The upcoming Big 12 football season will be unlike any other. The conference will boast a record 14 members in 2023 with four new schools joining the fray -- BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF. This year's expanded roster will be a one-time billing, however, as flagship members Oklahoma and Texas enter their final year in the league before departing for the SEC.
The conference will abandon the round-robin format it has used since 2011, when its membership decreased to 10 teams following the departures of Colorado and Nebraska. In other words, not all paths to the Big 12 Championship Game in Arlington, Texas, will be equal. That means oddsmakers have to factor strength of schedule into their decisions.
Caesars Sportsbook already released odds for the 2023 Big 12 championship, and it's no surprise that the league's two biggest brands -- the Sooners and Longhorns -- lead the pack ahead of their final rodeo in the conference they've called home for 27 years. While Oklahoma rattled off six straight Big 12 titles from 2015-21, Texas has not won the league since 2009, and neither has been to Arlington over the past two years.
Here is the current Big 12 pecking order courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook, along with some analysis in a conference that is no stranger to parity.
Best bet -- Kansas State (+500): Last year Kansas State won its first outright Big 12 championship since 2003. With the parity at play in the Big 12, it's hard to ignore the value the defending champs bring to the table compared to betting favorites Texas and Oklahoma. K-State has veterans returning on both sides of the football, including its entire starting offensive. That bodes well for quarterback Will Howard as he looks to build off a breakout campaign. He'll be accompanied by another rising star in tight end Ben Sinnott. The loss of All-American Deuce Vaughn leaves a hole at running back, but sophomore D.J. Giddens and Florida State transfer Treshaun Ward look ready to take up the slack. Ward was FSU's second-leading rusher in 2023 at 649 yards. On the sideline, Chris Klieman climbed 19 spots up to No. 12 in CBS Sports' ahead of the 2023 season. All of that makes it hard to bet against the Wildcats contending for league supremacy.
Worst wager -- Oklahoma (+325): Brent Venables' coaching debut ended with the Sooners finishing below .500 for the first time since 1998. That should be enough to raise a red flag or two with Oklahoma owning the second-best odds to win the Big 12. That's not to say a program with a record 14 Big 12 championships won't show improvement in Year 2 under Venables -- it's worth noting five of Oklahoma's seven losses last year were one-score games -- but there is far too much uncertainty about the true ceiling of Venables' staff at this point to feel good about picking the Sooners with so little value. In the past, picking Oklahoma was a no-brainer, especially at plus money. Now, they look more like a liability.
Best value -- TCU (+1400): Odds are the Horned Frogs won't be able to fully replicate their magical 2022 season, but don't dismiss them from the Big 12 championship conversation. The Frogs reloaded on offense after losing much of last year's prolific cast, tapping into the transfer portal to land talent like receiver JoJo Earle and running back Trey Sanders, both from Alabama. Kendal Briles is now calling the offense after several years at Arkansas. It is also worth noting that quarterback Chandler Morris, TCU's presumed starter, beat out Heisman finalist Max Duggan last offseason before an injury in the opener. TCU boasted an undefeated regular season last year, only to walk away without a Big 12 championship after losing the conference title game to Kansas State in overtime. That leaves plenty of motivation for Sonny Dykes' squad to take home the league's outright title in 2023.
Long shot -- Oklahoma State (+2800): Yes, there are plenty of questions to be answered in Stillwater, Oklahoma, after a mediocre 7-6 season followed by a slew of portal departures in the offseason, but write off coach Mike Gundy at your own risk. The Big 12's longest-tenured coach has guided the Pokes to a winning record every year since 2006, including nine AP Top 25 finishes. It was just two years ago that he had Oklahoma State knocking on the door of both a Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff berth as part of a 12-win campaign. Also, the road to Arlington is quite manageable for Oklahoma State, at least on paper. The Cowboys draw all four Big 12 newcomers, miss all four incumbent Texas schools and have home-field advantage for perhaps their two toughest opponents: Kansas State and Oklahoma.