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NFL Draft

College Football Conference Winner Best Bets

  • The Draft Network
  • June 15, 2021
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Is there any limit to the number of bettable features of the college and NFL seasons for BetOnline? I don’t think so, as I’m back for yet another betting article off of some of the most recent odds. In this case, I’m looking at conference championship odds.

This is a tough one to bet, as a matter of fact. Most conference championships end up pretty chalky, and identifying the one potential surprise is a needle-in-haystack endeavor. Accordingly, I went for a clear favorite who I thought should have even more skewed odds than it did, willing to take the extra cash even if it’s still a low-return bet.

Oklahoma (-165) 

It’s not that -165 are super profitable odds; they aren’t, and followers of my betting content will know I typically go for high-value gambles with longer odds. It’s just that Oklahoma at -165 is wildly mispriced relative to other conference favorites.

Clemson is the biggest favorite of any conference, and rightfully so as the ACC struggles to put out more than two decently competitive teams per year beyond the Tigers. But after Clemson’s -800, Ohio State, Alabama, and Oklahoma are all listed at -165 to win their conference.

Oklahoma has been the Big 12 champion in each of the last six seasons, which includes four wins in the Big 12 Championship Game since it was reinstated in 2017. And that includes a win last season over the higher-ranked Iowa State Cyclones, 27-21 in a game they were leading 24-7 at halftime. Iowa State has the third-best championship odds in the conference at +350 and returns largely the same team that went 1-1 against the Sooners last season.

That’s good news for the Cyclones. With tons of experience and only one major loss via the NFL draft (with EDGE JaQuan Bailey landing in Philadelphia), they’re again going to be an efficient team with veteran leadership in quarterback Brock Purdy and explosive play potential in running back Breece Hall. Throw in a great three-safety defensive structure, and in the last three years, Matt Campbell’s Cyclones are 2-3 against Lincoln Riley’s Sooners—only one game has been decided by more than one possession.

The problem here is that, while Iowa State returns the same team, Oklahoma does as well. But Oklahoma was a very young team last season. The team had a rotation in the running back room after Rhamondre Stevenson served an early-season suspension; their three leading receivers were all underclassmen; freshman Spencer Rattler, while still dangerous, gave Riley the worst quarterback play he’s ever had. In that loss to Iowa State, Rattler struggled to take what the defense was giving him and avoid unnecessarily aggressive throws.

Besides Stevenson and two starting offensive linemen—center Creed Humphrey (Kansas City) and right tackle Adrian Ealy—Riley returns the entire offense and adds such players as transfer running back Eric Gray and injured wide receiver Jadon Haselwood. Oklahoma has never had this much passing game continuity from season over season, and it isn’t lacking for the top recruits it usually has. Rattler is a current Heisman Trophy odds leader for a reason: The Oklahoma offense is likely to look like it did when Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won Heismans and made the playoffs.

On the other side of the ball, Alex Grinch’s defense has gotten better over the last couple of years. Like the offense, the defense did lose a few starters—cornerbacks Tre Brown (Seattle Seahawks) and Tre Norwood and EDGE Ronnie Perkins (New England Patriots)—but returns multiple impact players, including EDGE Nik Bonitto, long-injured linebacker Caleb Kelly, and top safety duo Delarrin Turner-Yell and Pat Fields. Oklahoma has to figure out the cornerback position after losing multiple starters, but it typically doesn’t have the cornerback position figured out anyway. The defense should remain good against bad teams and bad against good teams.

In short, there’s no real reason to believe Iowa State is any better suited to beat Oklahoma and plenty of reasons to believe Oklahoma’s going to go back to 2017-19 levels after a blippy 2020 season. And what of Texas, with the second-best odds at +325 despite a coaching change and a quarterback change? Steve Sarkisian is good, but he isn’t that good.

Oklahoma with the same odds as Alabama with a tough Georgia team this year and an Ohio State team with a freshman quarterback doesn’t accurately reflect just how much of a handle Oklahoma has on that conference. I like -165 for the value it gives you on what should be the clear second-biggest conference favorite in the country.

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