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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at 2:47 PM


College football bettors looking for moneymaking opportunities on the conference championship races have to look at the Big 12. With Oklahoma a prohibitive (-130) favorite against the field there are good prices up and down the board on accomplished programs. One of those is Oklahoma State at (+600).

The Cowboys started last season 10-0 before fading late, but they still reached a major bowl game. They’ll be returning ten starters from an offensive unit that ranked 14th in the country in scoring. The entire offensive line, stacked with upperclassmen is back.

That alone will help improve a running game that was an outlier last season—in a year with otherwise great offensive performance, the Cowboys couldn’t run to save their life, ranking 113th in the nation. And you could do worse than bringing in Barry Sanders… okay, so it’s the son of the former Okie State and Detroit legend transferring in from Stanford, but it’s still a shot of fresh blood into an experienced offense.

Mason Rudolph will be at the controls again after a big year in 2015. Rudolph completed 62 percent of his passes and enjoyed a 21-9 TD/INT ratio. He’s well-regarded by NFL scouts and as a junior, will be looking to play well enough so he can declare for the draft next spring. He’s a got deep threat in James Washington that can spread the field and in the up-and-down world of Big 12 football, don’t rule out any quarterback as a Heisman contender.

It’s the defense that will define whether Oklahoma State can seriously challenge for a Big 12 title. Last year, in the two games that swung their season against Baylor and Oklahoma, they gave up a combined 103 points. And keep in mind that this was the point when Baylor was auditioning virtually anyone from the student body to play quarterback as the injuries piled up. Even allowing that few defenses in this conference are going to look good, Oklahoma State was still middle-of-the-pack by Big 12 standards.

The secondary is the unit that will have to step up. Oklahoma State did a credible job rushing the passer last year, but lost Emmanuel Ogbah to the NFL. Free safety Jordan Stearns leads a group of defensive backs that returns three starters. All four projected starters are juniors or seniors. The Cowboys simply have to hope that experience can make this group smarter at keeping plays in front of them. Last year they won a game at Texas Tech by a score of 70-53. You aren’t winning championships—even conference ones—when you have to drop that many points to beat mediocre opposition.

Ultimately though, Oklahoma State has a coaching staff that can be counted on. Mike Gundy has won double-digit games in four of the last six seasons. He’s also won an outright Big 12 championship back in 2011. Gundy has established that he can go beyond just being a contender and push a team over the top.

If we had to take Oklahoma State straight-up or close to it in the Big 12 race, the defensive question marks would give us pause. But (+600) with an experienced offense, proven coaching staff and a conference that plays fast-break football all adds up to value. And if you want to pair an Oklahoma State wager with TCU (+500) and just hope one of them knocks off the Sooners? It’s a worthy use of your bankroll.

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