As far as the oddsmakers at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com are concerned, the Oklahoma Sooners and the Big 12 is the big one.
Coach Mike Stoops’ Sooners, with established senior quarterback Baker Mayfield and Heisman Trophy hopeful Samaje Perine at running back, are listed at -140, better than even money, on the conference champion futures board. The Sooners have their sights set on a return visit to the College Football Playoff after being a semifinalist in 2015.
However, it’s not unheard of in college football for a team who considered a conference championship a mere means to an end to stumble. A lopsided futures board, where the Oklahoma State Cowboys and TCU Horned Frogs are the nominal second favorites at +500, offers ample fodder for a longshot play.
Oklahoma State, perennially in the Sooners’ shadow, won their first 10 games in 2015 before fading at the end of the season. However, quarterback Mason Rudolph has the position all to himself after rotating last season. The Cowboys also expect better results in the rushing phase with an improved offensive line and the addition of transfer running back Barry J. Sanders, son of the former Heisman winner and Hall of Famer.
Oklahoma State, though, doesn’t appear to be in their rivals’ class when it comes to playing defense.
The Horned Frogs have lost their top two quarterbacks, top two rushers and three of their top four receivers from 2015, along with four-fifths of the offensive line. Such turnover is part of the college game however, and TCU coach Gary Patterson has delivered a double-digit win total in six of the last eight seasons. Potential TCU starting quarterback Kenny Hill is also a former starter at Texas A&M.
The Texas Longhorns, who beat the Sooners last season in the Red River Rivalry, are listed at +750 on the odds to win the Big 12. The Longhorns had losing records during coach Charlie Strong’s first two seasons, and Strong might need to deliver results soon in order to keep his job. Texas is projected to start a true freshman at quarterback, Shane Buechele, which hardly seems like a good omen.
The fallout from a sexual assault scandal and subsequent ouster of coach Art Briles has led to the Baylor Bears being listed at +800. However, the effects of that embarrassment might not affect the Bears’ on-field fortunes immediately with senior quarterback Seth Russell back to lead an offense which is almost always among the Football Bowl Subdivision leaders.
The West Virginia Mountaineers (+1200) and Texas Tech Red Raiders (+2500) promise to score plenty of points through their air-aid passing schemes. However, both teams have often proven to give up their share as well, which usually isn’t a recipe for winning a conference.