The more things change, the more they stay the same. While the Big 12 lost a program symbolic of its style of play with the defection of Missouri to the SEC, Saul Goodman look alike/CC favorite Dana Holgorsen is back calling the shots in the Old West, while it’s possible the second best program in the state of Texas didn’t leave…it just arrived. As usual it should be another profitable year in America’s funnest college football conference. I’m looking at big things from West Virginia, rebounds from Texas and TCU, and another mix of domination and frustration from Landry Jones.
West Virginia (2011 Record ATS: 7-6)
This is a team to get excited about heading into 2012. Year two in a system designed to cover big chalk, a veteran QB in Geno Smith, a coach you can trust at the helm, and 4 home games against mediocre competition in September are a winning formula. The Mountaineers had an uncanny ability to play to the level of their competition a year ago and if they can get over this hump I’d anticipate 8-9 covers from this team. Let’s hope the defense doesn’t implode in the run-and-gun Big 12.
TCU (2011 Record ATS: 5-7-1)
I’m happy to finally have TCU in a real conference, as being asked to lay 28+ on a good but not great team wasn’t what I signed up for. I expect them be somewhere in between 2010′s elite unit and 2011′s reset. Casey Pachall looks like the real deal to me; if he takes his game to the next level and the defense can get back into the top-20 nationally they could be knocking on the door of the Top 10. At a minimum I expect 7 covers which is a clear improvement over 2011.
Texas (2011 Record ATS: 7-6)
I’m somewhat on the fence with Texas. The offense was young last year which means this year’s unit will be more experienced and I believe David Ash has the skills to take a big step. The Horns were very good (3-1 ATS) in non-conference games a year ago and I expect that to continue, so I’m giving them the thumbs up based on the belief that the improved product on the field will translate to more covers than not in conference games,
which wasn’t the case a year ago (4-5 ATS).
Oklahoma (2011 Record ATS: 7-6)
We’re still in the Landry Jones era in Norman, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. The Sooners have been a mediocre bet (20-19-1 ATS) since Jones took over for the injured Sam Bradford in 2009′s first game, a far cry from the 10-3 ATS mark Bradford put up in 2008. In either event, having your finger on the pulse of this team could net you a large payout if you pick the right spots. This team will destroy a few quality opponents and you’ll feel great that you played them, but the Sooners will likely be victimized by 10+ underdog too. I’ll be tracking them very closely and just might make a major play when the time is right. I’m expecting them to be in the black right away with an away game at UTEP to start.
Kansas (2011 Record ATS: 6-6)
I was surprised to discover that Kansas wasn’t a cash drain in 2011, and sadly for Turner Gill covering 3 out of his last 4 wasn’t enough to keep his job. The Jayhawks are mildly interesting – two of the last three recruiting classes have ranked in the 30′s, so it’s not as if the cupboard is bare, and Charlie Weis did fairly well in his first season in South Bend. Maybe the Jayhawks can surprise some people? I’ll play wait and see, but if any money is going to be made, the worst defense in the country in 2011 will need to improve.
Iowa State (2011 Record ATS: 7-6)
If you were looking to take points in 2011 then the Cyclones would have been your go-to team, finishing the year 7-2 ATS as an underdog including 5-0 ATS to end the year. In a conference where they’re unanimously picked to finish in the lower half, they’ll have plenty of chances to repeat that feat this fall. I prefer to play the favorites so I’m not the authority, but you do have my attention, Paul Rhodes.
Oklahoma State (2011 Record ATS: 9-4)
If Nick Saban is the Greek God of college football coaching, Mike Gundy is the King of the Cover. OSU is an astonishing 33-17 ATS the last four seasons and questioning this guy will get you in a lot of trouble. But at some point the Cowboys have to come back to earth, and with the under-appreciated Brandon Weeden out and true freshman Wes Lunt in, it’s not unreasonable to expect a drop off. Still, the schedule is manageable and the system hasn’t left town. I’m not ready to write off their profitability this early.
Kansas State (2011 Record ATS: 9-4)
K-State defied every metric under the sun in 2011, tying for 8th best in FBS with a 9-4 record ATS while going 10-3 straight up – all on the heels of the 101st total offense and 72nd total defense in the nation. Numbers may lie after all – the defensive stats in the Big 12 are legitimately skewed, and the bottom line is that this is a good defense backed up by an extremely savvy signal caller (Collin Klein) on offense. This won’t be an automatic bet week in and week out again, but like OK State they’ll back up their status in certain spots.
Texas Tech (2011 Record ATS: 6-6)
The biggest upset of the year – beating Oklahoma as a 29 point underdog – did nothing but confuse bettors as Tech followed up that masterpiece by dropping their last 5 games and only covering once in that span. Tommy Tuberville is just 13-12 SU since taking over for Mike Leach and Tech is looking like the 8th best program in the conference at this point. The offense is fine but needs to be spectacular with a defense as dreadful as Tech’s has become (114th in the nation in 2011). I see more of the same in 2012 – probably a safe bet against Texas State and New Mexico but look out once Big 12 season starts.
Baylor (2011 Record ATS: 9-4)
Without Robert Griffin III, Baylor and Texas Tech are essentially the same team – a system offense with no players on defense. The Bears actually ranked below Tech (116th in the nation) in total defense a year ago and were a pedestrian 3-3 ATS until RG III caught fire midway through the campaign. The last time Nick Florence was in charge (2009, when Griffin missed the season due to injury) it wasn’t pretty. Bears fans, expect a dropoff this season.