2018 Big 12 Championship Betting Guide: Will Texas Repeat Last Effort vs. Oklahoma
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Sam Ehlinger and Kyler Murray
Oklahoma-Texas Betting Odds, Pick for Big 12 Championship
- Odds: Oklahoma -9.5
- Over/Under: 78
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV: ABC
>> All odds as of Saturday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.
For the first time ever, we’ll have two Red River Showdowns in the same season, as Oklahoma and Texas have never met outside of their annual meeting, which started back in 1900 with a 28-2 Texas victory.
I can promise you Oklahoma will score more than two points this time around. I can also promise you this game won’t end in a tie, though five have in the past.
Texas actually leads the all-time series 62-46-5, but not many past meetings have been more important than this weekend’s matchup. Oklahoma is not only out for a conference title and same-season revenge over its Big 12 rival, but it has hopes of securing a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Can Texas coach Tom Herman play his usual role as underdog spoiler? Or is Oklahoma’s offense too good? Let’s dive in.
Odds Moves for Big 12 Championship Game
Opening at -7.5, Oklahoma hasn’t drawn the majority of bettors this weekend. The 49% that have backed them, however, have moved this line to -8 as they’ve accounted for 59% of the actual money wagered.
And despite the high total, 80% of bettors are rolling with the over. But with those bets generating only 70% of dollars, oddsmakers have followed the bigger bettors and dropped this number down by a half-point from 78.
How Is Oklahoma’s Defense This Bad?
Well, part of it is scheme, part of it is performance and part of it is injuries.
The Sooners lost four of their top six tacklers from last season, including their top pass-rushers, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and D.J. Ward. They’ve never been able to fill the void left by those two. As a result, they really don’t get any pressure and rank outside the top 100 in adjusted sack rate.
Since they can’t generate pressure, the Sooners’ small corners and depleted safety group have been overexposed. They had to replace starting safeties Will Johnson and Steven Parker, and before the season even started, they lost upperclassmen safeties Prentice McKinney and Chanse Sylvie to season-ending injuries. Now safeties Justin Broiles and Kahlil Haughton are hurt.
That’s tough to overcome, and it’s why Oklahoma has allowed 8.1 yards per pass attempt, which ranks 103rd nationally.
OU also made a change after the Texas game, firing defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, but that hasn’t solved anything. The defense has been even worse under Ruffin McNeil.
Mismatch: Texas WRs vs. Oklahoma CBs
Oklahoma not only has a depleted and struggling group of safeties, but very small corners, which the 6-foot-6 Collin Johnson and 6-foot-4 Lil’Jordan Humphrey can exploit all day long. The two Texas receivers combined for 15 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting. I expect both to have a big day again.
The Sooners’ defense ranks 127th in pass efficiency, which is what the Longhorns excels in at 21st in the nation.
Bets to Watch
Everyone knows Herman’s record as an underdog — 12-1-1 against the spread — as we have already had a Texas straight-up victory this season against Oklahoma. Not much has changed in the advanced stats since the Red River Showdown in last month’s Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma is still first in S&P+ offense and 84th in defense.
Texas lived up to its reputation of beating Oklahoma as an underdog, but has neglected to cover in games against Kansas and Baylor with an outright loss to Oklahoma State. But since the Sooners played the Longhorns, Oklahoma has given up 46 points to Texas Tech, 47 to Oklahoma State and even 40 to Kansas.
Not great on either side.
While taking more than a touchdown in points with Herman is the recommended play, the total deserves a bit of attention, too. Oklahoma’s past four games have each eclipsed 90 points, while Texas has gone over the current number of 77.5 just twice this season (Oklahoma and West Virginia).
Texas has an adjusted pace that ranks 72nd in the nation, and while the Longhorns did beat Oklahoma, their postgame win expectancy was just 8% because they benefitted from three turnovers. If the Longhorns play the same pace as the previous game with Oklahoma, they stand a very slim chance of winning.
The Texas offense is 32nd in overall success rate with an even distribution of 25th in rush efficiency and 21st in pass efficiency. With a passing downs run rate that ranks above the national average, it’s not far fetched to believe that Texas will try to slow the game down and keep the ball out of Kyler Murray’s hands.
Wait for the over steam to hit the market, and consider an under before kick.
Collin’s Pick: Under 77.5
A Case for the Over
By Ken Barkley
There’s a Coca-Cola commercial that’s been running all season about how different tailgating groups make different food and disagree on everything, but can agree on the smooth, great taste of Coke. (Send a case to: Locky Lockerson, c/o The Action Network … just kidding.)
