Vegas bookmakers released the opening over/under win totals for every FBS team last week. The initial odds predicted three Big 12 teams winning more games than they did last season, five winning fewer games than last year and two winning the exact same amount.
I took a look at every Big 12 team’s over/under and made some ironclad predictions that are sure to win you some money. FWIW, the picks I feel most confident in are Kansas, Texas and West Virginia.
(In alphabetical order)
Baylor Bears (over/under: 6)
2017 record: 1-11
Yeah, I know. Baylor was a dumpster fire last year. We’re talking about a losing-to-a-Turner-Gill-coached-FCS-team-at-home kind of dumpster fire.
**Stephen A. Smith voice**
HOWEVER, there is no possible way Baylor is going to be that bad again this year. Mostly because there isn’t a lot of room to go down from 1-11. Matt Rhule appears to have found his QB of the future in 2017 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the year Charlie Brewer, and the Bears bring back almost every player of consequence from last season. This is a very young team with a favorable 2018 schedule.
Baylor starts off the season with Abilene Christian, at UTSA, Duke and Kansas. Those should be four wins. From there, they just need to go 2-6 the rest of the way to hit 6 wins. That is a very attainable goal. I think this team either finds another win in conference play or wins a bowl game and hits the 7-win total. Baylor might be the biggest wildcard in the conference, but give me the over for Matt Rhule and company in year two.
Iowa State Cyclones (over/under: 6.5)
2017 record: 8-5
This offseason went about as well as Cyclone fans could have hoped for. After much speculation that he’d leave for greener pastures, head coach Matt Campbell signed a six-year deal to stay in Ames and continue one of the most impressive rebuilds in recent memory. (Side note: can we really call it a rebuild if there was nothing there in the first place? I feel like rebuild implies that you’re trying to get back to what your program was. Iowa State has been awful for quite some time, so let’s just call this a build.)
Campbell’s extension coupled with quarterback Kyle Kempt going full Jason White and getting a sixth year of eligibility means that Iowa State could be dangerous again this season. I think this team is good for seven wins, especially if they can pull off a win in Iowa City in their annual “El Assico” meeting with Iowa in week two.
Kansas Jayhawks (over/under: 3)
2017 record: 1-11
Kansas State Wildcats (over/under: 6)
2017 record: 8-5
Bill Snyder hasn’t won fewer than six games in any season since his return to the sidelines in 2009. I expect this Kansas State team to be the exact same as pretty much every other Kansas State team in that time span. They’ll be boring as hell to watch but find a way to stumble into seven or eight wins.
Oklahoma Sooners (over/under: 10)
2017 record: 12-2
Oklahoma has posted double-digit win totals in 15 of the last 18 years. Here’s a list of the quarterbacks OU had during the three years (2005, 2009, 2014) that they didn’t win 10 games: Rhett Bomar, freshman Landry Jones and a Trevor Knight who’d been cursed by Katy Perry (with a few Cody Thomas starts sprinkled in there). Kyler Murray is exponentially better than everybody on that list (it’s freshman Landry Jones, mind you). I don’t think anybody expects Kyler to come in and be Baker Mayfield, but he doesn’t necessarily need to be.
The Sooners bring back virtually every skill position player on offense, so that won’t be an issue. The big question mark for OU will be — stop me if you’ve heard this before — defense. The secondary looks to be improved from last season (if things get figured out at safety), but the pass rush will be what makes or breaks this team’s success in 2018. Maybe Mike Stoops will finally realize that rushing three guys is virtually the same as rushing nobody, but I think that may be me being optimistic.
OU doesn’t have anybody particularly great on the non-conference slate (sorry, Lane Kiffin), so that means they just have to go 8-3 (when adding a conference title game and bowl game) the rest of the way to hit 11 wins. Lock it up. It’s happening.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (over/under 8)
2017 record: 10-3
The Pokes are coming off three-straight 10-3 seasons. Related: Mason Rudolph was their quarterback for all three of those years. With Rudolph headed to the NFL, OSU’s quarterback situation is a bit murky. The contenders for the starting job are Hawaii grad transfer Dru Brown, junior Taylor Cornelius (who has tallied a whopping 24 pass attempts over the last three years), redshirt freshman Keondre Wudtee (a former three-star recruit from Bossier City, Louisiana) and highly-touted true freshman Spencer Sanders.
