College Football will be kicking off the 2018 season in just a few weeks and summer always seems to go by quicker than it should. There is a beam of light that shines through the darkness, though. It is the genesis of another football season filled with frozen ropes, vertical leaps, clean hits and even a few dirty ones.
Many of the schools in the Big 12 Conference are located in or around tornado alley.
What I want to know is how are these offenses so prolific, particularly through the air?
My best guess is teams like Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma and the gunslingers that have played there like Kyle Kingsbury, Mason Rudolph, and the 2018 #1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield grew up fighting the wind and more importantly respecting it.
Quarterbacks are quite similar to fighters. They have to be confident.
I know. I know. It’s important to be confident when entering any form of competition whether it be the Super Bowl or the speed knitting and crochet world championships, but the importance of a QB’s positive mindset 100% of the time is imperative.
The race for the Big 12 Conference Championship may end up being the most exciting in college football.
Despite losing their quarterback to the NFL, the Oklahoma Sooners are the preseason favorite to win the conference.
The ESPN Football Power Index gives the Sooners a 54% chance to win the conference and have them ranked 8th overall.
Next on the list is the University of Texas Longhorns and they come in at 16th in the country with a 20.3% chance of taking home the Big 12 Championship. It was nice to see a resurgence of sorts last year for the Longhorns under new head coach Tom Herman.
They finished the season 7-6 but everybody started to get the feeling that things were turning around in Austin. Texas showed they can hang once again with the big boys with close losses against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and USC.
Fans, bettors, and experts all expect this team to continue their growth towards being a national powerhouse once again.
The Texas Christian Horned Frogs are always a threat to win the Big 12 and this season will be no different, not to mention they have potentially more value to win it paying out at 6-1 than the previously mentioned Longhorns and Sooners.
Junior quarterback Will Grier will attempt to lead the West Virginia Mountaineers to their first-ever Big 12 title. The young man from Charlotte, North Carolina has a rifle for an arm and is very underrated in the hunt for this year’s Heisman Trophy.
Okay, I may be getting ahead of myself but Baker Mayfield sure climbed up that draft board in a hurry once NFL scouts and coaches got a chance to experience his moxy.
Maybe it’s the long hair, but I think Will Grier has a similar way about him.
We will see!
Let’s break down what teams are contenders for the Big 12 Championship, which schools are just pretenders, and pick a conference winner.
Oklahoma State Cowboys: +800
Every team I’m going to talk about today lost great players to the 2018 NFL Draft. However, I don’t think any other teams in the Big 12 lost 2 players that were more valuable to their success than quarterback Mason Rudolph and Wide Receiver James Washington.
It will be difficult for the Cowboys to make another serious run at a Big 12 Conference title in 2018.
Their schedule enters a brutal stretch towards the end of October when they play Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and TCU in consecutive weeks to finish out the season.
I think that’s just going to be too much for this team. I’m not sure why they back-loaded their schedule like this, but they are making things harder for themselves especially if the mid-season injury bug bites down with some force.
The Cowboys are going to learn a lot this year, especially in the late fall. I just don’t see them making it to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship game.
TCU Horned Frogs: +600
The Horned Frogs enter their 19th season under the leadership of head coach Gary Patterson who has compiled a record of 160-57 at his time in Fort Worth. It’s hard to count these kids out with such a strong leader and extraordinary football mind at the helm.
They came very close at a conference championship in 2017, but in the end, couldn’t match the quarterback play of some of their Big 12 counterparts.
This year there is a massive question mark at the most important position on the field. If they have someone like like Jake Fromm or Tua Tuvagliova emerge from the smoke, then they definitely have a shot.
I just can’t put my money on a team without a quarterback and I’m not going to tell you to do that either.
University of Texas Longhorns: +300
I already spoke a bit about the resurgence of the Horns in 2017. They played everyone pretty well minus an 18-point loss to the aforementioned Horned Frogs.
Most experts have the Longhorns and the Sooners in the Big 12 Championship game and many have picked the Longhorns in that contest.
Maybe they are doing that because it’s the fun and stylish pick or maybe because a winning bet on them pays out three times as much money as one for the Sooners.
The Longhorns have a pretty favorable conference schedule as they host TCU and West Virginia while traveling to Oklahoma State. I think they can beat OK State on the road and potentially beat WVU and TCU in Austin.
The game opposite the Sooners in early October will be played at a neutral site albeit in their home state at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
There aren’t any divisions in the Big 12. It’s just the conference, so the two teams with the best records will play, likely for the second time in 2018, for the Big 12 Championship in Arlington, Texas.
Head-to-head matchups will be key as that is the first tiebreaker used to separate teams at the top.
If Texas wins out in conference play, they can still lose the regular season matchup with the Sooners and have a chance at revenge in the title game.
University of Oklahoma Sooners: +100
The Oklahoma Sooners had such a passionate and driven leader in Heisman Trophy Winner and #1 overall draft pick in Baker Mayfield that I don’t think they will respond emotionally this year like they were able to do with him in previous seasons.
They are definitely much more vulnerable to defeat than they were last year when they had a man leading them that refused to let his team lose.
Oklahoma’s schedule isn’t too bad. They will have to play TCU and WVU on the road, though. Even if they can beat Texas at the neutral site, I think they will split these two road games.
The Mountaineers of West Virginia have the best chance at “upsetting” the Sooners. When these two teams collide at 7 pm on Black Friday, the Sooners will have played 5 straight weeks beforehand.
You can put your money on the Sooners to win the Big 12 but at (+100), I don’t see near the
West Virginia Mountaineers: +800
This is the longest limb I’ve ventured out upon with any of my conference winner picks. (+800) sounds like quite the stretch, especially considering the Mountaineers finished the 2017 season with a loss to the Utah Utes in the First Responder Bowl.
They were only 4th in the Big 12 but quarterback Will Grier was simply outdueled by Rudolph and Mayfield. Losing at home to Texas was a bit suspect, but I’m telling you that Grier is the truth and can have another season like his former counterpart Baker Mayfield did in 2017.
Playing against and particularly losing to greatness can lead an athlete to be great. I’ve seen it in fighting numerous times. In football, it may go unnoticed as there are so many positions but Grier is no doubt the better man for sharing the field with Rudolph and Mayfield.
If the WVU defense continues to improve as they did throughout the regular season in 2017, this team can beat anybody. They could even sneak into a playoff spot!
I think they travel to Austin, get their revenge and then beat TCU at home. They can lose a close one to the Cowboys, but not be affected as OK State lost other games.
They will be coming off this loss when they host the Sooners. I think Grier leads them to a shootout victory as he cements his position as a Heisman candidate.
The Big 12 race may turn out to be the most fun in college football with great stories like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State rebounding after each losing one of the best quarterbacks their school has ever seen.
The Big 12 isn’t broken up into two divisions like the other Power 5 Conferences, so all the contenders will play each other in the regular season and possibly a second time in the title game.
TCU is very well-rounded with a great coach, but the mystery still remains as to who will be their starting quarterback. The QB by committee thing may be an early strategy and if so, I’m not a fan.
The level of competition in the Big 12 is too high to still be experimenting in the Fall.
There you go, guys. Call me crazy, but this team plays with heart and plenty of speed.
BIG 12 WINNER
West Virginia +800