There’s an old, Sam Elliott-looking Cowboy in the middle who basically just yells “IT AIN’T ROCKET SCIENCE” with a really twangy cowboy, old-guy voice.
That’s how I feel about Oklahoma over/unders.
People try to get contrarian with stuff like this, then the Sooners just score every possession … again.
What’s remarkable about the first meeting between these teams is that not only did Oklahoma score 45 points, but the Sooners were actually ineffective in a few spots. They settled for a field goal in the first half after failing to convert a third-and-1, something I’m pretty sure doesn’t happen too often. Then, most notably, Murray threw an interception and had an absurd fumble where he tried to use the ball to balance himself and it popped out. Murray has only lost two fumbles all season (that was one) and has only thrown seven picks (that was one).
It was a bad game for Murray, and the Sooners still scored 45.
I’m not interested in historical precedent with regard to totals, because these Oklahoma totals aren’t inflated, they’re just really high. And there’s a difference. Inflated means that the team isn’t this efficient on average, they’ve just had some luck, good fortune or specific opponent mismatches that have caused opinion to change.
That’s not what’s happening here.
Texas’ profile fits squarely alongside all the other Big 12 teams that have scored bunches on Oklahoma and been powerless on the other side. It’s easy to say “Herman will keep Murray off the field,” but Oklahoma is so poor at tackling and coverage that unless Texas players take a knee after getting first downs, that’s unlikely.
This isn’t a lock, or anything of the sort. I just think these two teams are eclipsing this number more often than they’re not. I’ll take the over, but if you’re going to do it, don’t wait. I find it unlikely the public is going to come in on game day and decide the under is a great idea.
Barkley’s Pick: Over 77.5
Take the Points
The Texas secondary can’t relate to the Oklahoma struggles. The Longhorns have playmakers all over.
At safety, freshman Caden Sterns was named to the first-team All-Big 12 Team and earned Freshman Defensive Player of the Year honors. He’s joined by fellow playmaking freshman B.J. Foster, who sacked Murray in the teams’ first meeting, and the rock Brandon Jones, who picked off Murray. Add in first-team All-Big 12 corner Kris Boyd and senior Davante Davis, and you have a secondary that’s much more likely to force a turnover.
In a game in which both offenses should score at will, the difference in the game will likely come down to turnovers, or forcing a field goal or two. And Texas rates out much better in both areas.
That secondary I mentioned above has the fifth-best Havoc Rate in the nation compared to Oklahoma’s 86th. And Texas’ defense ranks 36th in finishing drives compared to an abysmal 114th for Oklahoma.
The Longhorns catching seven-plus points is too many in what should be a back-and-forth affair. It comes down to this: Texas is a simple team under Herman. Back as a dog, fade as a favorite. Take the points.
Stuckey’s Pick: Texas +8
- Safety Brandon Jones is probable. (He left the last game after taking a blow to head.) He had 9 tackles and a pick in the teams’ first meeting.
- Senior defensive tackle Chris Nelson (knee) is probable.
The health of Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (shoulder) will be important to watch. He ran 19 times for 72 yards in the first meeting, which doesn’t sound amazing, but there were a number of key runs to keep drives going.
His legs are a critical part of the Texas offense, which means his health is important. We’ll see if he’s willing to take hits with that shoulder injury.
- Safety Justin Broiles is questionable. (He didn’t play last game.)
- Safety Kahlil Haughton is questionable. (He hasn’t played last four games.)
- CB Jordan Parker questionable. (He hasn’t played last two games.)
Trends to Know
By John Ewing
The over/under of 77.5 points is the third-highest for a conference championship game ever. Only four previous title games had an over/under of 75 or more points, and the over went 3-1 in those games, clearing the total by an average of 15.6 points.
By Evan Abrams
In AT&T Stadium’s history, only four college football games have closed with an over/under of 75 or more points. The over is 4-0 in those games, but all four matchups featured Baylor vs. Texas Tech.
Herman’s prowess as an underdog (12-1-1 ATS) has been widely known and screamed from the hill tops, but what might be more impressive is the fact he is 15-2-1 (88.2%) ATS when his teams are either an underdog or listed as a favorite of a field goal or less. So basically any game that his team is either not projected to win or is in a toss-up spot.
Herman has profited bettors 12.3 units in this spot, making him the most profitable coach in the country since being hired by Houston in 2015.