Oklahoma, Texas Best Shot for Big 12 College Football Playoff Invite

Wednesday, May 23, 2018 12:22 PM UTC

Wednesday, May. 23, 2018 12:22 PM UTC

Oklahoma and Texas are the class of the Big 12 and offer the best chance at representing the conference in the 2019 College Football Playoff. West Virginia is a live dark horse candidate as well. Here's why one will play in the bracket tournament for the national title. 

Oklahoma is once again the class of the Big 12. Oddsmakers believe the program has the best chance to represent the conference in the College Football Playoff (CFP). The Sooners are +1800 odds to win the national title at 5Dimes, lowest of all Big 12 peers. The rest of the conference odds are as follows:

School National Champion Odds
Oklahoma +1800
Texas +4400
West Virginia +6300
TCU +9000
Oklahoma State +13000
Kansas State +22500
Texas Tech +50000
Iowa State +50000
Baylor +100000
Kansas +200000

In order to receive a CFP invite, a Power Five team must finish the regular season with no more than two losses. It’s the unwritten rule set by the committee since its inception. The benefit for Big 12 contenders is the gap between good and bad teams in the conference is one of the greatest among the top divisions. The threat of losing each week to a close rival is minimized, unlike, say, the more competitive Big Ten. This will help at least one Big 12 favorite close out the conference title with a single loss.

Oklahoma Sooners (+1800)

2017 Record: 12-2 SU, 8-5-1 ATS

No Baker Mayfield, no problem. Head coach Lincoln Riley has five-star recruit and dual-threat star Kyler Murray waiting to take the reigns at quarterback, depending on what happens with the MLB Draft. Riley will have to fit the offense around Murray’s strengths, but this is an Oklahoma team destined to put up big numbers. They have not averaged fewer than 30.0 points per game in a season since 2005. Riley’s offensive system is arguably the best ever seen in Norman.

The Sooners defense is also deeper, which should help OU return to the CFP for the third time in five years. Riley attracted another Top 10 recruiting class, and much of the incoming talent is secondary help. Five of nine true freshmen taking the field in spring practices play in the defensive backfield.

The schedule is a cakewalk. Advanced lines will see Oklahoma kick off favorites in every game. Three out-of-conference matchups include Florida Atlantic in the season opener, UCLA in Norman the following week and hosting Army in Week 4. The Sooners are 22.5-point favorites in Week 1.

Their toughest conference game will prove the Red River Showdown against Texas at the Cotton Bowl once again. The last four matchups have been decided by a touchdown or less, despite the Sooners taking the field double-digit chalk in three. Since 1980, Oklahoma is just 14-9-1 SU (8-16 ATS) when favorites in the rivalry. The average line is -10.5.

Four other road games present tricky tests: at Iowa State (Week 3), TCU (Week 7), Texas Tech (Week 9) and West Virginia (Week 12). Since 2010, the Sooners are 26-3 SU (18-11 ATS) head-to-head against each program. The lone road loss in this span was a 37-33 defeat at TCU in 2014.

Texas (+4400)

2017 Record: 7-6 SU, 8-4-1 ATS

The Longhorns own the sixth-toughest schedule in the nation per ESPN’s FPI index. The good news is that every team to enter the CFP finished the season in the top five in strength of schedule. The bad news is the Longhorns can afford to lose once.

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Tom Herman and the Longhorns sing the Eyes of Texas after a 38-7 win over Baylor in Waco. pic.twitter.com/yawkaUtqQC

— Trenton Daeschner (@TrentDaeschner) October 28, 2017
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Three particular games stand out in terms of making or breaking Texas’ season: USC in Week 3, the Red River Showdown, and a clash at Oklahoma State. Assuming the Trojans sit in the AP Top 25 prior to their visit, Texas is just 6-14 SU in its last 20 games hosting a ranked opponent. The results are improving, however. Half of the victories have come in the last seven games, and four points or less have determined the winner in the last five. As for the Cowboys, Texas has lost once in Stillwater since 1999, falling 49-31 in October 2016. The richest program in the nation could start delivering on the national stage sooner rather than later.

West Virginia (+6300)

2017 Record: 7-6 SU, 5-7-1 ATS

West Virginia is one of the strongest dark horse candidates in the country to win the national title. Head coach Dana Holgorsen, an offensive guru, rolls out his best points-producing unit ever on paper. The offense is loaded with NFL-caliber playmakers, including Heisman candidate Will Grier at quarterback, wide receiver David Sills V, and wide out Gary Jennings.

Here’s why West Virginia can go far: the Mountaineers are 44-13 SU (29-27-1 ATS) when scoring 30 points or more since Holgorsen took charge in 2010. The offense averaged 39.0 points and 515.8 yards per game in 2017 before Grier went down with a broken finger. Expect 40-plus per game in the upcoming campaign.

The Mountaineers own the toughest schedule in the Big 12 behind Texas. They are 6-point favorites against Tennessee at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte to open the season. Following a reprieve against Youngstown State, they travel back to the Tar Heel state in Week 3 to take on N.C. State in Raleigh. Expect that matchup to hover around a pick ‘em on the oddsboard.

West Virginia catches Oklahoma at home, but plays Texas in Austin. The latter is part of a road conference schedule including Texas Tech, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Holgerson is 8-1 SU and 7-2 ATS all-time facing these programs away from home when scoring 24 points or more.

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