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The stars have aligned for Oklahoma to win Big 12

By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Oklahoma is the heavy favorite to win the Big 12 title. However, the preseason favorite has not won the conference championship since the league ditched the divisional format in 2011.

It certainly would be an upset if the Sooners failed to take home the title as the majority of the Big 12 clubs are on the decline. In fact, Baylor is the only other league squad ranked in the preseason top 20, and the Bears have major question marks of their own.

If there is one team that could surprise and gain the conference title it is TCU. The Horned Frogs, who were extremely unlucky last season going 4-8 (2-7 in the Big 12), have a new quarterback and a new offensive philosophy emphasizing the pass. They are worth a few dollars at 14-1 odds.

Time now to take a deeper look into the league, along with conference championship odds and regular season over/under totals courtesy of Bovada.

10) KANSAS (100-1) - The Jayhawks are 7-15 as road underdogs the last five years. They may be set at wide receiver with Nick Harwell and Nigel King, but the offense loses its main weapon in running back James Sims, who rushed for over 1.100 yards. That loss will sting since Kansas ran the ball 60 percent of the time last year. The defense will be much better with the return of nine of the top 10 tacklers, one year after losing six of its top seven, but that won't be enough to move Kansas out of the cellar.

Final thought - The offense scored zero points against the third and fourth string defenses in the spring game. Predicted overall and conference records - 1-11, 0-9.

9) WEST VIRGINIA (66-1) - The Mountaineers are 8-15 ATS the last two years. Even though the defense allowed opposing teams eight (or more) red zone chances in more than half of its final seven games last year, head coach Dana Holgorsen was pleased with the progress the defense showed in the spring. Offensively, the team was stagnant for much of the season, finishing seventh in the Big 12 in scoring. However, this year's crew brings back its top two quarterbacks, its top three receivers and a bevy of solid running backs. Don't forget, West Virginia was far less stable coming into last year without Geno Smith and his three leading pass catchers.

Final thought - The Mountaineers will be much more competitive this year, so look for a major improvement over last season's 3-8 ATS record. Over/under total - 4.5. Predicted overall and conference records - 4-8, 3-6.

8) TEXAS TECH (20-1) - The Red Raiders are 8-0 as road favorites the last three years. One club that will not have an improved defense is Texas Tech. Last season, 12 of the top 16 tacklers returned and the Red Raiders finished seventh (inside the Big 12) in scoring defense for a second consecutive year. Only three of the top nine tacklers come back in 2014. On the other side of the ball, quarterback Davis Webb will appreciate an improved offensive line after that unit allowed 28 sacks in Big 12 play - good for last in the league.

Final thought - Texas Tech is 14-5 to the over in its last 19 games. Look for at least eight more overs this season. Over/under total - 6.5. Predicted overall and conference records - 6-6, 3-6.

7) IOWA STATE (100-1) - The Cyclones are 13-10 as road underdogs the last five years. They lost four games by a touchdown or less last season, and that came with just nine returning starters. In fact, more than one-third of the starts were by underclassmen, and the offensive line had nine different set of starters in the first 11 games. This year, the team is a more veteran bunch, especially on offense. Expect a massive improvement in points scored, which will offset a defense hit hard by attrition and graduation.

Final thought - Five conference home games should help Iowa State improve a couple of games in the standings after last year's three-win season. Over/under total - 3.5. Predicted overall and conference records - 5-7, 2-6. Take over 3.5 wins at -150.

6) OKLAHOMA STATE (10-1) - The Cowboys are 41-19 ATS as favorites the last six years. The odds are very high Oklahoma State will fail to win more than seven games. First, the Cowboys were +15 in turnover differential last season. Second, they finished first (Big 12 play) last season in red zone touchdown percentage. Third, they lose seven starters on both sides of the ball. Fourth, it is unlikely this year's defense will limit opposing league offenses to just 13 red zone touchdowns in 33 chances as it did a season ago.

Final thought - The 2010 squad won 11 games with only eight returning starters but that team did not have five conference road games as well as a date with the defending national champs. Over/under total - 7.5. Predicted overall and conference records - 7-5, 5-4.

5) TCU (14-1) - The Horned Frogs are 1-6 as road favorites, but 7-2 as road underdogs the last three years. They lost four league games by a combined 11 points last season. Success this year depends on how well the offense adjusts to a more pass-oriented system with new quarterback Matt Joeckel taking the snaps. Injuries and defections killed what could have been an outstanding defense in 2013 but TCU still ranked first inside conference play in yards allowed. Unfortunately, the Horned Frogs finished sixth in scoring defense.

Final thought - Eight of last year's top nine tacklers return so look for TCU to finish in the top half of the Big 12 standings. Over/under total - 8. Predicted overall and conference records - 8-4, 5-4.

4) KANSAS STATE (10-1) - The Wildcats are 17-4 as road underdogs the last seven years but 5-12-1 as road favorites the last 10. They were the only league team to improve its yards per play average (from 2012) inside conference play. Doing it again could be difficult without John Hubert and Daniel Sams, who combined for 1.855 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. The defense loses seven of its top 14 tacklers just one year after losing eight of its top 12. However, 80 percent of the players recording sacks come back after just nine percent of those players returned in 2013.

Final thought - Never underestimate a Bill Snyder-coached squad, especially against the spread. Kansas State has covered 26 of its last 36 games. Over/under total - 7.5. Predicted overall and conference records - 5-7, 2-6.

3) TEXAS (15-2) - The Longhorns are 12-8 as road favorites the last six years. Charlie Strong has come to Austin and the old Longhorn way of life has bitten the dust. It might take a year for everyone to be on the same page but the team will be better off in the long run. Stability and inexperience will be key issues for the offensive line but the unit should improve as the season moves along. Texas is loaded with veterans at almost every other position, just as long as they remain on the roster.

Final thought - Texas easily could see itself 2-4 after a brutal first half schedule. That should equate to a solid ATS record the second half of the season. Over/under total - 7.5. Predicted overall and conference records - 7-5, 6-3.

2) BAYLOR (11-4) - The Bears are 1-6 as road favorites the last three years. If Baylor was in a more difficult conference, four or five losses would not be shocking since only two of the top eight tacklers return and the secondary is a shell of its former self. Remember, one reason Baylor had as much success as it had was due to its massive improvement against the pass. The Bears moved from ninth to first in pass defense, allowing opposing league quarterbacks to complete just 47 percent of their passes. Offensively, Bryce Petty was amazing in 2013 but can he come close to last year's 32-3 TD/INT ratio? Don't count on it.

Final thought - Despite all the negativity, the Big 12 is weak this season so Baylor still should have a very good year. However, wager against the Bears when they take on good passing teams. Over/under total - 9.5. Predicted overall and conference records - 9-3, 6-3.

1) OKLAHOMA (2-3) - The Sooners are 10-3 ATS off a SU loss the last five years. They ran the ball 62 percent of the time last season after running just 43 percent in 2012. Unfortunately, they lose their top three running backs and true freshman Joe Mixon's status is currently up in the air. Nonetheless, the rest of the team is strong, especially on defense. Oklahoma has allowed fewer than 20 points per game just four times in the last 11 years. Three of those instances came when the defense brought back nine or more starters. Nine starters return in 2014.

Final thought - The Sooners will struggle offensively the first part of the season but the schedule is extremely friendly in September. Expect just one loss (versus Oklahoma State) in 2014. Over/under total - 10.5. Predicted overall and conference records - 11-1, 8-1.

08/11 10:44:30 ET

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