The Big 12 has been one of the more entertaining conferences to watch in recent years. With so many teams in the conference using most of their resources on the offensive side of the ball, you end up with a lot of high-scoring games, which is what the fans love to see.
While there’s been some really good teams to come out of the Big 12, no program has been able to emerge and deliver a national championship. The last time the Big 12 ended up with the best team in the country was back in 2005 when Vince Young led Texas to that epic win over USC.
Not only has the Big 12 failed to win it all during this stretch, they last had a team play in the title game in 2009 (Texas), easily the longest streak of any Power 5 conference.
It looked as though the Big 12 was well on its way to having a team at least play for the title last year. Oklahoma went into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed and were up 31-17 behind Heisman winner Baker Mayfield against Georgia. Things took a drastic turn for the worse and the Sooners ended up losing 54-48 in double-overtime.
The Big 12 as a whole did post a winning record in bowl games at 5-3, but were just 4-6 against Power 5 teams in non-conference play.
Big 12 College Football Preview & Predictions
The conference has belonged to Oklahoma of late. The Sooners have won each of the last 3 regular-season titles and last year defeated TCU 41-17 in the new Big 12 title game. Oklahoma now has 11 Big 12 titles on their resume. The next best is Texas with 3. The only other active members with more than one are Kansas State and Baylor with two a piece.
According to the oddsmakers (odds listed in table below) Oklahoma is the favorite to win the Big 12 title again in 2018. The experts in the desert have Texas as the biggest threat to the Sooners, with TCU, West Virginia and Oklahoma State all listed at better than 10-1.
I’ve went through and studied each team, breaking down who each team lost and who they have coming back, as well as coaching changes and each team’s schedule. Below you can find my projections on how I see the conference shaping up in 2018.
Want to get a head start on opening week? Check out the Week 1 betting odds that have been released. You can also see who I have winning each conference and the national championship in my overall predictions.
2018 Big 12 Projected Standings, Rankings & Betting Odds
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||Big 12 Odds|
As you can see, I’m not taking the obvious choice here and just pegging Oklahoma at the top of the standings. In fact, I not only have Texas winning the Big 12, but I got the Longhorns going 8-1 in league play and finishing a full 2-games ahead in the standings.
A lot of people expected new head coach Tom Herman to step in and take Texas to the top of the Big 12 in his first season. While they ended up finishing in a T-4th at 5-4 in the conference and just 7-6 overall, it could have went a lot different had a few things gone their way in close games. Texas had 4 losses by 5-points or less, including a double-overtime loss at USC and overtime defeat at home to Oklahoma State.
Overall it was a big step in the right direction for a team that had posted 3 straight losing seasons. With 14 starters back (7 offense, 7 defense), including two talented quarterbacks in Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele, I believe the Longhorns are going to be one of the most improved teams in the country and have a legit shot at making the playoffs.
I have both Oklahoma and TCU tied for 2nd in the Big 12 at 6-3. Note that I have the Sooners listed ahead of the Horned Frogs due to having the better overall record, but I actually have TCU winning at home over Oklahoma, which would put the Horned Frogs in the Big 12 title game against Texas.
The big reason I’m not taking the Sooners to repeat for a 4th straight year is the losses they suffer on both sides of the ball. The obvious loss is Mayfield at quarterback, but the defense also loses 4 of their top 6 tacklers and more than half of their 26 total sacks from last year. The offense simply won’t be as prolific without Mayfield and the defense hasn’t exactly been top notch of late (allowed 28.8 ppg in 2016 and 27.1 ppg in 2017). I have them losing true road games at TCU and West Virginia, as well as their neutral site matchup with Texas.
As for TCU, they too have to replace a highly productive quarterback with Kenny Hill graduating. Hill was outstanding last year, completing 67.2% of his attempts for 3,152 yards with 23 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions. They do have some talent ready to step in at quarterback, but it’s hard telling what kind of production they will get. The biggest thing that will keep them in games is their defense, which figures to once again be one of the best in the Big 12.
I have another sizable gap in the standings before we hit a 3-way tie for 4th with West Virginia, Iowa State and Baylor at 5-4. The Mountaineers might be the biggest sleeper to win the conference, as they have arguably the best talent at quarterback in senior Will Grier. There’s no question that offense will be potent if Grier is healthy, I just don’t think their defense will be good enough to win on the road.
The Cyclones took a massive step forward in year two under head coach Matt Campbell. ISU went 8-5 and posted a winning record (5-4) in league play for the first time since 2000. Note that all 5 of the Cyclones losses last year were by 7-points or less and they knocked off Oklahoma on the road as a 31-point dog. ISU is a team no one wants to face in 2018.
A lot of people will likely wonder how I have Baylor so high in the standings. The Bears were a complete mess in 2017, finishing just 1-11 with the only win coming against Kansas. That was to be expected. Baylor is now in year two under a really good head coach in Matt Rhule and should be greatly improved on both sides of the ball. The schedule also sets up well with most of their winnable games at home.
Next up is Kansas State, who I have going 4-5. I’ll admit that I don’t love picking a Bill Synder coached team this low in the standings. I just couldn’t get over the schedule, which has the Wildcats playing 5 conference road games against the likes of West Virginia, Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU and Iowa St. They will also have their hands full at home against Texas and Mississippi State.
The team I’m way down on in 2018 is Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have posted 3 straight 10-win seasons under Mike Gundy, but I think are in line for a bit of rebuilding year. Oklahoma State loses their all-time leading passer in Mason Rudolph, who threw for almost 5,000 yards with a 37-9 TD-INT ratio. They also lose their all-time leading receiver in James Washington (1,549 yards, 13 TDs), as well as their No. 2 wide out in Marcell Ateman (1,156 yards, 8 TDs). The defense will be solid, but I just don’t see them scoring enough to win more than a few games in league play.
Texas Tech is next in line in the standings at 2-7. The Red Raiders haven’t posted a winning conference mark since 2009 and have gone just 3-6 in league play each of the last two years. I think they do one worse than that, as they have to replace their starting quarterback, as well as their leading rusher and top two receivers.
That leaves Kansas in the basement of the Big 12 once again. The Jayhawks have been atrocious over the last decade. They haven’t won more than 3 games in a single season since going 5-7 in 2009. They have a whopping 5 conference wins since 2008 and are off a 1-11 campaign in 2017, where their only win was against SE Missouri State. Kansas will have an impressive 19 starters back and should be more competitive, but still have a long way to go to catch up to other 9 teams.
Big 12 Championship Game Prediction: Texas Defeats TCU
|Players (Pos, School)||Odds|
|Will Grier (QB, West Virginia)||+2000|
|Rodney Anderson (RB, Oklahoma)||+2500|
|David Sills (WR, West Virginia)||+6600|
|Justice Hill (RB, Oklahoma State)||+7500|
For a full list of Heisman odds, click here.