Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, left, celebrates with quarterback Spencer Rattler after Rattler ran the ball for a touchdown against Florida in the first half of the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
- Oklahoma has opened as the favorite in the 2021 Big 12 Championship odds
- The Sooners have won six straight conference championships
- See opening odds for each team and early analysis on the race below
The Oklahoma Sooners are favored to win a seventh straight Big 12 title in 2021. Lincoln Riley’s team is listed at -125 in the opening Conference Championship odds after closing out the 2020 season on an eight-game winning streak.
The Iowa State Cyclones are listed as the second favorite after taking a big step forward last season, while Texas is at +350 as they prepare for a season without Tom Herman and Sam Ehlinger.
Is Oklahoma good enough to justify their opening price, or should you have your eyes on a different Big 12 contender?
Opening 2021 Big 12 Conference Championship Odds
Odds taken Apr. 18
Experienced Sooners a Tier Above Rest
It should come as no surprise that Oklahoma is favored once again in the opening Big 12 Championship odds. The Sooners started slow in 2020 with early losses to Kansas State and Iowa State, but by the time November came around, they were one of the top teams in the country.
The Sooners are returning plenty of talent from the powerhouse team that finished 9-2 last season. Most notable is the return of QB Spencer Rattler, who threw for 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns with just seven picks as a redshirt freshman in 2020. He’ll have several of his top targets back, including 500-yard receivers Marvin Mims and Theo Wease.
Oklahoma has a dangerous offense every year, but what made the 2020 team special was defense. Alex Grinch’s unit didn’t give up more than 21 points in any of their final five games, including the Big 12 Championship against the Cyclones and the Cotton Bowl vs Florida. 10 players who started games on that elite unit last year are returning, including explosive rush linebacker Nik Bonitto.
Not only are the Sooners experienced with returning players, but they landed a talented Tennessee trio in the transfer portal with OT Wanya Morris, DB Keshawn Lawrence and RB Eric Gray.
It’s hard to find a weakness on OU’s 2021 roster, which gives them great value in the early odds. This team is a legit National Title contender, and it’ll take something extraordinary to deny them another conference championship.
Cyclones Ready for Encore
What does Matt Campbell and Iowa State have in store after an exceptional 9-3 season in 2020? The Cyclones were one of college football’s biggest surprises last year, beating OU and Texas in the regular season before earning a spot in the Big 12 Title game for the first time since 1912.
Oddsmakers don’t expect much regression for the Cyclones in 2021, as they’ve opened with better odds than Texas to challenge Oklahoma for the title. There’s reason to take Iowa State seriously this season, including the return of QB Brock Purdy and RB Breece Hall, who were both among the conference’s best at their respective positions last year.
Breece Hall: 7 rushing TDs of 20+ yards last season
Led the power five 💪 pic.twitter.com/ceIz7j3u3m
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 23, 2021
The Cyclones do have to deal with some key defensive departures, including all-time sacks leader JaQuan Bailey and veteran safety Lawrence White, but they’re still loaded. ISU is returning three all-conference linebackers in 2021, including reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the year Mike Rose. Also expect another big season from Will McDonald, who had 10.5 sacks last season.
Iowa State has the potential to be just as good as they were in 2020 with Hall and Purdy leading the offense and Jon Heacock coaching a rock-solid defense. Every game on their schedule is winnable and they don’t get the Sooners until November. If you’re going to throw money at a team other than Oklahoma in the Big 12 odds, make it a loaded ISU squad returning plenty of talent.
Steve Sarkisian Era Underway In Texas
For the first time in a long time, Texas hasn’t opened as the second favorite behind Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship odds. The Longhorns are listed at +350 to win the conference after turning in a 7-3 season in 2020. Head coach Tom Herman was given the boot after leading the program to just one Big 12 Conference Championship game appearance in four years at the helm.
Former Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is the new head coach and will be busy implementing his scheme amidst quarterback turnover. Senior pivot Sam Ehlinger is off to the NFL, which means the QB battle will be between four-star recruit Casey Thompson and redshirt freshman Hudson Card. Neither player appears to have the upper hand at this stage, but the word out of spring practice is WR Jordan Whittington is really progressing and could become the top target.
“Great players want to be coached.” 🤘 pic.twitter.com/APtEDNqiBj
— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) April 11, 2021
Texas is the wildcard in the Big 12 odds considering they are the contender without a returning starting quarterback. There’s also questions on defense as the team had a fairly non-existent pass rush in 2020 and the secondary got torched on multiple occasions. The hope is that new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski will help alleviate those issues, but it won’t be easy with top linebacker Juwan Mitchell entering the transfer portal and safety Caden Sterns off to the NFL.
There’s some upside with Texas in 2021 when you consider running back Bijan Robinson could emerge as one of the best backs in the nation. Oklahoma State is losing two of its best offensive weapons in Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace, so Texas could be a legitimate contender if everything comes together. But with all the new pieces and returning talent on OU and ISU, it’s best to see this Longhorns team in game action before placing any wagers.
Brady is a passionate hockey fan and sports writer with over five years of experience specializing in digital media, plus a degree in Broadcast Journalism. His work has been published by outlets such as ESPN, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and Fox Sports.