Big 12 football, in one simple word, is fun. It truly is its own pedigree; not the bloody, physical Big Ten, or the dazzling semi-pro SEC, or the mild-mannered Pac 12. Big 12 football is an aggressive, maverick game where how-many-points can you score is akin to how-much-oil does your land produce. With apologies to Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa, a true Texas or Oklahoma baron would have it no other way. But for this article, forget about the Pickens plan. The Mason plan will help you stuff your wallet in September and hopefully beyond.
Who is expected to compete for the conference crown?
With a strong finish to 2010 and most of its starters returning, Oklahoma is the absolute favorite to take home the conference title as well as compete for the BCS crown. Nipping at its heels is in-state rival Oklahoma State, coming off an awesome season for bettors (10-3 ATS) and an excellent run in our 2010 betting power rankings. Texas A&M seems to have finally figured things out under Mike Sherman and could also push the Sooners. In spite of losing Blaine Gabbert, the Gary Pinkel talent pipeline is still producing for Missouri and has enough quality players to also compete for a BCS bid.
Which teams could be the cash cows?
In September, just about everyone. With conference emphasis on high-powered passing attacks, many Big 12 teams are equipped to run up the score on inferior opponents who just don’t have the manpower to compete. The offenses of Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, and Missouri’s may combine to punt less than 10 times against their non-BCS opponents, and there’s really no excuse for Oklahoma and Texas not to wake up for games like this and also join the fun. The former 5 teams went 10-4 ATS in 2010 against non-BCS opponents not named TCU.
Within conference play, all I can suggest is pick the teams with a competent quarterback and a fair secondary. Oklahoma and Texas A&M look to be on the short list here. The Sooners are especially deadly at home in conference games (8-3 ATS since 2008). After A&M terminated the Jerrod Johnson experience and handed the keys to Ryan Tannehill, they finished the Big 12 season 6-0 ATS. I’m also a sucker for beaten up blue-chip stocks, and on that note I’ll take a flyer with Texas. Last year was beyond bad (3-9 ATS), meaning this year’s lines shouldn’t be too inflated at first. This assumes Garrett Gilbert was able to pull his head out of the sand, something that’s no sure thing.
Which teams could drain the off-shore account?
Don’t tell spread-master Mike Gundy, but I think Oklahoma State is going to have a hard time repeating their payout success from 2010. I wouldn’t underestimate Dana Holdgerson’s defection to West Virginia, and without the underappreciated Kendall Hunter, the offense may deal with an identity crisis. On the flip-side of Oklahoma’s home dominance is its inexplicably bad record road record (3-6-1 ATS the last two seasons). The Sooners struggled in Cincinnati for heaven’s sake, a city where only the Bengals and 19-year old black males run into hard times.
Another situation that makes me feel empty is Tommy Tuberville and Texas Tech. Their defense may have been one of the worst in all of FBS last season, and with a new QB and no Mike Leach to coach him up, I’m really not sure how things are going to pan out. I get the sense that the Tuberville-Tech marriage is headed for the divorce heap rather quickly. I’m also a bear on Kansas State. I have no idea how they’ve had any success the last two seasons with their personnel. I’ll give Bill Snyder a lot of credit, but with a minimally talented first year starter at QB and a shoddy defense, not even he can continue to work miracles.
What quarterbacks are capable paying out by themselves?
I pegged Robert Griffin Jr. of Baylor as my future Madden-franchise quarterback in 2008, and I like to think I’ve been on board for the ride ever since. At this point there’s no good reason for it, but I just can’t quit Landry Jones. Maybe I’m subconsciously believing it’s still Sam Bradford in that uniform.
What quarterbacks will we inevitably and regrettably talk ourselves into betting on?
I don’t know who Iowa State’s Steele Jantz is, but the buzz and his name have piqued my interest. Will I at some point make a big play on Iowa State only to have Jantz throw it away because he’s only as good as the walk-on/reject at Hawaii that he is? Absolutely. I’m also a sucker for a great-looking rivals page, and James Franklin fits this bill. With a solid team around him I’ll certainly forget at least twice that he’s only taken a handful of snaps at this level.
Which coaches do we like?
Art Briles is one of the reasons we’re here today. His 2006 Houston Cougars was the first time I really rode a team, and he’s been my guy ever since. Mike Gundy, for all his character, results, and spiky hair, has also been a pleaser for years.
Which coaches do we hate?
Can I hate Tommy Tuberville for allowing Northwestern’s and its 3rd string QB to score 32 second-half points and give up a backdoor cover in last season’s Ticket City Bowl? Yes I can, and yes I will.
Who appears to be irrelevant?
I haven’t hit on the Kansas Jayhawks, and it’s because I don’t know what to expect. I believe Turner Gil is a good coach and in Year 2 he might surprise some people. But as bad as they were last year, I’ll wait them out.
I can’t wait for….
Oklahoma @ Florida State, September 17th There don’t appear to be that many great non-conference games for the Big 12, but this one should be marvelous