Big 12 championship betting preview: Purple reign

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We nailed it with the Big 12 in the season preview. We knew who'd be (relatively) bad - cashing a pair of under win total tickets - and we knew who'd be surprisingly good. We leaned toward TCU, betting the Horned Frogs to win the conference back in August instead of Kansas State because of TCU hosting the Wildcats in the regular season. The Horned Frogs won that game and every other contest along the way.

Just because we thought TCU had the edge to get to this game back before the season started doesn't mean we have to live with that opinion in the first week of December - especially since we're lucky enough to have TCU as the favorite in this game.

No. 13 Kansas State vs. No. 3 TCU (-2.5, 61.5)

PRESEASON ODDS
Kansas State +1200
TCU +1200

TCU's offense vs. Kansas State's defense

Dive deep into the statistics, and you'll find these teams are way more evenly matched than their records would indicate.

Max Duggan and Kendre Miller lead a TCU offense once rated as the most efficient in the country, but it slipped a little in the latter half of the season. The Horned Frogs are now just 10th in Football Outsiders' offensive efficiency index and 16th in total yards per game. Part of that is due to a schedule that got more difficult for the last six games, starting with a wild one against Kansas State.

The Horned Frogs were more like the tortoise to K-State's hare in their midseason meeting, accumulating touchdowns in each quarter and racking up almost 500 yards against Kansas State's 11th-ranked defense, per DFEI. TCU did the most damage to the Wildcats' defense of anyone all season.

Kansas State's offense vs. TCU's defense

The notable element for Kansas State in that game is that it jumped out to a 28-10 lead. The Wildcats lost starting quarterback Adrian Martinez early, and then veteran backup Will Howard went down for a period in the second half. The offense never scored again, and TCU rallied for a 10-point win. K-State punted just once after the game's opening drive, with second-half possessions ending in a missed field goal, an interception (from the third-string quarterback), a stop on fourth-and-1, a missed field goal, and an interception.

Is the second-half shutout an indication of stellar defense from Football Outsiders' 24th-ranked TCU unit, or is it more likely a function of variance in results for the Wildcats' 16th-most efficient offense? It feels like more of the latter, given Kansas State relies on its run game - averaging 210 yards per game and running for 50 yards fewer than that average against TCU - and lost expected points on high-leverage plays.

The market

The point spread of less than a field goal tells you all you need to know about how even these teams are. TCU has been winning those high-leverage plays all season, but Chris Klieman's 'Cats are built for those moments, too. The Wildcats' fourth-down failure at TCU and another fourth-and-1 miss against Tulane - a more respectable loss in retrospect - proved costly. Otherwise, it might be the Wildcats - ranked 10th in the College Football Playoff rankings, the highest of all three-loss teams - that might be holding a spot in the CFP semifinals.

How to bet the Big 12 championship

TCU should get into the CFP even with a loss - especially if it's a highly competitive defeat - which would be helpful for our 200-1 ticket on the Horned Frogs to shock the college football world. What's done is done for Kansas State when it comes to the games it's lost, in the same way that no one can take TCU's wins away.

Whether or not you have a TCU futures ticket, my conviction is that the Wildcats win this game - or come darn close. Willing to battle in the trenches while having a healthy Howard with Malik Knowles and Phillip Brooks to throw to and the explosive Deuce Vaughn out of the backfield, K-State has all the weaponry that the Horned Frogs have but without the pressure of being undefeated on the biggest stage of the season.

I'll be using a 12-1 TCU ticket to leverage a bet on Kansas State +3. Here's how you might do that:

  • If you have a $10 bet on TCU at 12-1, you'd net $120 on a TCU win.
  • Kansas State +3 is available at -130, so a $130 bet would net $90 on a KSU win with just $10 at risk.
  • If TCU wins by exactly three points, you push the new bet and win the original TCU futures bet.
  • If TCU wins by one or two (a key number in overtime), you win both bets, netting $220 total.

Pick: Kansas State +2.5

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.

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Big 12 championship betting preview: Purple reign
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