Checking the title odds for Big 12 teams

May, 10, 2012
5/10/12
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Colleague Travis Haney kept an eye on the ever-changing national championship odds, and three Big 12 teams made big moves during the spring.

Oklahoma and West Virginia made big moves up the scale.

Oklahoma began the spring at 18-1 and has since moved to 10-1.
Those wondering whether OU would locate playmakers likely noted the spring emergence of receiver Trey Metoyer, a vertical threat from Texas who spent last fall at a Virginia prep school. He could make junior Kenny Stills' life much easier as the No. 1 receiver.

Mike Stoops' imprint has already been seen on a pass defense that was woeful in the losses to Texas Tech and Baylor. For one, all-conference-level talent Tony Jefferson moved from linebacker to free safety, a more natural position.

I could see it for Oklahoma. Last year, there was so much pressure on the preseason No. 1 Sooners. This year, they're still supremely talented, but the expectations aren't as high. OU will kick off the season around the top five, which makes a run to the title still a possibility with one loss. Even coach Bob Stoops admitted to me this spring that there's less pressure this time around, but still a very talented team. The big question for me is can Landry Jones play well for 13 games. He hasn't done it yet in his career, but the time is now. He can look otherworldly at times, but very average at others.

Meanwhile, West Virginia has moved from a 50-1 to 30-1.
What's will be interesting is seeing how West Virginia -- and TCU, in a similar-but-different sense -- adjust to the week-in, week-out challenges of the new league. In the Mountaineers' case, travel will be part of that game. At least one Big 12 peer thought those variables would preclude either of the newcomers from winning the league in year one.

Additionally, no one's really talking all that much about defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel leaving to rejoin Rich Rodriguez in Arizona. There's a sense that the 3-4 installed this spring by new coordinator Joe DeForest will work well in the Big 12. DeForest should know, since he was previously at Oklahoma State (where he coached with Dana Holgorsen).

I could see WVU winning the Big 12, but the national championship? Not happening, and that defense is the reason why. It's not ready yet. You win in the Big 12 with offense, yes. But you win big in the Big 12 with a great offense and a defense to match. That's how Oklahoma and Texas have done it over the years, and even last year, Oklahoma State took advantage with turnovers and nearly reached the title game.

WVU's floor is very, very high. I'd be very, very surprised if they won fewer than nine games, but in a new league, it's hard to imagine them going 12-0.

Kansas State, however, has taken a big step back this spring, according to oddsmakers. They've dropped from 25-1 to 150-1.
Perhaps the correct means of approaching this is to question who would ever see K-State as a 25-1 in the first place. Maybe Vegas realized what many already knew: The Wildcats, grinding out seemingly every game, were extremely fortunate to win 10 in 2011. Take out blowouts of lowly Kent State and Kansas, and the remaining eight victories were all by single digits, by an average of 4.5 points a game.

For me, the troubling sign from 2011 wasn't so much the close wins. Coach Bill Snyder does what he need to in order to win games. The playbook was limited in the first few games.

What makes me worry most about K-State? Losing to Oklahoma at home by 41 points. How many championship teams do something like that?

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