The 2017 college football season is less than three months away with media days starting in mid-July to kickstart prediction season among college football writers and analysts. The sportsbooks, however, don't wait for expert picks or preseason previews to start setting the expectations for the fall, releasing title odds and win totals throughout the offseason.
We're going to be making individual team picks for all of the Power Five conferences using the full 130-team FBS list released by the South Point Sportsbook earlier this month. Today, we are turning our attention to the Big 12.
Oklahoma -- 10 (Push): Oklahoma's win total (and presumed place atop the preseason Big 12 standings) becomes a lot more interesting now that Lincoln Riley is unexpectedly in charge. But how much really changes? The road game at Ohio State in Week 2 is still the most difficult game on the schedule by a country mile. Road games at Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State could lead to the Sooners tripping up somewhere. The rest of the schedule isn't too difficult.
Oklahoma State -- 9 (Push): The Cowboys will be the trendy team to win the conference, and with good reason. The trio of quarterback Mason Rudolph, running back Justice Hill and receiver James Washington is as formidable as any. And the hardest game Oklahoma State has on paper -- vs. its Bedlam rival -- is at home. Road games at Pittsburgh, Texas Tech, Texas and West Virginia before November will be interesting to watch. If the Pokes can navigate through that stretch, though, another double-digit winning season is very much in order.
Baylor -- 8 (Under): We're going to find out a lot about Baylor in the first half of the season. The program is breaking in a new coach in Matt Rhule. The schedule is front-loaded, too. In Week 3, the Bears have to travel to Duke before playing Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, the latter two of which are on the road. However, three of the final six games are home with one neutral site game vs. Texas Tech. The program has enough gas talent-wise and Rhule is a good enough coach to get the team bowl eligible right away. Are the Bears deep enough or experienced enough to win five or six conference games, though?
TCU -- 8 (Push): TCU's road slate is impressively challenging: at Arkansas, at Oklahoma State, at Kansas State and at Oklahoma. Those could be the Horned Frogs' four losses right there. But there's a lot coming back and if there's a team besides Kansas State capable of surpassing its win total, its this one. Plus, you know, Gary Patterson is still coaching in Fort Worth. The mixture of a veteran team and a tough schedule will be fascinating.
Kansas State -- 7.5 (Over): If you read ourfor the upcoming season, you know I picked Kansas State to win the Big 12. So I suppose I'm obligated to go with the over -- though the alternate reality in which a seven-win team tops the conference standings is almost too good not to fantasize about. Anyway, the over is an attractive option. One of the youngest Power Five teams in 2016 according to Phil Steele, which won nine games, returns plenty of key components. Plus, the Snydercats get Oklahoma, TCU, Baylor and West Virginia at home. The nonconference schedule is winnable, too.
Texas -- 7.5 (Over): The Longhorns won five games in each of the past two seasons, but the bitter disappointment that was the Charlie Strong era clouded the fact that this program was closer to seven or eight wins than most realize (plenty five-win teams are). Can new coach Tom Herman's Horns finish the job? The road trip to USC early in the year will be tough, but Maryland and San Jose State are more manageable tasks. The question then becomes whether Texas can find six wins in the conference schedule. And the second questions is "Do you believe in Herman given his small, but impressive track record?" There are some tough road games at Baylor, TCU and West Virginia, plus a Thursday night game at Iowa State, which is always tricky. Still, there's talent on the field and Herman looks like he's getting the team to buy in.
West Virginia -- 6 (Push): The season-opening game vs. Virginia Tech should be excellent and the Mountaineers should have at least half of its projected win total going into October. Man, oh man, does it get difficult quickly after that. West Virginia goes to TCU, to Baylor, to Kansas State and to Oklahoma. The good news is that the 'Eers have Will Grier at quarterback and coach Dana Holgorsen has built a better model on defense with coordinator Tony Gibson to replace the many starters lost. It'll be a step-back season, but this will still be a decent team.
Iowa State -- 5.5 (Under): Matt Campbell is a good coach. He put Iowa State in positions to win a year ago, but the Cyclones simply didn't have enough dudes to finish the job. Once again, there are some pieces on offense to put up points. Senior Allen Lazard is a fun, big 1,000-yard pass-catcher. But that nonconference schedule for the Cyclones has no guarantees (not even Northern Iowa) and the conference slate has five road games. Campbell will keep things moving in the right direction, but asking six wins of this team is probably a stretch.
Texas Tech -- 4.5 (Under): Let's see, Texas Tech went 5-7 last season and had a rare talent at quarterback drafted in the first round into the NFL. This year, the Red Raiders have a tough nonconference schedule and get five conference road games. To this team's credit, there are numerous, excellent skill players returning along with some key freshmen and sophomores on defense. And there's always a chance for a classic Lubbock upset or two with Oklahoma State, Kansas State and TCU coming to town. Those things actually make the over an enticing option. At the end of the day, though, you're asking Tech to win as many games, or more, without Patrick Mahomes. So ...
Kansas -- 2.5 (Under): The path out of college football's basement is a tough one to successfully traverse. If Kansas can get two wins in nonconference play, the over is a real possibility, but one of the Jayhawks' two best chances to get a conference win, vs. Iowa State, is a road game. Any kind of jump for this program is more likely to happen in Year 3 or Year 4 under coach David Beaty.