It’s an important week for the Big 12 Conference, which has done well in terms of avoiding Covid-19 postponements but has not done well in terms of positioning a team for the College Football Playoff. None of the top Big 12 teams have any real chance for the playoff under current conditions and circumstances. Other conferences are much more favorably positioned to make the four-team extravaganza. The Big 12 is going to get shut out. However, playing for a Big 12 title is a huge deal for the four teams with a chance at the crown. We’ll know a lot more about that title chase after the games played this Saturday. Let’s take a look at this week’s online betting matchups.
Texas Longhorns at Kansas Jayhawks (PPD)
College Football Odds: Texas -29
The Texas Longhorns still have a chance to win the Big 12 title, but they have little margin for error. The Longhorns will hope that Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma State and they need to catch a few other breaks in order to make their way to the Big 12 Championship Game in December. They will play Iowa State later in the season and would likely need to beat the Cyclones if they want to get back to the Big 12 title game.
The Longhorns have not been as strong this year as many people thought. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger, a senior, has not found a great rhythm in the passing game. He has been noticeably inconsistent and has not generated a good rapport with his wide receivers. Ehlinger has regressed to a certain degree from previous seasons, which is not what coach Tom Herman was counting on.
During their week of rest, they surely tried to work on getting the timing and precision of their pass routes down to a science. We will see if Texas has improved its coordination and seamlessness on offense. The good news for the Longhorns is Kansas should give Texas a live chance to demonstrate advancements. Kansas gave up 62 points to Oklahoma in its most recent game on Nov. 7. The Jayhawks have lost each of their last five games by at least 21 points, and often by a lot more, as was the case in their 62-9 drubbing at the hands of Oklahoma. It is hard to see how Kansas will make a game of this since KU has a hard time being competitive.
Kansas State Wildcats at Iowa State Cyclones
College Football Odds: Iowa State -11
Iowa State is expected to win, but if Kansas State can pull the upset, the Wildcats would have a realistic chance of making the Big 12 Championship Game instead of the Cyclones. Kansas State has beaten Oklahoma. A win over Iowa State would give KSU another head-to-head tiebreaker in the chase for the Big 12 Championship Game, with the top two finishers in the Big 12 standings meeting for the league title.
Kansas State offense
Starting quarterback Skylar Thompson was injured and knocked out for the rest of the season one month ago. With Thompson, Kansas State had an especially good team. Without him, the offense simply hasn’t functioned as well. Backup quarterback Will Howard has committed far too many turnovers. He threw three interceptions in a loss at West Virginia a few weeks ago. Howard couldn’t get the offense over the hump in a narrow loss to Oklahoma State more recently. Kansas State turnovers have crushed the Wildcats in recent weeks. If KSU can win the turnover battle, it will at least have a fighting chance. If the turnover differential is zero or negative, the Wildcats have no realistic path to victory.
The Cyclones, under coach Matt Campbell, have only one loss in Big 12 play, to Oklahoma State. If ISU wins and Oklahoma State loses to Oklahoma, the Cyclones will be in strong shape for a berth in the Big 12 title game. This would be Iowa State’s first appearance in the Big 12 Championship Game. This is one of the bigger games Iowa State has played in years. The Cyclones have the better team and the better quarterback (Brock Purdy), but they could get nervous and have failed to win the games that would have catapulted them to a higher level in recent years. Iowa State must avoid a bad case of stage fright. If it does, it should be fine here.
Oklahoma State Cowboys at Oklahoma Sooners
College Football Odds: Oklahoma -7
This is a fascinating game. Oklahoma has dominated this in-state rivalry, known as Bedlam by the locals. The Sooners haven’t lost since 2014, and they have lost only once at home in this series since 2001. From that perspective, Oklahoma seems like an obvious favorite at home. However, when looking at other factors, picking a winner here isn’t as clear.
They have had veteran quarterbacks the last several years under head coach Lincoln Riley. Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts were seasoned, experienced leaders who knew how to play college ball. They knew what to expect from defenses and were not often caught off balance. However, this year is different. Spencer Rattler did not have a prior year of experience as a starting quarterback. He gained some mop-up duty behind Hurts last season but was never asked to start. This year has been a whole new world for him.
The Sooners haven’t been bad, but the attack has gone through enough dry spells to create losses against Kansas State and Iowa State, which have the Sooners in a precarious position right now. The inconsistencies come from Rattler not knowing how to make certain adjustments to Riley’s offense, and from Oklahoma’s offensive line not being as strong as in previous seasons.
Oklahoma State has a tough, aggressive defense. If the Sooners can’t establish the run, they could become very predictable and a sitting duck for the Cowboys’ pass rush. This doesn’t feel like a game in which one team is a full touchdown better than the other. Oklahoma’s offense is potent, but not nearly as stable or reliable as it was last year or in previous seasons under star quarterbacks.