Iowa State Under 4.5 Wins (-175), 5Dimes: Iowa State returns eight or nine starters on offense, depending on depth chart. That sounds pretty good. But losing All-Big 12 left tackle Kelevhi Osemele is a major blow, as is guard Hayworth Hicks, a second-team guard on the All-Big 12 squad.
Defensively, Iowa State must replace three of its four starting defensive linemen, one linebacker, and two of its four starters in the secondary. That doesn't profile as a lesser team that will overachieve due to experience.
Oh, and the schedule is extremely tough. As SB Nation's Bill Connelly notes:
ISU's schedule is all sorts of unforgiving: four top-12 opponents (three on the road), seven top-35 opponents (four on the road). Even with an upset or two, reaching bowl eligibility will require perfection against the likes of Tulsa, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Baylor, all of whom visit Ames this fall.
I don't see that happening. I could see 3-1 against that stretch, and the automatic win against Western Illinois. Or perhaps 2-2, with wins over Western Illinois and at Kansas to go 4-8. Iowa State just doesn't have many opportunities for wins.
Kansas Under 3.5 Wins (-105), 5 Dimes: I'm not buying into the Charlie Weis hire at Kansas. Having Dayne Crist could help, but from where are Kansas' wins coming?
The Jayhawks project as double digit underdogs against TCU, at Kansas State, v. Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma, v. Texas, at Baylor, at Texas Tech and at West Virginia.
The Jayhawks could pull an upset in one of those. But if they don't, they'll need to be perfect against South Dakota State, Rice, at Northern Illinois (a potential trap game with in-state rival KSU on deck), and Iowa State. I'm betting that doesn't happen.
Kansas State Under 8 Wins (-210), Olympic: Kansas State was not as good as its record last year. It got a lot of breaks and stayed very healthy. This is a bet against a repeat of 2011.
Colin Klein was Kansas State's leading rusher by a large margin (almost 1,400 yards) as well as its leading passer. I'm not confident that he can take another 275 carries in addition to hits taken on sacks.
And while all of the skill returns, the Wildcats must replace three offensive line starters, including two members of the All-Big 12 team, and two other reserves as well. All told, the Wildcats lose 80 starts along the offensive line and return just 27. They also must replace five starters on defense.
And then there's the schedule. Kansas State should be 4-1 to start the year, opening with Missouri State, Miami, North Texas, at Oklahoma and Kansas. But then six of the next seven are tough games for a team of the Wildcats' talent: at Oklahoma, at Iowa State, at West Virginia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, at TCU, at Baylor and Texas.
To reach nine wins, Kansas State will have to win all of the games in which it's favored (five) and then pull four upsets in the remaining seven games. I don't see that happening.
Oklahoma State Over 8.5 Wins (+115), 5Dimes: The Cowboys must replace an NFL quarterback, the best receiver in college football, and two first-team members of the All-Big 12 team on the offensive line, plus another two-year starter at guard. And that's just on offense.
So why am I buying into Oklahoma State? Defense, schedule, and overall improvement as a program.
Oklahoma State returns eight or nine defensive starters, depending on the depth chart referenced, plus almost every important reserve. And their recruiting in recent years has picked up significantly, meaning the new guys are not devoid of talent.
Just as important is the schedule. Oklahoma State will be double-digit favorites against Savannah State, Louisiana Lafayette, at Kansas and v. Iowa State. They'll be significant favorites at Arizona, TCU, West Virginia, Texas Tech and at Baylor. Games against Texas and at Kansas State are basically coin flips. The only game in which the Cowboys will be a major underdog is at Oklahoma.
I like the Cowboys here, and despite some line movement from the date I put this together, the Cowboys can still be had for a nice price.
TCU Over 8.5 Wins (+145), 5Dimes: 3-0 in the nonconference is very possible. Grambling State is a given. I personally see Virginia as an overrated team entering 2012, much like Kansas State. The game at SMU could be a trap via the lookahead scenario, but not with Iowa State on deck.
I think a 4-0 start (the non conference plus Kansas) could easily give them the confidence to start 7-0 with the stretch of Iowa State, at Baylor, and Texas Tech.
Then it gets really tough. If they've taken care of business and sit at 7-0, they'll need to beat Kansas State, over which they'll be favored. Then they need one of at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, at Texas or Oklahoma.
TCU will be a significant underdog at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, at Texas and hosting Oklahoma. But they aren't currently projecting as double digit underdogs in any of the four, which does help in their bid for an upset.
There's a reason this wager is offered at plus money. It's not going to happen the majority of the time. But I give it about a 45-percent chance of success, which creates theoretical value and makes it a play.
Texas Tech Over 6.5 Wins (-115), 5Dimes: Texas Tech missed a bowl in 2011. In 2012, it's gone and done the smart thing: scheduled its way back to a bowl game. The nonconference is Northwestern State, at Texas State and New Mexico.
Tech's wide open offense must replace three starters at offensive line, but none were particularly special. The top three receivers, top running back, an senior quarterback all return.
Defensively, Tech returns only six of 11 starters, but I do expect the depth to be better.
Texas Over 9 Wins (+110), Olympic: \ a
West Virginia Under 8.5 Wins (+100), 5Dimes: a