The Big 12, like the ACC and Big Ten, has been a conference dominated at the top by one program recently: Oklahoma. The Sooners have won the past six conference championships, including the last four with the return of the conference championship game in Arlington, Texas. Betting on Oklahoma has become about as much of a sure thing as you can get in a sport that's charmed by the unpredictable.
But as we look towards Big 12 championship odds for 2021 courtesy of William Hill Sportsbook, it's important to look for where better values may be. Sure, you could put money down on the Sooners and very likely get a modest return. Or, you could take more of a risk in hopes of a better payout. (Or you could light your money on fire and bet on Kansas. This is a free country after all.) Whatever you decide, let's go over some of the best and worst values for your buck.
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With college football futures available on William Hill Sportsbook, here is how bookmakers see Big 12 title odds playing out this season.
Best Bet -- Iowa State (+260): To be perfectly clear, the safest bet is Oklahoma. At -130, you'd get back about 77 cents on the dollar. Not bad if you're looking to make easy money, but not great, either. Iowa State is a far better value. If you think the Cyclones can win the Big 12 almost 28% of the time -- given the trajectory of the program under coach Matt Campbell, that is completely possible -- then getting plus money on what could very well be a top-10 team this year makes a lot of sense.
Iowa State returns practically everyone from last season's Fiesta Bowl-winning team. There are some legit All-Big 12 and potential All-America players in this group. The hurdle, of course, is beating Oklahoma in Arlington. The Sooners should be even better than last year, and while Iowa State has shown it can play with, and occasionally beat, the Sooners, doing so in December is provably harder.
Worst Wager -- Texas (+450): The combination of Steve Sarkisian's play-calling and recruiting chops has me excited to see what the first-year coach can do at Texas in the long run. I just don't love them as a team to bet on in 2021. The implied odds (18%) and payout aren't bad, but the Longhorns have perpetually underachieved relative to their expectations, and they've cycled through coaches trying to figure out how to take the next step. If this program was winning 10+ games a year, then I'd be more open to Sark coming in right away and winning a conference title. The potential is there, sure, but that's all it is for now. Texas hasn't won Big 12 hardware in the past decade, so I'm going to fade the team that still has the third-best title odds to do so.
Value Pick -- Oklahoma State (+1200): This is sort of funny because I sold my Cowboys stock last offseason. Even though Spencer Sanders, Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace were all back and Pokes hype was through the roof, I'd seen that movie too many times to go all in. But I'm reversing course in 2021. I don't think Oklahoma State takes the huge step back some are predicting. First of all, Sanders is back, and while I wouldn't say he's the Big 12's best quarterback, he is probably the most elusive and exciting. I'm not concerned about replacing Hubbard, either. The Cowboys are loaded at running back with LD Brown, Dezmon Jackson and Jaylen Warren. And while losing Wallace hurts, history says Mike Gundy almost always has a 1,000-yard receiver in the chamber. Plus, a really salty defense from a year ago should be good again.
Giving 12/1 odds implies Oklahoma State would win the Big 12 just under 8% of the time. Considering Gundy already has a Big 12 championship under his belt and this program's high floor, that's more than just a non-zero chance. Outside of the favorites, the Cowboys are an interesting sleeper.
Long shot -- Kansas State (+5000): If Oklahoma is the high-water mark for all other Big 12 programs, than how can you not look at K-State as a betting long shot? Coach Chris Klieman is 2-0 against the Sooners and the first coach to beat Oklahoma in consecutive years since Art Briles at Baylor in 2013 and 2014. With quarterback Skylar Thompson back and healthy to start the year, the Wildcats are at least in a position to be competitive in just about every game. If you told me there's a 2% implied chance that a guy with four Division I national championships under his belt could win the Big 12 in 2021, I wouldn't hate it.