Big 12 football preview, odds, predictions: Can Iowa State catch Oklahoma? How good is Texas?

·13 min read

Previously: AAC, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Pac-12, SEC, Sun Belt

The 2021 college football season is right around the corner and this week we will be previewing each of the Power Five conferences. On Monday we broke down the SEC. On Tuesday it was the Pac-12's turn. Up next is the Big 12. 

Below, Yahoo Sports' Sam Cooper and Nick Bromberg provide their thoughts on each Big 12 team before predicting where those teams will finish in the conference and if they will go over or under their projected preseason win total.

Betting odds and win totals are provided by BetMGM. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.

Big 12 championship odds

  • Oklahoma: -165

  • Iowa State: +260

  • Texas: +1200

  • Oklahoma State: +1200

  • TCU: +1200

  • West Virginia: +2500

  • Kansas State: +5000

  • Baylor: +5000

  • Texas Tech: +10000

  • Kansas: +25000

Sam Cooper's Big 12 title pick: Oklahoma

Nick Bromberg's Big 12 title pick: Oklahoma

Baylor

Big 12 title odds: +5000

Over/under: 5.5 wins

Sam: Baylor’s offense was plain bad in 2020, so Dave Aranda brought in Jeff Grimes from BYU to bring the Bears some life. BU has some veteran pieces but really struggled along the offensive line. Sacks were a huge problem and the rushing attack was the Big 12’s worst. BU also lost veteran QB Charlie Brewer to Utah, so now Gerry Bohanon, Brewer’s longtime backup, takes over. The defense should be very solid, especially after adding nose guard Apu Ika from LSU. The Bears should start 3-0, but things get really difficult from there. I won’t be shocked if this team gets to a bowl, but my concerns about the offense have me leaning toward a 5-7 record.

UNDER 5.5 wins

Projected finish: 8th place

Nick: The Bears’ hopes of getting back to a bowl game hinge on both the offense and the defense improving. No pressure! Baylor averaged just 4.4 yards per play despite a full season of Charlie Brewer at QB. The team’s leading rusher was Craig Williams, who had just 197 yards. The defense gave up over 29 points per game and had just 19 sacks in nine games after getting 46 in 14 in 2019. I think Baylor is better in 2021 — especially on defense. But I don’t think the offense makes a big enough jump, especially up front.

UNDER 5.5 wins

Projected finish: 9th place

Iowa State

Big 12 title odds: +260

Over/under: 9.5 wins

Sam: It’s wild that Iowa State has an over/under of 9.5 wins. To hit the over, ISU would have to have its best season ever. Literally. Iowa State has never won 10 games in a season. ISU has won nine games three times, including last year. The only time ISU has gotten to nine regular season wins was in 1906. The other two times (2000, 2020), ISU needed a bowl win to get to nine. Anyway, this team is very, very good. It returns every key contributor from a year ago, but it is still not as good as Oklahoma. And the fact the Cyclones no longer get to play that underdog role has me prediciting a few losses.

UNDER 9.5 wins

Projected finish: 2nd place

Nick: I’m leery of Iowa State for some reason. I think the Cyclones are a top 15 team and capable of winning the Big 12. And with 11 starters back on offense, it’s easy to get excited about their potential. But there’s something stopping me from being totally convinced about the over here. Maybe it’s a rivalry that Iowa has dominated in recent years. Maybe it’s a November that includes Texas, Oklahoma and TCU. Iowa State could go 11-1 and win the Big 12. But 9-3 feels more likely than that or perhaps 10-2.

UNDER 9.5 wins

Projected finish: 2nd place

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy throws a pass during the first half against Texas on Nov. 16, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Kansas

Big 12 title odds: +25000

Over/under: 1.5 wins

Sam: I feel better about Kansas having some sort of turnaround under Lance Leipold than I did under Les Miles. But other than the home opener against South Dakota, it’s hard to envision the Jayhawks winning a game this season. Maybe on the road against Duke? Maybe at home against Texas Tech? Probably not. Just getting the Jayhawks to be competitive in a few conference games will be an improvement over last year.

UNDER 1.5 wins

Projected finish: 10th place

Nick: If the Jayhawks get a Big 12 win it’ll likely be over a Texas team. KU’s three Big 12 wins over the last five seasons have been over Texas (2016), TCU (2018) and Texas Tech (2019). Just one of Kansas’ losses last year was within a single score and I expect that number to go up in 2021 with Leipold. Will Kansas hit the over? I don’t think so. If it does, it may happen in September. Kansas’ three most winnable games could be against South Dakota, Baylor and Duke.

