College Football Futures: Big 12 Conference Win Totals Betting Picks (2021)

Jul 15, 2021 - 10:57 AM

There have been 27 Big 12 football championships awarded. The Oklahoma Sooners have 14 of them – including the last six consecutive; the field has just 13.

The Sooners are well-equipped and perfectly positioned to reel off their seventh conference crown in a row, as very few teams have not only the quarterback star power and coaching but the complementary pieces to help propel them to the top of the standings and, eventually, the top of the Big 12 Championship podium at midfield of AT&T Stadium.

While not a total shoo-in, it’s difficult to bet against Oklahoma winning another Big 12 title; however, there are still plenty of opportunities to place futures within the conference. The currently-posted win totals offer great value just a few weeks before the season kicks off. Here are my picks for the Big 12’s 2021 win totals.

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Baylor Bears

Over 5.5 wins: +110
Under 5.5 wins: -140

This total is pretty spot-on, but with a plus-money opportunity on the over and a good, potentially great defense set to take the field in Waco, I’ll lean with six or more wins for the Bears.

Last year was Dave Aranda’s first year in charge for Baylor after he jumped from LSU’s defensive coordinator position to the head coaching role for the Bears, and it could have certainly gone better. The deck was stacked against Aranda in a COVID-affected year, and the Bears posted a dismal 2-7 record – just their second losing record since 2009 and their second-lowest winning percentage in conference play since 2007. The offense was mostly to blame; Baylor scored just 23.3 points per game, 101st of 128 FBS teams. The offense can’t be much worse in 2021, but they’ve got a tough hill to climb with the transfer of last year’s starter Charlie Brewer. The two passers battling for the starting role this year have taken 76 combined snaps, so this could be a tough road early on.

Baylor will be buoyed by their defense, a unit that has a chance to be one of the best units in the conference. They’ve got a lockdown corner duo and solid linebackers, both of which will be key in a pass-happy conference. The Bears schedule also contains three games I’m comfortable chalking up as probable wins (Texas Southern, Kansas, Texas State) and four or five more true toss-ups. There are plenty of chances to hit this plus-money over, and it’s worth a small risk.

PICK: Over 5.5 (+110)

Iowa State Cyclones

Over 9.5 wins: +110
Under 9.5 wins: -140

I would bet the under on this total down to 8.5, especially if the odds are strong on the plus-money side. Let’s be clear: this total rests solely on the shoulders of Brock Purdy.

Matt Campbell is a great coach who has generated NFL buzz over the last few offseasons. The Cyclones defense was the best unit in the conference last year and one of the best in the country. Breece Hall is the most dynamic running back in the Big 12. Those factors all hold in 2021, but they can only take Iowa State so far. Last year, they drove the Cyclones to a Fiesta Bowl victory and a place in the Top 10, despite Purdy having an underwhelming year. He threw for just 2,750 yards and 19 TD after some rumors had him sneaking into the latter half of the first round of the NFL draft, and his lack of progress under center led to him returning to Ames for another year.

I’m not a fan of Purdy. I don’t think he’s got a strong enough arm, his decision-making is questionable at times, and last year’s regression was alarming. Because of my lack of faith in the most important player on the team, I’m on the under in a big way.

PICK: Under 9.5 (-140)

Kansas Jayhawks

Over 1 win: -195
Under 1 win: +150

This is my lowest confidence bet in the conference and one I’m actually passing on all together, but for the sake of handicapping each team, I’ll take the over here despite needing to lay nearly -200 odds. Kansas is a terrible football team, but betting on a team to go winless seems extreme. They lost four of their offensive weapons from last year on a team that wasn’t very good, to begin with, but they did receive upgrades in two critical spots: head coach and quarterback.

Starting at the helm, they lured Lance Leipold from Buffalo to run the show in Lawrence. Leipold is a fantastic head coach – having led D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater to six national titles and seven title game appearances in eight seasons and leading Buffalo to a 2-1 bowl record, two MAC division titles, and a 10-win season back in 2018. He’ll have this program finally heading in the right direction, but it probably won’t happen this year.

The Jayhawks also snagged North Texas transfer Jason Bean to be their new quarterback. He’s a solid dual-threat option – throwing for 14 TDs last year and running for five more – and is a clear upgrade over literally anyone Kansas has started under center in a long, long time.

