2020 Big 12 championship odds, picks: Stay away from Texas and go with safe bet Oklahoma
Parsing through the best and worst values for Big 12 futures from William Hill Sportsbook
by Ben Kercheval
May 7, 2020 at 11:51 am ET • 4 min read
The Big 12 has developed a reputation — real or perceived — of having a wide-open conference race in recent seasons. When you look at the actual results, however, Oklahoma has been the program that’s consistently finished on top. The Sooners have won the last five Big 12 titles, including the last three that featured the return of the Big 12 Championship Game.
As we head into 2020, Oklahoma is once again the even-odds favorite to win its conference. But don’t get too comfortable betting on the Sooners just yet. Texas is right behind with the second-best odds. Not surprisingly, the Longhorns return one of the most valuable quarterbacks in the country in Sam Ehlinger. But is that enough to usurp the reloaded Sooners, or will another team rise up, claim a title and win one lucky fan some hard-earned dough?
To be completely candid, there are probably only four, maybe five, teams capable of making a run. That’s reflected as I parse through the value, both good and bad, from William Hill Sportsbook.
Best Bet — Oklahoma (+100): Safe? Sure, but the Sooners are truly one of college football’s few safe bets. They’ve absolutely dominated the Big 12 race since Lincoln Riley’s first season in Norman, Oklahoma, as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2015. He’s never looked back since being promoted to the team’s coach in 2017. In the past five years, Oklahoma has lost four conference games. And if you believe Oklahoma is a favorite to at least get back to the Big 12 title game, that means an underdog would have to play them again.
With those being the facts, is Oklahoma the best bet for 2020? Well, even odds are decent for a team that has won five straight and deserves to be favored. You have a 50/50 shot of getting your full dollar back on the return.
Now, the Sooners do have some legitimate questions heading into the season. Is new quarterback Spencer Rattler the real deal? Will the wide receiver corps be able to overcome the loss of CeeDee Lamb and some depth issues? Can the defense continue to improve under second-year coordinator Alex Grinch? All of those things could impact the title race. Every team has areas of concern, but history says Oklahoma will be able to answer them better than most. And if the situation is a matter of taking Oklahoma or the field, Oklahoma has been a reliable choice.
Worst Wager— Texas (+140): Remember, this is not the same as saying Texas will be a bad team. Wagering is a whole different animal. In fact, there aren’t too many terrible bets you could place in this field. For example: If you’re the kind of bettor who puts $100 on Kansas, there’s a non-zero chance you’re going to be get lucky. And for that, I can’t hate; I can only tip my cap and wish you Godspeed.
But at +140, the value isn’t there for Texas. The Longhorns haven’t been a constant title contender as of late like the Sooners. You have about a 41.7% chance of having a positive expected value for this play. And if I’m going to get plus money on a favorite, the difference in payout isn’t enough to pull the trigger on Texas instead.
Value Pick — Oklahoma State (+650): The Cowboys offer a nice return if you’re willing to bet on a few things falling into place for coach Mike Gundy. The Pokes return an exciting quarterback (Spencer Sanders), along with arguably the best running back (Chuba Hubbard) and wide receiver (Tylan Wallace) in the conference. This team should have a solid offensive line as well. If you think that’s enough for Oklahoma State to punch through the nine-ish wins it’ll get in a given year under Gundy, this is a good value play. Gundy has proven he can win a conference title in Stillwater — he did so in 2011 with a star-studded team — so this is an interesting, albeit trendy, play.
Longshot — Iowa State (+1500): You could make a Gary Patterson argument for TCU, but I have a hard time rolling with a team that just lost two first-round draft picks going on to win the Big 12 the following season. So give me the Cyclones. The darkhorse a year ago leveled off with a 7-6 season, but there’s a lot to like about the team coming back, starting with quarterback Brock Purdy. The rebuilt offensive line is a question mark, but do you believe coach Matt Campbell can do the unthinkable? At +1500, the Cyclones need to win the Big 12 just 6.25% of the time to break even. It’s a long shot, but given the success Campbell’s had to this point, it’s far from impossible.