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Big 12 Championship – Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State Money Line Upset

#10 Oklahoma State Cowboys(9-2) @ #9 Oklahoma Sooners(9-2)

  • Where: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Norman, Oklahoma
  • When: December 3, 2016 12:30 pm EST
  • Spread: Oklahoma (-14) OSU (+14)
  • Moneyline: Oklahoma (-465) OSU (+370)
  • Over / Under: Over 77.5 (-110) Under (-110)

Major-division college football has gone through a couple of big changes in the past 20 to 30 years. The most important is probably the surplus of excellent players. Fans are embarrassed by their nationally-ranked team occasionally losing to the Toledos and Eastern Washingtons of the world, but they shouldn’t be. There are so many outstanding athletes coming out of the High School ranks that Alabama and LSU could offer 5,000 scholarships each and not snatch them all up.

Ex-Texas Longhorns HC Mack Brown began his career by beating Rice or Western Kentucky 75-3 early each season. Around 10 years ago, Texas began having a hard time with those schools on various Saturdays. “Football is tough anymore,” he hilariously complained.

And whew-wee, what offensive fireworks in this era of college football! The 2014-15 Georgia Tech offense was hailed as the most efficient, prodigious offense in NCAA Division 1 history by statisticians, but the Yellow Jackets weren’t competing with Tom Osbourne’s Nebraska offense on a level statistical playing field. College teams are scoring a lot more often in general now. Pundits blame it on the shotgun-spread playbook, but careerism among recruits is the root cause. More young talent is being bred and groomed to play on offense. Games between high-powered teams with average FBS defenses are basketball – the loser usually misses a lay-up or 2.

No match-up exemplifies the modern era like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this Saturday in Norman. The Big-12 is probably the 6th best FBS conference right now – AAC also-ran Houston blew Oklahoma, the highest-ranked team in the conference as of 11/29, out of the water 33-23 to begin the 2016-17 season. But against weaker schools and each other, Big-12 schools have juiced the scoreboard.

1 stat will suffice – on October 22nd, Oklahoma visited pass-happy conference rival Texas Tech. The final score was OU 66, Tech 59. Red Raiders QB Patrick Mahomes II was 52 of 88 for 734 passing yards against the Sooners’ defense. Read that again. It’s not a typo.

In contrast, State’s 344 passing yards-against in a 45-44 win over Texas Tech was a shining display of great defense. Mike Gundy’s Cowboys, of the space-age offense and chasing-guys-on-highlight-reels-level ‘D, have actually been steadier on both sides of the ball in 2016-17 – which is a big reason why an upset could be at hand in what has turned into a de-facto conference championship tilt.

The O/U is 77.5, meaning a 39-38 final score loses the over.

Oklahoma – King of the Lightweights?

It is hard to place futures on either of these teams right now, because nobody is sure how the New Year’s Six bowl situation will shake out. Both schools are favorites to play in 1 of those bowls. But Oklahoma has had the more ominous of the 2 regular-season campaigns.

The Sooners are undefeated in conference play, led by sophomore sensation RB Joe Mixon with 6.9 yards a carry and Baker Mayfield’s 35 TD passes. But on opening Saturday, they visited a very fast team and lost. Later, they faced a big, strong team from Ohio State and lost 45-24.

Oklahoma has tradition, money, and great recruiting. But this season they look like a team that isn’t physical or versatile enough when the offense is challenged.

The hosts look fairly healthy. A couple of backup running backs are out, and Jordan Evans may be returning from injury at linebacker.

OSU – Sneaky Strong

The Cowboys have snuck up on everyone, and they probably prefer that.

State’s defense is still pedestrian, but they have made some noise this year by effectively handling some match-ups. TCU was held to less than 350 yards in OK State’s 31-6 win. On November 5th, the ‘Boys somehow held Kansas State to less than 100 yards passing.

The lone black cloud hanging over the season has been the September loss to Central Michigan, in which a clearly mistaken ruling led to a Hail Mary nightmare of a finish. Apart from that debacle the ‘Boys are enjoying a fine season, with a baby-steps improving defense and QB Mason Rudolph’s 3500+ yards passing with only 4 interceptions.

The Cowboys are thinning at WR, with swift Dillon Stoner out indefinitely with a bad ankle.

Tripping on Thomas

The way to win a shoot-out is by forcing turnovers, and with players like Evans and talented CB Jordan Thomas returning to the field the Sooners might try to create some havoc. An interesting live-betting scenario would be if Oklahoma State moves the ball early, but the Oklahoma secondary is flying around and sniffing for hanging curve-balls to pick off.

A 28-21 halftime lead for OK State could evaporate for good, once the crowd-buoyed Sooner pass rush starts hitting home and creating loose balls or interceptions.

Value in the Visitors

Oklahoma State is a solid upset pick for Saturday. Their defense has not come close to breaking down as completely as Oklahoma’s has at times, and their QB doesn’t turn the ball over. If Mike Gundy can resist the temptation to get into a basketball game with the home team and instead simplifies the game, OU’s Ferrari of an offense could over-heat trying to take the lead.

Oklahoma has not yet faced a conference opponent who can dare them to play great defense for 4 quarters. That could leave them ripe to the upset.

At +370 on the Bovada money line, I’m seeing value on Oklahoma State.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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