests, with BYU (5.5) showing a higher win total than Cincinnati (5) and Houston (4.5).
The Cougars have always recruited the trench positions well, and they’re used to playing multiple games per year against the nearby Pac-12.
Still, BYU faces a tough road to bowl eligibility in Year 1. Kalani Sitake plugged his quarterback hole with journeyman transfer Kedon Slovis. The schedule after Week 2 is pretty brutal.
“Talking to Coach Sitake, he has been through this before,” Steele said. “Remember, he was with Utah when they went into the Pac-12 and struggled. He feels that BYU is a little better set up to go into the Big 12 than Utah was to go into the Pac-12… I’m not so sure.”
Dana Holgorsen has transitioned a team to the Big 12 before. He was the head man in Morgantown when West Virginia came over from the Big East.
The Houston transition may very well prove more successful than WVU in the long term, but it’ll be quite tough in the short term.
West Virginia had Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey in 2012; they were ranked inside the top-10 at one point, with an absolutely prolific offense.
Houston brings back only 12 starters. Quarterback Clayton Tune is gone, to be replaced by Texas Tech transfer Donovan Smith. The September schedule has some wins, but it gets pretty bleak after that. The Houston Cougars futures odds market implies that this may be the worst team in the Big 12.
The Bearcats became the first-ever G5 to reach the College Football Playoff in 2021. Since then, they’ve bled tons of departures and NFL talent. Head coach Luke Fickell cashed in his coaching chips last year, leaving Cincinnati for Wisconsin.
Cincinnati can be competitive in the Big 12 and will have natural geographic rivalries with Iowa State and West Virginia. But in Year 1 of the new conference, the Bearcats are in a clear rebuild.
As illustrated by the Cincinnati Bearcats futures odds market, it’ll be a struggle for Scott Satterfield to get beyond four or five wins.
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