UNDER 1.5 wins

Projected finish: 10th place

Kansas State

Big 12 title odds: +5000

Over/under: 5.5 wins

Sam: I’m a believer in Chris Klieman. In what was expected to be a rebuilding year, he coached K-State to eight wins in 2019, his first season in Manhattan. In 2020, K-State won its first four Big 12 games, only to lose its last five when starting QB Skylar Thompson was injured. The Wildcats also had a ton of COVID-19 absences during the season. With Thompson back as a super senior, I’m pretty confident that this team will have a much better year — at least good enough to get to a bowl game. There are some issues on defense, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this team get to seven or eight wins.

OVER 5.5 wins

Projected finish: 5th place

Nick: The Wildcats really missed Skylar Thompson last year after he got injured. Will Howard wasn’t ready to take over and completed just 54% of his passes and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. With Thompson and RB Deuce Vaughn back, K-State’s offense should be back to where it was in 2019. The defense needs to replace both Wyatt Hubert and Drew Wiley; they had 13 of the team’s 28 sacks last year as K-State allowed seven teams to score more than 30 points. The opener against Stanford may be the difference between 5-7 and 6-6.

OVER 5.5 wins

Projected finish: 6th place

Oklahoma

Big 12 title odds: -165

Over/under: 11 wins

Sam: I think Oklahoma is the best team in the Big 12 by a pretty significant margin. I’m not completely sold on Spencer Rattler being a Heisman or No. 1 overall pick candidate just yet, but he’s still a guy who has flashed so much potential. With the rest of the pieces on that offense, plus what should finally be a pretty solid defense, Oklahoma has the juice to get back to the CFP and maybe even realistically compete to win the title this time. It's obviously possible the Sooners slip up somewhere along the way and finish 11-1. But I think 12-0 is more likely than 10-2 with this schedule, so I’m picking the over. It’s not something I would bet with my own money, though.

OVER 11 wins

Projected finish: 1st place

Nick: Do you think the Sooners will go undefeated? Like with Alabama, that’s the bet you’re making here on the win total. The non-conference schedule shouldn’t present any problems, but OU has lost at least one Big 12 game in each of the past four seasons. And OU lost two non-con games in 2016 before running the table in the conference. OU is the bettors’ choice to win the national title and Spencer Rattler is the favorite for the Heisman. I think the push is the play here and the chances of the under hitting are probably better than the over. But I can’t help myself.

OVER 11 wins

Projected finish: 1st place

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) passes in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas State Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki).
Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) passes in the second half against Kansas State on Sept. 26, 2020, in Norman, Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki).

Oklahoma State

Big 12 title odds: +1200

Over/under: 7.5 wins

Sam: There was a lot of hype about Oklahoma State going into the 2020 season, but the combination of injuries to star players and off-field distractions (to put it lightly) contributed to a good, but not great season. Entering 2021, the Cowboys are flying under the radar and I think they have the chance to be quite good. Almost all of the top contributors on defense return and so does QB Spencer Sanders. He has not lived up to lofty recruiting expectations, but he’s been pretty good when healthy. OSU had some young playmakers step up in last year’s bowl win, so I think the WR group will be fine. Chalk me up for the over here.

OVER 7.5 wins

Projected finish: 3rd place

Nick: OSU has won at least eight games in four of the last five seasons under Mike Gundy. Last year’s 8-3 team was powered by a defense that held the first four opponents of the season (including Iowa State) to 21 points or fewer. Eight starters are back. The unit should be very good again. The offense’s ceiling hinges on Spencer Sanders. Can he make a leap in his third season as the starter? OSU needs to replace Chuba Hubbard and receivers Tylan Wallace and Dillon Stoner along with LT Teven Jenkins.

UNDER 7.5 wins

Projected finish: 5th place

TCU

Big 12 title odds: +1200

Over/under: 7.5 wins

Sam: I’ve seen some folks pick TCU as a sleeper Big 12 title game contender, but I’m not so sure about that. I think the media likes to give Gary Patterson the benefit of the doubt. Based on his track record, he has earned some of that. But this program has been largely mediocre in recent years. Over the last five seasons, the Horned Frogs are 23-22 in Big 12 play and that includes the year they went 11-3 overall and 7-2 in conference. I think TCU is looking at another mediocre season. Max Duggan is a good player, but I’m not super high on the rest of the pieces on offense. I also worry about the production that needs to be replaced on the back side of the defense.

