Baylor and TCU shared Big 12 honors last fall, and the early college football odds say they're the teams to beat again. Join us for a spring peek at the conference.
Last year's co-championship left the Big 12 on the outside looking in at the first College Football Playoff at the Division I level. Sure, the TCU Horned Frogs and Baylor Bears received invites to the New Year's Six bowl lineup to fetch the league a nice payout, but the sting persists in being left off of the inaugural gridiron dance floor.
The only conference in the 'Power 5' not to have a league title game, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby ended up taking a lot of heat for the outcome. Bowlsby refused to present either Baylor or TCU to the playoff selection committee as the one true champion, and the Bears had set him up to do just that with their 61-58 victory over the Frogs early in the season. You can bet he's hoping for a single champ emerging this time around.
Speaking of betting, the Bible Belt of the bunch once again leads the pack on the college football odds. Texas Christian can be found at 2/1 or thereabouts, Baylor checking in around 5/2. Several shops charted by SBR's live odds have it even closer, and FOX Sports' initial rankings for the 2015 campaign agreed by listing the Horned Frogs and Bears 2-3.
Late Showdown Finds Frogs With Home Edge
Last October's Bears win over the Horned Frogs was one for the books, literally and figuratively. Favored by a touchdown at home, Baylor trailed by three touchdowns four minutes into the fourth quarter before rallying for the decision that ultimately knocked TCU out of the 4-team playoff for the National Championship.
Though the Bears may have won that game, TCU was most clearly the best team in the Big 12 in the end. Let's not forget that the Frogs were not only 12-1 straight up, but 11-2 against the spread, with QB Trevone Boykin and WR Josh Doctson back with an experienced line in front of them.
Replacing QB Bryce Petty is the No. 1 concern for the Bears, but hasn't Art Briles been managing that part of the game pretty well for a while? Baylor should have a very tough defense to contend with, and everyone's keen to see 400-pounder LaQuan McGowan possibly take more reps at tight end.
Neither the Bears nor the Horned Frogs tore it up on the recruiting trail, at least according to the experts. Baylor will be the final team on TCU's slate the Friday after Thanksgiving in Ft. Worth before the Bears host the Texas Longhorns the first Saturday of December.
Speaking Of The 'Horns & The Schedule?
Baylor has a brutal close on the slate with its last four games against the top half of the league as far as the NCAA football futures odds go. The Bears have the aforementioned matchups with TCU and Texas (8/1 to win Big 12), plus face Oklahoma (9/2) and Oklahoma State (5/1). Keep that in mind when deciding on your wager.
Texas is fifth on the list with that $8 price tag after a disappointing first year under Charlie Strong. Growing pains were expected, but blowout losses to TCU in the season finale and Arkansas in the Texas Bowl left the orange feeling blue. This should end up being the best defense in the Big 12 after recruiting hauls Malik Jefferson, Anthony Wheeler and Holton Hill, but the big question is can Tyrone Swoopes shine in the new offense?
Don't Forget About The OK Crews
Between the Frogs and Bears at the top and Texas fifth on the college football odds are the Sooners and Cowboys, longtime rivals who closed the 2014 schedules in opposing fashions. It was Oklahoma State winning Bedlam in overtime, vaulting the Cowboys towards a win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl. Oklahoma's loss in the rivalry had the Sooners flat in a 40-6 embarrassment vs. Clemson in some sports apparel bowl name.
Bob Stoops and the Sooners are also now dealing with a suspension to RB Keith Ford who was emerging as the team's top backfield threat before an injury interrupted matters. Another 5-4 run on the conference slate would put Stoops on the watch list with OU Nation.
Kansas State (10/1) is definitely a team capable of ultimately deciding the conference with an upset or two; Texas Tech (18/1) has no shot at the league crown, and the only reason to add either Iowa State (25/1) or Kansas (80/1) to your college football picks, is for sentimentality.