The Big 12 was the only Power 5 Conference left out of the first College Football Playoff. The league still won't have a conference title game in 2015 so will anything change in that regard? Let's break down the futures odds to win the Big 12.
Big 12 Title Game Coming in 2016?
Baylor and TCU finished as co-champions in 2014 despite Baylor winning the head-to-head matchup. Ohio State wasn't in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings until after the Big Ten Championship Game so I don't think there's any doubt that not having a conference title game hurts the Big 12. At least the conference will recognize "one true champion" this year. Head-to-head is the tiebreaker between two teams and a three-way tiebreaker would result in a series of steps that could include scoring differential. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the Big 12 considered other options, such as nonconference strength of schedule and victories over the highest-ranked team as selected by the committee.
"In the days following the selection [of Ohio State], people [on the committee] articulated the importance of the conference informing the selection committee who they considered the champion," Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione said last week. "That doesn't in itself guarantee that team is going to be the one selected, but all things being equal, if they're giving weight to a conference champion, [the committee] will know which of these teams is the appropriate designee."
You can expect a conference championship game in 2016 as the NCAA is expected to deregulate conference championship qualifications. Under current NCAA rules, leagues must have 12 teams and two divisions to hold a championship game. Of course the Big 12 only has 10 teams.
Frogs Start On Top
TCU is the +150 favorite on the college football odds to win the Big 12 this season at sportsbooks and it should be because it has one of the best quarterbacks in the nation coming back in Trevone Boykin. He's the +800 favorite currently at 5Dimes to win the Heisman Trophy, just ahead of Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. Boykin is one of nine offensive starters set to return. That offense ranked second in the country in scoring at 46.5 points per game and should be tremendous again. TCU opens the season at Minnesota and is a 19.5-point favorite. The Frogs' toughest Big 12 tests should be Oct. 10 at Kansas State, Nov. 21 at Oklahoma and Nov. 27 against Baylor. TCU is +155 to make the College Football Playoff and -195 not to be selected. I don't believe it will be.
Baylor is the +250 second favorite for the Big 12 and if the Bears miss they playoff again they really have no one to blame but themselves because their non-conference schedule is a joke just like it was in 2014. SMU, Lamar and Rice? Are you kidding me? The Bears, who are 35.5-point favorites vs. SMU, lost star quarterback Bryce Petty to the NFL but just about anyone can thrive in that system and Seth Russell showed signs of stardom himself in the few games he played when Petty was hurt. He completed 48 of 85 for 804 yards, eight scores and one pick. His rating of 164.6 was better than Petty's (157.8). Baylor likely won't be tested until Nov. 5 at Kansas State. The Bears do get Oklahoma and Texas in Waco but have to go to TCU for that Nov. 27 showdown. Baylor brings back 17 starters overall, tied with Texas Tech for the most in the conference. The Bears are +300 to make the playoff and -420 to miss.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are +550 to win the Big 12. The Sooners still aren't sure who their quarterback will be but most believe that Baker Mayfield will beat out Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas, although Mayfield did have two picks in the spring game. The Sooners do have one of the country's best running backs in Samaje Perine, who is +1650 to win the Heisman. He rushed for 1,713 yards and 21 scores as a freshman, setting the NCAA single-game record of 427 yards against Texas. OU was supposed to be loaded last season but finished just 8-5 and you now hear some rumblings that the Sooner faithful maybe wouldn't mind if Bob Stoops left for an NFL job. OU opens against Akron and has a potential tough game in Week 2 at Tennessee. It gets to host TCU and has Texas in Dallas as usual while also visiting K-State, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State was a disappointing 7-6 last season and you hear that Coach Mike Gundy might not be long for Stillwater. Mason Rudolph has the potential to be one of the conference's best QBs. The school was going to redshirt him last season as a freshman but decided to burn that year by playing Rudolph in the final three games. OSU won two of them, including a victory over Washington in the Cactus Bowl. The Pokes open at Central Michigan and will certainly be 3-0 when they visit Texas for the Big 12 opener. The schedule is about as kind as possible as TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma all visit Stillwater.
NCAAF Free Pick: Baylor wins the conference but no Big 12 team is in the playoff.