Big 12 season betting preview: Wide-open spaces
The Red River Showdown often has the feel of a championship game. Maybe it's the split of crimson and burnt orange bisecting the field or the Cotton Bowl's fairgrounds in the foreground, implying pomp and circumstance befitting a title game.
Oklahoma and Texas continue to be the top selections on the oddsboard, with the two teams that were actually in the Big 12 championship game last year - Baylor and Oklahoma State - following them. However, the league championship odds indicate the Big 12 is wide-open this year.
Big 12 conference championship odds
We haven't seen much change on the board since we last addressed the Big 12's odds. The Sooners' +200 price is either a hint that the Brent Venables era might not be ready to launch, or it's the best value we'll ever see on Oklahoma - especially considering the start to Steve Sarkisian's tenure at Texas last season likely couldn't have gone worse on the field.
Given how much talent Baylor lost after its impressive championship season - where it won four of five one-score games - it seems highly unlikely that Dave Aranda can pull something off to that level again with the underwhelming Blake Shapen under center.
Oklahoma State's big loss of the offseason came off the field, with defensive coordinator Jim Knowles leaving for Ohio State. Given that the Cowboys occasionally won games last season without the offense bothering to score in the second half, they're very vulnerable should the defense take a step back.
Season win totals
|TEAM||WIN TOTAL||O/U PRICE|
Indicative of its over price, Kansas State is very likely to surprise. After all, Chris Klieman is 22-13-1 against the spread in his tenure at K-State - the best in the Big 12. Former Manhattan quarterback Collin Klein takes over the offense, but the biggest goal will be teaching Nebraska transfer Adrian Martinez to secure the ball.
However, the more dangerous team might be TCU. Sonny Dykes takes over from Gary Patterson, and the expectation is that the offense will be more creative, regardless of who the quarterback is. Dykes' best move, though, might have been poaching defensive mastermind Joseph Gillespie from Tulsa. TCU's fatal flaw last season was a usually-reliable defense being anything but.
Kansas takes its usual place at the bottom of the board, but Lance Leipold has brought the program back to a minimum level of competitiveness, which was not how we'd describe the Jayhawks prior to his arrival.
Games of the year
Sept. 10: Alabama @ Texas (+16)
Is Texas back? Certainly enough to take the points in Week 2, but we'll likely get more after bettors weigh in meaningfully before the game.
Sept. 10: Iowa State @ Iowa (-7)
After a few years of genuine interest, the "Cy-Hawk" game takes a step back, and if we had any interest in laying points with Iowa, we would.
Sept. 17: Oklahoma @ Nebraska (+5)
If Oklahoma is vulnerable, we'll know it against the Huskers, who played - and lost - so many close games last year. I'll wait to see if we can get the full touchdown on the home underdog.
Oct. 1: Oklahoma State @ Baylor (-1.5)
The point spread for the conference championship rematch suggests that oddsmakers have as little an idea as we do of what we'll get from these teams this season.
Oct. 8: Texas vs. Oklahoma (-2.5)
Maybe the Sooners cover in multiple overtimes, but I'll want the Longhorns plus the points in the Red River Showdown. I'm going to patiently wait for a full field goal.
Oct. 22: Texas @ Oklahoma State (-2.5)
This has all the makings of Texas moving to a road favorite (especially if it beats the Sooners) only to lose in Stillwater to the Cowboys as a home 'dog. Bet accordingly.
Nov. 19: Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma (-7)
The Bedlam game might mean everything or nothing at all, which is why a flat -7 is the right spread this far out.
Big 12 championship: TCU (+1200)
Win totals: Oklahoma State under 8.5 (-125), Iowa State under 6.5 (-110)
High variance is the way to play Texas, but +280 isn't enough value to back a perennial disappointment to do big things. So the long shot play comes down to Kansas State or TCU at 12-1, and since their meeting is in Fort Worth, give me the Horned Frogs.
Mike Gundy and Matt Campbell both have their hands full to be more than just an inconvenience for the favorites in the league. Gundy needs his defense to remain awesome and his offense to get going again, but I don't believe both of those things are going to happen. Meanwhile, Campbell's team disappointed with Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, and Charlie Kolar - three of the most-talented players Iowa State has ever had. What can we expect now that all three are off to the NFL?
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.