Welcome to a new and bigger era of football in the Big 12.
I cannot describe how good it feels to be sitting down to talk about real games on the field after the offseason we just had. For once, the future of Iowa State football wasn’t at stake, but the realignment chatter that culminated in the collapse of the Pac-12 was still exhausting. Couple that with the gambling mess that engulfed Iowa State’s offseason and the smell of grills and beer of the tailgate lots has never been better. Now that we’re in season mode, I want to talk about my personal biggest storylines to watch in the conference.
The OU/Texas farewell tour
For the small price of $100M, Oklahoma and Texas have been permitted to become SEC bottom feeders one year early, making this season their final as members of the Big 12. I’ve made my thoughts on these schools known many times, so I’ll just say this: don’t discount the level of hate these two receive just because we’re on the 3rd year of their exit. Most of us have had our chances at them, and luckily we’ll get one more shot, especially when Texas comes to Ames in November.
This year marks the official debut of Cincinnati, Central Florida, Houston, and BYU as conference members. The consensus says that Cindy and Houston should struggle. BYU is a mystery team. Florida Middle has the best chance of success right away. These programs bring fun coaches (Malzahn, Sitake, Holgorson) or fun styles of play. Regardless of immediate success or not, having some new blood in the league will be fun and a good opportunity for Iowa State to see where we measure up with the former best of the G5.
Who’s (on paper) the 2nd best team?
Texas is the preseason favorite, and on paper it makes sense as they have the most talented roster. Behind them, it’s anyone’s guess. Kansas State and Oklahoma are probably the two next best teams, but TCU, Texas Tech, and even Baylor or UCF could also make that claim. I’m also not sold on Texas being that big of a favorite. The battle for the top of the conference should be as exciting as any league in the country.
What happens out west?
Us degenerates will be watching BYU late at night anyway, and if we can get a decent pirated stream, we might just see what our new conference friends will be up to on the Pac-12 Network too. Most notably, Utah is the school that comes in with the most momentum. The New Big 12 is going to have an alpha dog, and the Utes are probably a leading candidate to take that spot. Arizona is a threat to improve in Year 2 under Jedd Fisch. Arizona State will likely be starting a freshman QB with a new offensive-minded head coach, so they should be fun as well.
Oh yeah, lost in the shuffle of everything that’s gone on in the last 8 months, and as ESPN is desperate to ignore, TCU played in the CFP championship game last year. Don’t mind that they got blown out by Georgia, because the same thing would have happened to Michigan, Alabama, or anyone else they could have played on that night. The Horned Frogs are losing a ton of talent, most notably QB Max Duggan. However, Sonny Dykes worked the transfer portal well, and TCU enters the season with the 5th best odds to win the league. Chandler Morris was supposed to start last year before getting injured in the first game. While I certainly don’t think he was going to be a Heisman finalist or get TCU to the CFP like Duggan did, clearly Dykes thinks a lot of him. Personally I see them as a regression candidate both on the field and in Vegas based on the breaks they caught last season. But I also didn’t expect much from them a year ago either. So who knows?
Alright, let’s get into the bulk of why we’re here. If you are a current Iowa State athlete I would advise to stop reading RIGHT NOW.
Ok. Let’s talk betting.
As discussed before, the Big 12 is a bit of an enigma this year. So many games are going to be decided by small margins. These non-conference games actually carry a lot of weight. We need to collect our data to know how to bet as the season goes on. My advice to get started: bet cautiously, watch intently, and most important, have some fun with it. As has been the case in the past, this column will be betting 1.1 “unit” (we don’t unit shame on here) to win 1 unit on each game. For example, an $11 bet at -110 odds is to win $10. I will be giving a pick for every game featuring a Big 12 team against the spread, with the exception of some FCS games that won’t have lines available at the time of writing. The goal is to make some money. Without any further ado, here we go!
Kent State at UCF
Kickoff: Thursday 6:00pm | TV: FS1 | The Line: UCF -35.5
Not much to say for this one. Kent State is going to be one of the worst teams in the FBS. UCF will take every opportunity to run up the score here. This one could be cruising by halftime.
Pick: UCF -35.5
Colorado at #17 TCU
Kickoff: 11:00am | TV: FOX | The Line: TCU -20.5
I’ve swung all the way around to thinking Colorado is underrated in this game. Everyone expects them to stink and everyone hangs on Coach Prime’s every word. They do have some talent. TCU is replacing dang near everything off the national runners up. The Frogs should win this, but I like it to stay relatively close.
Pick: Colorado +20.5
Arkansas State at #20 Oklahoma
Kickoff: 11:00am | TV: ESPN | The Line: Oklahoma -36
Oklahoma’s defense was dreadful last year, but here’s where I must confess. I think they are winning the conference this year, mostly by outscoring everyone. That’s why I can’t take them favored by more than 5 TDs against anyone until I see defensive improvement.
Pick: Arkansas State +36
Rice at #11 Texas
Kickoff: 2:30pm | TV: FOX | The Line: Texas -35
Texas will flex in this spot, and will be happy to let the backup QBs still throw the ball after the game gets out of hand.
Pick: Texas -35
Texas State at Baylor
Kickoff: 6:00pm | TV: ESPN+ | The Line: Baylor -27.5
I kind of like Baylor to be a 7-8 win team this year. I’ll be honest: I don’t have any thoughts about Texas State.
Pick: Baylor -27.5
UTSA at Houston
Kickoff: 6:00pm | TV: FS1 | The Line: UTSA -1.5
I smell a weird line. UTSA is a very good program, but being favored against Houston on the road is a stretch right? Houston beat the Roadrunners in triple OT last year, so here’s some revenge. Meep meep.
Pick: UTSA -1.5
West Virginia at #7 Penn State
Kickoff: 6:30pm | TV: NBC | The Line: Penn State -20.5
West Virginia is the consensus worst team in the league entering the season, so going to Penn State isn’t exactly an ideal way to start the season. I’m a believer in Penn State’s talent in the trenches, and should bully their way to a win here. Nick Singleton should run all over the yard, and West Virginia is going to start a QB that can’t quite throw well.
Pick: Penn State -20.5
Texas Tech at Wyoming
Kickoff: 6:30pm | TV: CBS | The Line: Texas Tech -14
How did this game even get scheduled? I don’t think Wyoming is supposed to be any good and Tech is the team of the offseason around here. Red Raiders win in a rout on the road.
Pick: Texas Tech -14
Sam Houston State at BYU
Kickoff: 9:15pm | TV: FS1 | The Line: BYU -20
One of my early gambling strategies has been to look at programs moving up from the FCS to FBS and betting them in their first game. Jacksonville State came through with this last week. These guys are amped up to move up a level and want to show they belong. Going to Provo is a little different than playing a home game but SHSU was one of the best programs in FCS and BYU has a lot of talent to replace. I think this stays close.
Pick: Sam Houston State +20
LOCK OF THE WEEK SO GOOD IT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL ACCORDING TO THE IOWA GAMING COMMISSION
Duke +13 vs Clemson
Does anyone remember Duke winning 9 games last season? Mike Elko did a terrific job with that program. They bring back QB Riley Leonard, who has NFL potential. Clemson is breaking in a new offense led by Garrett Riley, so I see a lot of points scored in this game. Give me an underrated Duke team catching points at home in a standalone spot on Labor Day.
PROP OF THE WEEK FOR IOWA STATE FANS
Number of Ames Lagers consumed in the tailgate lots on Saturday?
Season record: 0-0