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Big 12 Picks Against the Spread: Week One

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It’s back! With Week 1 of the college football season officially underway, we are thrilled to bring back our weekly picks of every Big 12 game this fall. Last season we finished with a 55% winning percentage, while in 2014 our winning percentage was 60% (well, technically 59.6%). So, without further ado, let’s get right into Week 1 selections. 

(Note: Since the rest of the Big 12 is playing FCS opponents, those games are not typically listed by most sports books). 

Kansas State @ #8 Stanford

The line has moved to over two touchdowns in favor of The Cardinal. Why? Because K-State is coming off a brutal year, Stanford is now a perennial Pac-12 contender, and The Cardinal returns Christian McCaffrey who is getting more money bet on him to win the Heisman than any other player in the country. This sets up for a spread that has grown just too large.

Stanford is working in new QB Ryan Burns who has thrown just one pass over his first three seasons. Plus, they have to replace three outstanding offensive linemen. Meantime, K-State will once again be one of the least penalized teams in the country, as last season they led the Big 12 with under 40 penalty yards per game, which always bodes well for a big road game. QB Jesse Ertz is looking to make up for a lost 2015 campaign and get this year off on the right foot. K-State will keep this closer than most believe.

The Pick: K-State +15

 

West Virginia vs. Missouri

It’s an interesting match up between a former Big 12 participant and one of the teams that replaced them. The match up to watch is the WVU offensive line, which may be the best in the country, against Mizzou’s staple, their defensive line. The Tigers only went 5-7 last season, but return 17 starters in 2016. Mizzou finished last season in the top ten nationally on the defensive side, allowing just 16.2 points per game and 302 yards per game.

Missouri’s offensive brings in some new parts to help sophomore QB Drew Lock, and those new faces have Big 12 ties. Former Oklahoma OC Josh Heupel was hired away from Utah State to be the OC. Then, there’s RB Alex Ross in the mix, who transferred from Oklahoma. Meantime, WVU is replacing 9 starters on defense.

There are reasons for WVU fans to be optimistic behind Skyler Howard and this offense, but I believe they’ll be working out some kinks as well with many new faces at WR. The Mountaineers hang on for the win, but it’s a close one.

The Pick: Missouri + 10.5

 

#3 Oklahoma @ #15 Houston

The line for this game has slowly been growing in favor of the Sooners. Why? I’m not totally sure, but I believe the reasoning is similar to that of Stanford. Fans see good teams returning Heisman contenders and they fall in love with them. Sure, OU returns QB Baker Mayfield, and OU is a heavy 2/3 favorite to win the Big 12.

But, the Sooners are working in some new pieces on defense, especially at linebacker, and that could be a problem for OU in trying to stop QB Greg Ward Jr., who ran for over 1,000 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2015. Defensively, Houston has a solid front seven, and was one of the best in the nation in turnover margin last year at +21, but they are replacing nearly their entire secondary.

In the end, this is Houston’s Super Bowl, as they have no shot at the CFB Playoff if they lose, and the game is in their backyard. OU wins the game in a shootout, but they won’t cover the nearly double-digit spread.

The Pick: Houston +11.5

 

Texas vs. #10 Notre Dame

According to Odds Shark, this is, by far, the most wagered game of the weekend with 26% of all bets. As for the spread, I’m surprised to see it this low.

I understand both teams are trying to figure out their QB situation, but at the same time, they’re very different. Notre Dame has two quality choices. Texas just has… two choices. I think UT will finally start to turn things around and show major progress this season under Charlie Strong, but starting off against a top ten Notre Dame team is very hard, even at home.

UT needs to show improvement on offense, but the defense, which has all the talent in the world, needs to grow up quickly as well (it ranked outside the top 100 nationally in yards/game last season).

Texas’ only chance is to pound away with their RB duo of Chris Warren and D’Onta Foreman, who combine to weigh over 500 lbs. This will help ease Shane Buechele into the starting QB job (I’m assuming he will get the nod on Sunday). If UT gets behind early, forget it. Relying on a true freshman QB to start slinging the ball around against ND is not going to end well.

Plus, the UT run defense struggled last season, giving up over 1,100 yards in their final four games. The Irish bring in a solid offensive line, highlighted by upperclassmen, and a good 1-2 punch at RB of Tarean Folston and Josh Adams.I know it’s a huge game for Charlie Strong, but, I don’t see Brian Kelly’s guys being fazed by the spotlight. Hell, they’re Notre Dame. ND pulls away and covers the spread late.

The Pick: Notre Dame -3.5

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