College football conference odds: Can Texas top the Big 12 for the first time since 2009?

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Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) looks for a receiver during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against TCU on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Stephen Spillman)

We’ll preview every major conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision between now and the start of college football season on Aug. 26 through the lens of sports bettors. Each preview will include a shallow dive into the favorites, long shots and our favorite pick(s).

We will provide the full list of odds for the conference, as well as links to other conferences, toward the end.

We’ll start with the non-power five conferences and work our way toward the big fish in the pond, finishing with the Southeastern Conference. When the season begins, you’ll have a comprehensive look at the top divisions in the sport.

We’ll continue today with the Big 12.

Last season

The weather forecast for the Big 12 last season was Sonny with a chance of championships. Sonny Dykes took the conference by storm in 2022 during his first season as TCU’s head coach.

The Horned Frogs were the conference’s top regular season team, finishing a perfect 9-0 in Big 12 play. Although they went on to lose 31-28 to Kansas State in the 2022 Big 12 Championship Game, their 12-0 regular season record was enough to get them into the College Football Playoff as the No. 3 seed.

TCU was able to outlast Michigan in the semifinal, but it suffered the most one-sided defeat of all time in a national title game to Georgia (65-7). Meanwhile, the Big 12 champion, Kansas State, was also pummeled by an SEC team in its bowl game. The Wildcats were beaten by Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, 45-20. These were disappointing ends to otherwise positive seasons for both programs.

These two teams were the only ones to win 10+ games in the Big 12 last season. Texas and Texas Tech (both 8-5) came close with the rest of the conference hovering around .500. This could change in 2023, though, as the additions of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF give the Big 12 more variety.

Favorites

One of college football’s biggest jokes over the last decade or so has been asking if the Texas Longhorns are back. Well, if odds at Caesars Sportsbook are anything to go by, it seems as if they finally are after 14 years without a conference title.

Texas (+100) is the Big 12 favorite in 2023, and rightfully so. The Longhorns get a fully healthy Quinn Ewers back, in addition to his favorite target (Xavier Worthy) and all five offensive linemen. Of course, Bijan Robinson’s absence will be felt, but Steve Sarkisian has enough weapons to fill that void.

As if that’s not enough to convince you of Texas’ might, it returns six starters on the defensive side of the ball. Sark’s squad went toe-to-toe with Alabama and improved its record by three wins in 2022. Who is to say the Longhorns can’t win double-digit games and their first conference championship since 2009 in 2023?

The biggest threat to Texas’ championship campaign — at least in the eyes of oddsmakers — is quite fittingly its biggest current rival, Oklahoma (+300). Las Vegas expects these two Big 12 heavyweights to duke it out for the conference during their final year before departing for the SEC.

Brent Venables knows full well that the Sooners’ faithful expect a better product than he put on the field last season. He returns his starting quarterback in Dillion Gabriel, Oklahoma’s two best backs and adds some key individuals via the transfer portal. A lot of the conference’s strongest teams from last season will be going through a transitional year in 2023, so the door is open for the Sooners.

The only other team with shorter than 10/1 odds to top the conference next season is last year’s winner, Kansas State (+650). Perhaps the most important piece of the Wildcats’ team is gone as Deuce Vaughn continues his preseason preparations with the Dallas Cowboys. Kansas State is also losing a number of key pieces in the secondary and trenches on defense. However, quarterback Will Howard will only continue to get better. His development will be key to his team’s success.

Longer shots

Joey McGuire’s Texas Tech (+1000) is a work in progress — to say the least. The Red Raiders bring back one of the Big 12’s best quarterback-receiver combos in Tyler Shough and Jerand Bradley. McGuire will be hoping his team can build on four consecutive wins to cap off 2022, but a shaky offensive line and rebuilding defense could stand in the way of that.

Rebuilding is an understatement for what TCU (+1400) will be doing this season. Dykes has his work cut out for him on offense as he has to replace his leading passer, rusher and receiver, all of whom have departed for the NFL. The Horned Frogs will have to rely on their stout defense early in the year. Unfortunately, by the time the offense finds its groove, TCU could have fallen too far behind the leaders to replicate last year’s in-conference success.

Baylor (+1800) probably has the most pressure on its shoulders in 2023. Dave Aranda’s defense regressed heavily last season as their woes led to the Bears failing to retain the Big 12 title. Aranda will have to work the magic we saw him work at Wisconsin and LSU before coming to Waco if Baylor wants any shot at returning to its peak power. The running game is a huge strength for the Bears heading into the season though.

Value picks

The biggest problem that Texas (+100) faced last season was not having enough quality behind Quinn Ewers at the quarterback position. Therefore, the Longhorns struggled heavily when Ewers was sidelined. Something tells me that won’t be an issue with Arch Manning now residing in Austin. The Longhorns have grown steadily under Sarkisian and they are the rightful favorites to win the Big 12 in their last season before saying goodbye.

Don’t discount the importance of a rising star signal caller and the big guys in front of him. This is exactly what you will get at Kansas State (+650) in 2023.

The Wildcats are always scrappy and there weren’t many signs to suggest Oklahoma should have better odds to win the Big 12 in 2023. Therefore, it may be worth taking a flyer on Howard to lead Kansas State back to the Big 12 title game next season. As the Wildcats showed us in 2022, all they have to do is reach the big dance and you can leave the rest to the team.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on Kansas (+4000). Lance Leipold improved the Jayhawks tremendously in his first year with the program. He got Kansas to a bowl game en route to flipping a 2-10 record to a 6-7 record in one season. He’s now had more time to work with his players, which could mean another huge step in the right direction in 2023.

Star quarterback Jalon Daniels and most of the offense returns this season. If the Jayhawks are able to field a semi-competent defense, they should be able to make some noise again. Daniels needs to stay healthy, though, as he is the most important individuals in Lawrence during the fall.

Full Big 12 odds and win totals

(Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook, as of Saturday, August 12)

 Team  Title odds   Win total
 Texas  +100  9.5 (o-140)
 Oklahoma  +300  9.5 (u-120)
 Kansas State  +650  7.5 (o-165)
 Texas Tech  +1000  7.5 (u-125)
 TCU  +1400  N/A
 Baylor  +1800  6.5 (o-175)
 Iowa State  +2500  N/A
 Oklahoma State  +2800  6.5 (u-125)
 UCF  +2800  7
 Kansas  +4000  6
 BYU  +6000  4.5 (o-180)
 Cincinnati  +6000  5
 West Virginia  +9000  5.5 (u-160)
 Houston  +10000  5 (u-160)

College football conference pieces

July 12: MAC

July 13: Conference USA

July 19: Mountain West

July 26: Sun Belt

Aug. 2: American Athletic

Aug. 9: Pac-12

Aug. 15: Big 12

Aug. 16: ACC

Aug. 22: Big Ten

Aug. 23: SEC

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