The opening week of the Big 12 conference schedule is upon us. The league as a whole took its licks in the nonconference slate, but at least now eight of the 10 teams have a game under their belt. Now the question is whether the overall level of football is better.
The top two teams, Oklahoma and Texas, are once again big favorites, but there are some potentially interesting matchups elsewhere. Oklahoma State needs a better showing after slogging through a win against Tulsa. Iowa State is trying to rebound after its opening loss to Louisiana. Baylor and TCU still haven't played games, so their first impressions will be things to monitor as well.
All in all, there's a full slate of Big 12 games to watch and wager on -- for now, anyway. So let's get to the picks for Week 4.
Kansas State at No. 3 Oklahoma (-28.5): There's real concern over whether this game will even be played. K-State coach Chris Klieman has indicated multiple times that his team is at risk of not having enough bodies to satisfy the conference's 53-man roster minimums. Let's say they do for the sake of making the pick. Klieman's a great coach, but the Wildcats got worked in the trenches in Week 2 by a shorthanded Arkansas State. In most years I'd almost always take the points with a well-coached K-State squad considering the large spread for a conference game. However, unless Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler is out, I don't feel comfortable going with the dog here. In any case, maybe don't wager until Saturday morning.
Pick: Oklahoma -28.5
No. 8 Texas (-16.5) at Texas Tech: The Red Raiders will be inducting Michael Crabtree into its Ring of Honor. The ceremony comes nearly 12 years after Crabtree's miracle, game-winning touchdown catch against the top-ranked Longhorns. But let's face it: neither Texas Tech nor the lore of Lubbock is what it used to be. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw for 426 yards against UTEP; Texas Tech gave up 572 yards passing to Houston Baptist. Do I think Texas is three scores better than Tech? Yes.
Pick: Texas -16.5
West Virginia at No. 15 Oklahoma State (-8.5): There are plenty of reasons to take the points with the underdog Mountaineers. Oklahoma State had problems blocking Tulsa and West Virginia has a great defensive line with Darius and Dante Stills. Oklahoma State also has to weigh whether to play an injured Spencer Sanders or hand it over to freshman quarterback Shane Illingworth. What's more -- the Pokes have lost their last four Big 12 openers, though three were to ranked opponents. I wouldn't be surprised if this was another rock fight -- Oklahoma State has won the last five vs. WVU, but they've been generally close -- but I don't have enough faith to pick the 'Eers straight up.
Pick: West Virginia +8.5
Iowa State (-2.5) at TCU: Bookmakers peg this for a tight, low-scoring game (o/u 44.5) and I'm inclined to agree. The Frogs announced Georgia transfer Matthew Downing will start at quarterback, but Max Duggan will be available. Big plays were the difference for Iowa State against Louisiana. I believe that part gets rectified. But what about the availability of tight end Charlie Kolar? He's still day-to-day with a lower body injury. That would be a huge upgrade if he's cleared to go. Still, I like Gary Patterson's defense and 2.5 points is a small enough line to allow me to do what I love: go with home dogs. Pick: TCU +2.5
Pick: TCU +2.5
Kansas at Baylor (-17): Let's see ... Kansas got clocked by Coastal Carolina in its opener and Baylor still hasn't played a game. The uncertainty around Baylor -- which, again, includes a first-time coach getting acclimated in a pandemic year -- is enough to give me at least some pause on laying the points. On the other hand, we've seen what the Jayhawks have trotted out and ... woof. I'll take a good quarterback in Charlie Brewer to at least help Baylor push.
Pick: Baylor -17
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