PICK: Over 1 (-195)

Kansas State Wildcats

Over 5.5 wins: -140
Under 5.5 wins: +110

Kansas State finished just 4-6 last year but dropped five in a row after quarterback Skylar Thompson was injured and ruled out for the season. Thompson is back, and while he’s a clear upgrade, his wide receiver depth is questionable. However, he will have Deuce Vaughn to work with in the backfield, and Vaughn also provides a ton of help in the passing game. He ran for 642 yards in 2020 and racked up another 434 receiving yards to boot.

The Wildcats defense was brutal last season, allowing 32.2 points per game and 35-plus points in five of their 10 contests (1-4 record in those five). It’s hard to gauge how much better they’ll be as only five starters are returning on that side of the ball.

This Kansas State squad feels like a five or six-win team with an average schedule, but the tough non-conference opponents and the plus-money price have me on the under here. They’ll play an always-physical Stanford team, they’ll play an underrated Nevada team, and one of the stronger FCS teams in Southern Illinois. They won’t sweep those three games, and more than likely, they’ll go 1-2. That won’t be enough to propel them to six wins.

PICK: Under 5.5 (+110)

Oklahoma Sooners

Over 11 wins: -110
Under 11 wins: -110

The Sooners are a sure-fire National Title contender, and hitting the over here would require a 12-0 regular season. The most likely outcome is a push, but if I choose between Oklahoma going 12-0 or 10-2, I’m choosing 12-0, so I’ll take the over here.

Oklahoma’s defense just a few years ago was absolutely anemic, but that changed last year, and the unit looks to be ready to roll again in 2021. Their defense was 29th in the country in points allowed (21.7 per game) and their offense sixth in points scored (43.0 per game). Expect this year’s Sooner squad to land right around the same range in the rankings.

The offense is going to be nearly impossible to stop, led by Heisman candidate Spencer Rattler. Rattler started a bit slow last year as he got his feet wet as a first-year starter but finished with over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, with another six TDs on the ground. He’s got a chance to not only win the most coveted award in the sport but to go number-one overall in whichever draft he chooses to enter. He and the offense will be pedal to the metal at all times, and there aren’t enough teams equipped to score with them.

The Red River Rivalry Game is always a toss-up no matter how good Oklahoma is or how bad Texas is, and Oklahoma State, TCU, and Iowa State are formidable foes. Still, none have the talent up-and-down the roster to match the Sooners. The over is certainly the preferred side in this one.

PICK: Over 11 wins (-110)

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Over 7.5 wins: -110
Under 7.5 wins: -110

Mike Gundy has been the definition of consistency since he arrived at Oklahoma State in 2005. Excluding his first year, a four-win campaign, the Cowboys haven’t won fewer than seven games in a season and have reached a bowl game every year. His 15 consecutive bowl games are obviously a school record and a huge improvement over the four bowls the Cowboys played in 15 years before Gundy’s arrival. Basically, we can count on Gundy and the Cowboys to, at minimum, keep this over in play until the very end of the season. In 2021, I think they surpass the 7.5 number.

Oklahoma State lost Tylan Wallace and Chuba Hubbard, their two most dynamic playmakers. Still, quarterback Spencer Sanders returns and will provide stability as the rest of the offense gets in sync. The defense was surprisingly great in 2020, allowing just 23.5 points per game (34th in the nation), and three of their top four players in the secondary will be back in 2021.

The schedule could be worse; the out-of-conference opponents aren’t overwhelming, and the Cowboys should beat two, maybe even all three of Missouri State, Tulsa, and Boise State.

PICK: Over 7.5 (-110)

TCU Horned Frogs

Over 7.5 wins: -125
Under 7.5 wins: +100

TCU’s defense is always a strong unit and should be once again in 2021. A strong secondary led them in 2020, namely cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, and the rest of their secondary should continue to post strong numbers as well. The offense was the weaker of the two units last year, and there’s certainly hope for it to improve, but quarterback Max Duggan has got to be far more consistent than he’s been in his career.

