Ever since the College Football Playoff was launched back in 2014, there’s been one university in the Big 12 conference that’s been involved for the chase for the national championship in three of the five years: the Oklahoma Sooners. And not just that, they’re also a heavy favorite to win their fifth consecutive Big 12 championship.
According to online sportsbook Bovada, the Oklahoma Sooners place as the top-dog favorites with -125 odds, and in second place we have the Texas Longhorns at +285. Coming up in third, we have the Iowa State Cyclones placed at +1050, with the West Virginia Mountaineers in the No. 4 spot with +1100 odds. Rounding out the top five, we actually have a three-way tie between the TCU Horned Frogs, Baylor Bears, and Oklahoma State Cowboys at +2000. In the eighth position, you’ve got the Texas Tech Red Raiders with +2200 odds, followed by the Kansas State Wildcats in No. 9 placed at +4000. The Kansas Jayhawks take us to the very end of the conference with a +10000 mark.
When you look at the odds, as well as your wallet, it’s obvious that the Big 12 is once again between Oklahoma and Texas. We faced a similar situation as last season when both the Sooners and Longhorns would end the season with double-digit wins, and would be the only two teams in the conference to do so. For Oklahoma, they would compile an overall record of 12-2 with an 8-1 tally in the conference. With Texas, they were set at 10-4 with a 7-2 mark in the Big 12. In last year’s Red River Showdown game, we had an absolute thriller between the two where Texas would collect a monster 48-45 road win. With that being said, the two would meet up again in the Big 12 championship game, and the Sooners would get their revenge with a 39-27 victory.
One of the main issues for Oklahoma last season that they’ll look to clean up this year was their defense, they would rank 107th in the nation for yards allowed-per-game, and also would place at No. 96 in points allowed-per-game — just dismal numbers. It would ultimately cost them a shot at the national championship as well, scoring a blazing 34 points against Alabama in the Orange Bowl, but they would surrender 45 to the Tide. At the end of the day, you know the old saying: Defense wins championships.
On the defensive side, the Longhorns will be returning just three starters from the 2018 season, and even though some solid talent is coming in, they only have a limited amount of time to get the team chemistry together before they face off against LSU in Week 2. Back to their talent though, you do have to give them some praise there. Even though the team is quite young, they’ve ranked in the top three in recruiting the past two years, so Texas certainly has the potential to become extremely dominant a year or two from now. Before that can happen, however, they need to silence their critics who say they can’t get to the next level. The talent is there, the potential is there, now Texas just needs to make it happen.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys would cause a lot of irritation in the betting community last season, achieving upset victories over Texas, West Virginia and Boise State, and would nearly upset Oklahoma falling to them 48-47. Sounds great, right? Massive inconsistency would then strike with home losses to each Texas Tech and Iowa State, and they would also take a loss at Kansas State. Each week, you never knew what Oklahoma State was going to get, and it caused a lot of betters to have acid reflux as a result.
To kick off their 2019 campaign, there could possibly be a quarterback battle between Dru Brown who transferred in from Hawaii and redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders. Around them, however, comes solid talent all around the offense and the vast majority of the defense is returning — the only facet to take a hit would be their defensive line. With the tools in place, if one of the quarterbacks can take full control of the job and be effective, we can be looking at an Oklahoma State squad that could make the Big 12 race interesting.
Another team to keep an eye on heading into 2019 are the Baylor Bears. In 2017, they would nearly suffer a winless season finishing with a 1-11 record, and then the next year in 2018, the Bears would deliver massive improvement delivering a 7-6 tally — they would even win the Academy Sports and Outdoors Texas Bowl over Vanderbilt. Baylor did get chewed up by West Virginia and Oklahoma, but they would play the Longhorns considerably well — they would lose in that game by just a 23-17 score.
The Bears have a boatload of players returning for the 2019 season, particularly on their defense with Charlie Brewer leading things. Baylor didn’t have a bad offense, ranking No. 63 in the nation, but their defense will need to step it up a bit from their 87th ranking. With that being said, however, there seems to be plenty of improvement coming from both teams this season with the all of the returners they have. I look for Baylor to have a potential big year. They are a bit behind Oklahoma and Texas when it comes to talent, but they do have the potential to achieve upsets and making things interesting in the conference.
Since taking the head coaching job at Oklahoma, Lincoln Riley has had nothing but success. First, he would help lead Baker Mayfield to winning the Heisman Trophy and would lead the Sooners to the College Football Playoff. And then last season, he would do the exact same thing with Kyler Murray. They may have not gotten out of the semifinal either season, but that’s bound to happen when you’re dealing with either Alabama or Clemson. Regardless, it’s clear that Riley has something special going at Oklahoma.
Heading into the 2019 campaign, the head coach was in a situation again where he needed to find a new starting quarterback — yeah, that didn’t take long, and it was quite successful. Transferring out of Alabama, the Sooners would pick up Jalen Hurts, and Riley is hoping to repeat his Midas Touch with the former member of the Tide — Hurts would lose his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa while in Tuscaloosa, though he would fill in for Tagovailoa in the SEC Championship and have a heroic game. Now at Oklahoma, Hurts gets his shot at the starting job and he’s surrounded by talent everywhere that includes Trey Sermon and CeeDee Lamb. Be prepared for a very potent Sooners offense in 2019.
The only real concerns I see with Oklahoma is the state of their offensive line and their defensive secondary. On the offensive side, the Sooners would take a hit in the form of losing four of their five starters, and if they don’t get that cleaned up, Hurts’ and Sermon’s effectiveness will become quite limited. With that being said, their center Creed Humphrey may be the best in the nation, and his leadership will be vital in the success of their offensive line. Going to their defense, they have Kenneth Murray who is an absolute beast at the linebacker position, but they’re going to have to address their passing coverage — they were absolutely horrendous last season and the worst in college football. If they can clean that up, Oklahoma will surely be competing for the national championship, again.
With the struggles that the Texas Longhorns would suffer the past few years, you would think the fan base would have been happy with a 10-4 tally in 2018, but there’s been some complaints, and you can’t really blame them. There were some losses on their schedule that should have been wins, and it would have obviously resulted in a better result. When you look at the loss to Maryland in the season opener, Oklahoma State and West Virginia in repeat single-digit defeats and their loss against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game, you see that maybe Texas should have been chasing for a national championship rather than being content with a 10-win season.
With that being said, head coach Tom Herman has enough of the base energized where the Longhorns’ praises are being sung, and hefty expectations for the new year are coming along with the kudos. Well, I have good news for the Texas fan base: Not only do they have the potential to pull another 10-4 season, but the tools are there for them have an even better result in 2019.
Sam Ehlinger will return at quarterback for the Longhorns, and though he may not be the best at his position in the country, he’s certainly got the ability to compete against any opposition that he faces. Expect an even more potent Texas offense this year with him and Collin Johnson once again pairing up. Their defense is a bit concerning, they’re tasked with replacing a total of nine lost starters that were extremely effective for the Longhorns in 2018. Their secondary is still strong though being led by safety Caden Sterns, but the rest of the defense will need their fresh recruits to step up — the talent is certainly there though.
Iowa State hadn’t had talent good enough to leave early for the NFL Draft since the 1997 season — that would be an eventual Hall of Famer in Troy Davis, who was drafted by the New Orleans Saints. And then for the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cyclones had two players leave early for the draft: Hakeem Butler and David Montgomery.
With that being the circumstances, most would think that Iowa State would take a bit of a decline in 2019 after repeating 8-5 seasons in both 2018 and 2017, even finishing third place in the Big 12 in the ’18 campaign. However, fourth-year head coach Matt Campbell and the rest of the Iowa State base aren’t sharing those same sentiments, and it’s been for good reason: Not only has their recruiting been well, but the development of the talent has been superb as well.
Coming back this season, the Cyclones have 11 returning players who would earn postseason All-Big 12 recognition in the 2018 season. Needless to say, expectations are pretty high in Ames, but it’s something that Campbell has gotten used to with growing expectations every year since his arrival. They come third in the odds for a reason, and it’s because they have weapons to work with to achieve success. Don’t be shocked to see the Cyclones in the Big 12 mix at season’s end.
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.