With the start of college football season inching closer, sportsbooks continue to release projected win totals for each conference. Caesars Sportsbook recently posted those totals for the Big 12, and if you go by the numbers, expect a lot of parity in the conference this season.
Only defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma has a projected win total over nine (10). The Sooners have made three of the last four College Football Playoffs and have won at least 11 games in each of the last four seasons.
Meanwhile, is Texas back? That's the question college football fans are asking after the Longhorns finished 10-4 last year and upset Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Despite that momentum, oddsmakers have set Texas' win total at nine while giving the team just 25-1 odds of winning the national championship.
At the other end of the spectrum is Kansas. The Jayhawks have been given the lowest projected win total in the Big 12 (three) but made some noise in the offseason by hiring former LSU head coach Les Miles. He'll hope to turn around a program that's gone 18-90 since 2010 while posting four winless Big 12 seasons.
Here's the complete list of projected Big 12 win totals, along with some strong bets to consider.
Kansas Over 3 (+140)
The excitement of hiring Miles could carry into the season, as Kansas will begin with soft matchups against Indiana State and Coastal Carolina. Given the Jayhawks' recent struggles, no opponent is a guaranteed win, but they'll be favored to start the season 2-0.
At that point, it will come down to Big 12 matchups. But unlike previous years, the Jayhawks will have a chance to win a couple of them, including home games versus West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Kansas State. All three teams are introducing new coaches and not one has a projected win total above six. I like Kansas' chances of winning both non-conference matchups and two Big 12 games - ending up with four victories.
Miles took a lot of criticism at LSU, but the Mad Hatter is a phenomenal recruiter and a good coach. He won't turn Kansas around overnight, but getting one more victory than a season ago seems like a realistic expectation in a conference without many true heavyweights.
Kansas State Under 5.5 (-180)
I'm going the opposite way with Kansas' in-state rival. What Bill Snyder accomplished at Kansas State was one of the most amazing coaching jobs in college football history, but he didn't recruit well over the last couple of years. That means new head coach Chris Klieman doesn't have much to work with, and he's already stated that several true freshmen will be relied on to play big roles in 2019.
Klieman won four FCS championships at North Dakota State and he's a good fit for Kansas State over the long term. However, he'll need a couple of recruiting classes to replenish the overall talent level in Manhattan before Kansas State is a serious contender in the Big 12.
Above all, Klieman must improve an offense that ranked 114th in the country last year. He'll need to to do it quickly, too, because after opening against Nicholls and Bowling Green, the Wildcats will face Mississippi State and Oklahoma State on the road before hosting Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma. That's a tough stretch for a young team with a new coaching staff.
The Wildcats need to score at least two big upsets to reach six wins, and I just don't see it happening. The under 5.5 is -180 at Caesars, which is a little too much juice for my liking, but I'll be watching closely to see what other sportsbooks put out there for this team.
Oklahoma State Over 7 (-130)
One thing I look for when taking an over with college football win totals is a good coach coming off a disappointing season. Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State fit the mold after finishing 7-6 in 2018.
Inconsistent quarterback play and turnovers doomed the Cowboys last year, but Gundy's teams are always dangerous when he has a strong player under center. Enter top recruit Spencer Sanders, who redshirted last year but is favored to win the starting job this fall. As always, the Cowboys are loaded with skill players, so they'll compete for the Big 12 title if Sanders lives up to expectations.
The Cowboys' schedule also sets up nicely to exceed seven wins. They will open the season against Oregon State, McNeese, and Tulsa, meaning they should be 3-0 when they face Texas in Austin on Sept. 21. If they upset the Longhorns, I won't be shocked to see the Cowboys sitting at 11-0 when they host rival Oklahoma in the season finale. For that to happen though, OSU will need to perform better in games it's expected to win. The Cowboys are just 4-5 in their last nine Big 12 home contests, despite being favored in all of them.
Oklahoma State over seven wins is one of my favorite college football bets this preseason. If Sanders is the real deal, the Cowboys are also a sleeper team to make the College Football Playoff and cash in on their 300-1 odds to win the national championship.