After completing just 53.4% of his passes in 2019, Duggan upped his completion rate to a much more acceptable 60.8% in 2021. His big-play ability, however, did not take a step forward. Duggan tossed just 10 touchdowns and fell short of the 2,000-yard mark after barely eclipsing that mark in 2019. TCU will need a lot more scoring to keep up with some of these Big 12 offenses, regardless of how strong their defense is, and I’m not sure Duggan is equipped to facilitate that.

It’s tough to fade the consistency of Gary Patterson, but the Frogs aren’t an eight-win team to me. California and SMU out of conference could certainly be wins, but they’ll absolutely need to win both even to have a remote shot at an eighth win.

PICK: Under 7.5 (+100)

Texas Longhorns

Over 8 wins: +110
Under 8 wins: -140

The Longhorns have topped eight wins just once in the last seven seasons, but those seasons came under Tom Herman and Mack Brown. Steve Sarkisian is running the show in Austin, and this team certainly doesn’t lack talent, but it’s going to take some time to switch systems, switch personnel, and load up this roster with recruits that fit the mold.

Running back Bijan Robinson should be the focal point of the offense. He’s a dynamic running back and should take pressure off whoever wins the Texas QB job after the graduation of Sam Ehlinger. The defense should be right in the middle of the pack, which usually isn’t a huge problem, but with an offense that’s in question, it could end up being a problem, especially for over backers.

In year one, Sarkisian will probably dedicate a lot of his focus to the long haul: building a program and building a culture. That’s not to say he won’t be focused on winning football games, but it’s clear Sarkisian has a lot of work to do to get this program ‘back’ as the Longhorn faithful like to say. Texas is also a huge darling of public bettors, so their lines are usually a bit inflated with books knowing a lot of blind money will come in on the over. We’ll go the opposite and take the under here.

PICK: Under 8 (-140)

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Over 4.5 wins: -150
Under 4.5 wins: +120

The Red Raiders are going to be involved in quite a few overs in 2021. Their offense is always electric – even last year in a ‘down’ year, they still averaged 29.1 points per game, good for 57th in the country. However, the defense was a massive issue in 2020 and looks like another rough ride in 2021. They were 109th of 128 FBS defenses last year, and while their starting unit doesn’t exactly lack talent, it’s the depth that’s a cause for concern. And in such a high-tempo conference, depth is vital as players regularly shuffle on and off the field.

There are still two reasons for optimism in Lubbock, and both have me on the over 4.5 wins. First is their new quarterback, Oregon transfer Tyler Shough. He’s a former four-star recruit who was supposed to be the heir-apparent to Justin Herbert, but he just never lived up to expectations. In a pass-happy, warm-weather environment with the Red Raiders, Shough should be able to showcase what made him such a highly-regarded passer coming out of high school.

The second is the schedule, and the Raiders have a very fortunate one. They’ll battle Stephen F. Austin, FIU, and Houston out of conference and should easily go 2-1 in those three games; 3-0 isn’t out of the question either. They also play Kansas, Baylor, TCU, Kansas State, and West Virginia, where they have a strong chance of securing three more wins.

PICK: Over 4.5 (-150)

West Virginia Mountaineers

Over 6.5 wins: -140
Under 6.5 wins: +110

The Mountaineers are in year three under head coach Neal Brown and are certainly heading in the right direction. They were 5-7 in his first year, 6-4 last year, and many clamored for the typical ‘year three jump.’ The over feels really public here; I’m not sure this is a seven-win team.

Jarret Doege is a good quarterback – he threw for over 2,500 yards, 14 TD, and just four interceptions last year – but the talent around him is pretty uninspiring. West Virginia had just the 82nd ranked offense in the land last season, and it really held them back and made them just 4-4 in conference play. Their defense was strong – it allowed just 20.5 points per game which was 21st in the country – but they lost their top two defensive backs in the transfer portal. The bulk of the defense still has talent, but it’s going to take some time against some electric offenses to get the new pieces in place on the back end. Ultimately, I think it costs them a game early in the year and, in turn, costs them the over.

The out-of-conference schedule isn’t daunting, but dates with Virginia Tech and Maryland certainly aren’t cakewalks. There’s way too much juice on this over, too, so I’m rolling with the under.

PICK: Under 6.5 (+110)

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