UNDER 7.5 wins

Projected finish: 6th place

Nick: I think this is the team that finishes third behind Oklahoma and Iowa State in the conference. TCU should score more than 30 points per game for a third consecutive season as Max Duggan continues to get better as the starting QB. WR Quentin Johnston averaged 22 yards a catch and RB Zach Evans is a former five-star recruit. The defense has to replace Trevon Moehrig and Garrett Wallow, but pass rusher Ochaun Mathis may be the best in the Big 12.

OVER 7.5 wins

Projected finish: 3rd place

Texas

Big 12 title odds: +1200

Over/under: 8 wins

Sam: Texas is going to have more talent than most of the teams it plays, but there are multiple position groups I have concerns about. The main one is QB, where first-year coach Steve Sarkisian still hasn’t named a starter. It’s either Casey Thompson or Hudson Card. At this point, you’d think playing Card (younger with more upside) makes sense. But when you play Louisiana and Arkansas in your first two games, it makes that decision — reliability vs. potential — much tougher. To get over eight wins, UT has to win all of its non-conference games. And even if that happens, it’s still pretty easy for me to find four Big 12 losses on the schedule. I think 7-5 and 8-4 are the most likely outcomes, so I’ll say under.

UNDER 8 wins

Projected finish: 4th place

Nick: It’ll be fun to see how creative Steve Sarkisian gets in an offense that can no longer rely on Sam Ehlinger in short-yardage situations. RB Bijan Robinson was fantastic at the end of 2020 and is a trendy breakout candidate while Josh Moore caught nine TDs and led the team with 473 receiving yards. The defense, meanwhile, needs to replace Joseph Ossai and Caden Sterns, and generate a pass rush of some sort. With tough games against Louisiana and Arkansas to start, I’m convinced Texas is an 8-4 team on the nose. But I can’t go with that. So let’s go with the over.

OVER 8 wins

Projected finish: 4th place

Texas' Bijan Robinson (5) runs for a long gain after a catch against UTEP during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Texas' Bijan Robinson (5) runs for a long gain after a catch against UTEP during the first half in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Texas Tech

Big 12 title odds: +10000

Over/under: 5 wins

Sam: It’s strange to think that a program known for a prolific passing game wasn’t very good at passing last year. But that’s what happened, causing coach Matt Wells to shake things up. He added ex-Oregon QB Tyler Shough, who started last year for the Ducks but was inconsistent. Wells also hired Big 12 veteran Sonny Cumbie as offensive coordinator. Even if the offense gets better, I don’t think the defense is very good even with some of the transfer additions. If TTU can beat Houston in Week 1, I can see a 5-7 or 6-6 record. But that feels a bit optimistic.

UNDER 5 wins

Projected finish: 9th place

Nick: The Red Raiders haven’t been to a bowl since the end of the 2017 season. An over bet here banks on a postseason appearance. And I think that could happen, especially if Tech can beat Houston in Week 1. If not, the Red Raiders need to go 4-5 in the conference. That could be doable if Tech gets a win at West Virginia at the start of October. I think 5-7 really feels right here, but let’s be optimistic for once even if I have the Red Raiders behind the Mountaineers at the end of the season.

OVER 5 wins

Projected finish: 8th place

West Virginia

Big 12 title odds: +2500

Over/under: 6.5 wins

Sam: There’s been a lot of roster turnover during Neal Brown’s time in Morgantown, but I still think he has WVU in a pretty good place. The Mountaineers are going to play a lot of close Big 12 games. A strong defense that finished top five nationally allows for that. The offense showed some potential, too, and can take some strides with Jarret Doege back at QB and Leddie Brown at RB. Still, some improvement at receiver and along the line are needed. I look at this as a 7-5 team that could finish anywhere from fourth to seventh.

OVER 6.5 wins

Projected finish: 7th place

Nick: The Mountaineers’ defense was an underrated unit in 2020 after giving up fewer than 300 yards per game and 20.5 points per game. Eight starters are back, though Tony Fields and Tykee Smith need to be replaced. A trip to Maryland could be tricky to start the season and Virginia Tech comes to Morgantown in Week 3. If both of those are losses, then the path to seven wins is really tough.

UNDER 6.5 wins

Projected finish: 7th place

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