No matter who Mike Gundy decides to go with at QB, it’s going to be a massive step back from Rudolph. Although they’ll still have the ultra-talented Justice Hill in the backfield, the new QB also won’t be blessed with the same weapons Rudolph had at his disposal. The Pokes replaced defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer with former Duke DC Jim Knowles, so maybe OSU won’t be quite as much of a trainwreck on defense this year. Having said that, I think eight wins is about the ceiling for this team. Sanders will be pretty legit eventually, but it’ll take time. Consider this a rebuilding year in Stillwater.
TCU Horned Frogs (over/under: 7.5)
2017 record: 11-3
Like OSU, TCU also finds itself in a rebuilding year following a slew of key departures. The Frogs return just two (!) starters on offense and six on defense. Sophomore Shawn Robinson, the No. 6 ranked dual-threat QB in the class of 2017, appears to have the starting job locked up. Anytime you have a new full-time starting quarterback without a lot of returning experience around him, you’re hesitant to expect too much.
With all of that being said, I think TCU will be fine. I don’t necessarily think we’ll see them back in Arlington for the Big 12 Championship Game again this season, but it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing that’s ever happened in this conference. I see them finishing with either 7-8 wins. I’ll go ahead and take the over here. Don’t make me look foolish, Gary. Also, please unblock us on Twitter. We have so many things we’d like to share with you.
Texas Longhorns (over/under: 8.5)
2017 record: 7-6
Remember when Texas was BACK in 2016?
Well, guess what, folks... Texas is BACK in 2018. The Horns have an accomplished head coach in Tom Herman whose long list of accomplishment includes **checks notes** one American Athletic Conference Championship and a super-lame win over OU that can be attributed to the Sooners (pretty much) playing with 10 men on defense. They also have the next Vince Young or Colt McCoy in sophomore Sam Ehlinger who has a number of impressive wins under his belt such as **checks notes again** The 2017 Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl. Go ahead and book your flights to the Bay Area, Texas fans. This is your year!
In all seriousness, the fact that Texas has the second-highest projected win total in the Big 12 is downright laughable, but also not terribly surprising. I didn’t buy into the hype last year or the year before, and I’m sticking with that in 2018. I feel more confident about taking the under here than I do any other projection besides Kansas. But just wait for 2019, that’s when Texas will truly be BACK!
Texas Tech Red Raiders (over/under: 6)
2017 record: 6-7
The greatest thing the come out of Texas’ 2017 season was their epic collapse at the end of the Texas Tech game that saved Kliff Kingsbury’s job and ensured us all another year of mediocrity in Lubbock. With Nic Shimonek gone, the Red Raiders will turn to JUCO transfer McLane Carter. Who, you might ask?
My advice to Tech fans — accept the fact that you’re a basketball school now.
West Virginia Mountaineers (over/under: 7)
2017 record: 7-6
Dana Holgersen’s squad brings back more talent than just about anybody in the conference not named Oklahoma. WVU returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense. Those 15 returning starters include the best QB-WR tandem in the Big 12 last year in Will Grier and David Sills. The Mountaineers have a pair of tough non-conference games early with Tennessee coming to town in week one and a trip to Raleigh to take on NC State in week three. WVU should be favored in both games, but neither is a lock by any stretch. If they can go 3-0 in non-conference play, I think they blow by the seven-win mark easily. Even if they start 2-1, I still think they’re okay.
One thing that’s a bit alarming here is the lack of depth along the defensive front. That’s probably keep them from having a true breakout season, but it won’t keep them from surpassing seven wins.
West Virginia is my early pick to square off with Oklahoma in the 2018 Big 12 Championship Game, so I feel very comfortable taking the over here.
OVER: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU, West Virginia
UNDER: Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech