Big 12 Football Notes and Picks: 2017 Bowls
Eight games over ten days, and none with time conflicts. The Big 12 bowl lineup provides some interesting match-ups for league fans – whether rooting for or against their compatriots.
Eight of ten Big 12 teams reached a bowl game – the best percentage of any conference in the nation. This is the third time in league history (2010, 2011) that the 80% mark was reached. Oklahoma’s earned spot in the College Football Playoff made useless the billions of electrons used to predict the demise of the league if it did not place a team in the CFP.
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The match-ups in this year’s bowl games provide some natural storylines, such as Texas – Missouri in a Big 12 lookback and a K-State – UCLA rematch from two year’s ago, but organizers missed one really juicy pick. West Virginia – Arizona would have brought Wildcat head coach Rich Rodriguez back to face his old school.
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Parity or strength in depth? The teams that finished second through seventh in the Big 12 standings have current winning or losing streaks of no more than two games. The outliers are Oklahoma, which has won eight in a row, and Kansas, which lost 11 straight after a season-opening win over Southeeast Missouri State.
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Five current Big 12 teams have winning records in bowl games as members of the Big 12, headed by Texas’ 10-7 mark. The other four include Baylor (4-3), Oklahoma State (8-7), Kansas (3-1) and and Texas Tech (9-7). Two are even (TCU 2-2, Oklahoma 9-9), while three are below the .500 mark (Iowa State 3-5, Kansas State 6-10, West Virginia 1-3).
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Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill was the only running back to average more than 110 yards per game, finishing with 112.2 yards per outing to claim the conference rushing title. He was edged by West Virginia’s Marcus Simms by only 1.5 yards per game in the all-purpose yardage category.
Texas Tech (6-6 / 3-6) vs USF (9-2 / 6-2) Sat Dec 23 12:00 PM* ESPN
The Red Raiders squeaked into a bowl with a final weekend win. USF is looking to establish more legitimacy for the American Athletic Conference as a sixth “Power Five” league. Head coach Charlie Strong gets a bit of bragging rights as he garners a win for the Bulls.
West Virginia (7-5 / 5-4) vs Utah (6-6 / 3-6) Tue Dec 26 1:30 PM ESPN
The “next man up” aphorism is in full effect for the Mountaineers, who will play the Heart of Dallas Bowl without its starting quarterback and running back. Utah has a well-established reputation for not looking down on any bowl appearance, and those two factors combined will give the Utes the win.
Kansas State (7-5 / 5-4) vs UCLA (6-6 / 4-5) Tue Dec 26 9:00 PM ESPN
K-State has to be jubilant as it fell into the Cactus Bowl when it rightly might have been expected to go to Dallas. UCLA, though has a passing attack that the Wildcats will find hard to stop. This rematch from two years ago, a 2015 Bruin win in the Alamo Bowl, sees the same result.
Texas (6-6/ 5-4) vs Missouri (7-5 / 4-4) Wed Dec 27 9:00 PM ESPN
The Longhorns will have a huge crowd advantage, but after finishing the regular season with a loss to Texas Tech, will they have any motivation? For that matter, will The Tigers? A classic case of the winner being the team that wants to be there more. Mizzou gets the narrow call in the Texas Bowl.
Oklahoma State (9-3 / 6-3) vs Virginia Tech (9-3 / 5-3) Thu Dec 28 5:15 PM ESPN
Virginia Tech opened its season with a win over the Big 12, but it won’t close it with one. The Cowboys roll to a decisive victory in the Camping World Bowl.
TCU (10-3 / 7-2) vs Stanford (9-4 / 7-2) Thu Dec 28 9:00 PM ESPN
Stanford’s thumping running game is a solid choice in many bowls. However, TCU’s defensive strength can shut down one-sided attacks, and the Horned Frogs have enough offense to stress the Cardinal. TCU makes the relatively short hop to the Alamo Bowl a successful one.
Iowa State (7-5 / 5-4) vs Memphis (10-2 / 7-1) Sat Nov 18 12:30 PM ABC
The Cyclones celebrate their first bowl trip in five years with a date against high-scoring Memphis in the Liberty Bowl – the same venue where Iowa State last appeared in post-season play. The Tigers hold the home field advantage, but swarms of Cyclone fans and 100% buy-in to the game will send ISU home winners.
Oklahoma (12-1 / 8-1) vs Georgia (12-1/ 7-1) Mon Jan 1 5:00 PM ESPN
Oklahomas offense vs Georgia’s defense promises a hugely entertaining match-up. If those units are fairly even, will the reverse battle in the Rose Bowl CFP semifinal tell the tale? The Sooner defense and special teams get the edge here, and thus portend a trip to the national championship game for OU.
* All Times Eastern