2018 Big 12 win total picks, predictions: Oklahoma the favorite, but a dark horse emerges

Oklahoma has dominated the Big 12 over the last three years. The Sooners have won three straight conference titles while going 25-2 in the Big 12. They've been head-and-shoulders above their conference brethren.

So it isn't a surprise that Oklahoma enters the 2018 season with the highest projected win total at South Point Casino in Las Vegas. The Sooners' total is set at 10, which is a full 1.5 wins more than the next highest total, 8.5 for Texas.

But will Oklahoma be able to exceed those expectations? What about the rest of the conference? Let's break down the best plays for all 10 teams in the Big 12.

For those uninitiated on "prices," minus-odds of -120 mean you'd have to wager $120 to win $100, while plus-odds (+120) means wagering $100 would win you $120. An "EVEN" price would result in a $100 payout for a $100 wager. 

Big 12 Win Totals

6 wins: The Bears are coming off a rough season, going 1-11 in Matt Rhule's first season. Obviously, with the total set at six, people are expecting a major step forward in 2018. I am too, just not enough improvement to go over the total here. I can foresee a scenario in which the Bears start the season 4-0, yet finish 5-7 or 6-6. A 6-6 season gives me a push, and that's not an option, so I'm left to figure out if 5-7 is more likely than 7-5, and I can't help but believe it is. -- Over -105, Under -115

6.5 wins: One advantage Iowa State won't have in 2018 is that it's not going to catch anybody by surprise. So it's smart that its total is down from the eight wins it posted last year. I still feel comfortable with the over here. The schedule features plenty of challenging road games against Iowa, TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas, but I still think this is a team that's going to get to seven wins in 2018. -- Over -120, Under EVEN

3 wins: This is a principle play more than anything. If you put on your rosiest-tinted glasses while looking at Kansas' 2018 schedule, you can find four wins. You have to look hard, but you can find them. Of course, to do that you also have to ignore recent history. Do you know when the last time Kansas won four games in a single season was? Well, Mark Mangino was still coaching, and it was his final season when the Jayhawks went 5-7 in 2009. In the eight seasons since, the Jayhawks have managed to win three games three times and fewer than three five times. Sure, it's possible Kansas gets to four, but until it does so, you've no reason to bet on it happening. -- Over -110, Under -110

6 wins: This is not an easy call to make, as I think six wins is the most likely outcome. The most winnable games are at home against South Dakota, UTSA, Kansas and Texas Tech. I can easily see Kansas State going 4-0 in those games. The rest of the home slate consists of Texas and Oklahoma State. Those feel like coin flips, as are road games against Baylor and Iowa State. Road trips to West Virginia, Oklahoma, and TCU will be much more difficult. This conference is so wide open in 2018 that it's incredibly difficult to predict what's going to happen in a lot of these matchups, but if I have to choose between 5-7 or 7-5, I have to think 7-5 is just a bit more likely than 5-7 right now. -- Over -110, Under -110

10 wins: Listen, replacing Baker Mayfield won't be easy. He just posted a couple of the greatest seasons by a QB in the history of the sport. Still, I have faith in Lincoln Riley's ability as a play-caller, as well as the talent on Oklahoma's offense, to believe that this team will still be incredibly potent. And the biggest reason for that belief is that, after losing left tackle Orlando Brown, the Sooners offensive line will still be the second-most experienced line in the Big 12 (only Kansas State's has more). Also, when you look at Oklahoma's schedule, it's hard to find an opponent not named Texas that the Sooners won't have a significant talent advantage over. I don't see a 9-3 season in the works barring disaster, so the choice here is obvious. -- Over -110, Under 110

8 wins: Oklahoma State has been the second-best program in the Big 12 for a while now, but I'm expecting a step back this year, as are bookmakers. The total is set at eight for a team that has won at least 10 games in each of the last three years, and six times in the previous eight. I do think that streak ends in 2018, and not just because Mason Rudolph and James Washington are gone. Mike Gundy has shown time and time again he can produce QBs and WRs. My concern is an offensive line that is one of the least experienced in the conference and a defense that lost a lot of critical parts. Still, even with all those questions, I can't foresee a 7-5 season for the Cowboys, so I can't justify the under. -- Over -120, Under EVEN

8.5 wins: This is a situation similar to what we dealt with when looking at Kansas in 2018. Make no mistake about it; Texas is a team that could win nine games in 2018. If you look at the way it has recruited, you can make an argument it's the most talented team in the conference. The problem is that Texas has always been talented, but it hasn't won nine games in a season since going 9-4 in 2012. Furthermore, it hasn't won nine games in a regular season (remember, win totals don't include bowl games or conference championships) since it reached the BCS National Championship game in 2009. So until Texas shows me it can exceed expectations again, I'm not going to bet on it to do so. -- Over -110, Under -110

7.5 wins: The situation here is similar to Oklahoma State's. There is just a lot to replace here across the board. The Horned Frogs will also be breaking in an almost entirely new offensive line. The linemen on TCU's roster have 26 career starts between them; only seven teams in the country have fewer, and none of them are in a Power Five conference. We've seen Gary Patterson's TCU teams have those kinds of "reset" seasons before, most recently in 2016 when the Frogs went 6-7 after winning 23 games the prior two seasons. Last year they went 11-3, and I expect another step backward, even if just for a season. And, while TCU fans might not want to hear it, I think 7-5 is more likely than 8-4, so I have to go under. -- Over -110, Under -110

6 wins: I can foresee a scenario in which the next sentence I type will come back to haunt me, but I'm going to write it anyway. I think Texas Tech's defense is going to have a strong season. Seriously, it wasn't that bad last season. It finished fifth in the Big 12 in yards per play, which was a significant step forward based on previous seasons. Furthermore, while the Red Raiders have to replace nearly their entire offense at the skill positions, most of the offensive line is back, and almost everybody is back on defense. I have faith that the Raiders will score points. Dare I say it, in a Big 12 that looks to be wide open outside of Oklahoma; Tech just might be the sleeper you're looking for. -- Over -110, Under -110

7 wins: I'm a bit skeptical of West Virginia this season. I love Will Grier, and he could be the best quarterback in the conference this season, but in a conference that's typically full of QBs putting up monster numbers, that might not be as significant an advantage as you're prone to think. When I look for ways for teams to separate themselves in the Big 12, I tend to look at the defense first, and the Mountaineers have quite a bit of production to replace. I think the oddsmakers are dead on with the seven wins, which leaves me to decide between 6-6 or 8-4 as being more likely, and I have a hard time finding eight wins on the schedule. It's in play, sure, but I don't think it's as likely as 7-5 or 6-6. -- Over EVEN, Under -120
CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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