Big 12 Football Notes and Picks: Bowl Edition
While simply reaching a bowl game is no longer a mark of program excellence, it does provide a gauge as to the overall strength of the conference. The Big 12 put seven of its ten teams in bowl games this year, a mark it has reached in 17 of its last 19 seasons. Six of those have come in the last eight years, when the league has only had 10 members.
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While Texas continues to be held up in some quarters as the face of the league, Oklahoma continues to prove otherwise — and it’s not even close. The Sooners will play in a CFP semifinal game for the second consecutive season and third time in four years.
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Iowa State played a so-called “meaningless” game against Drake on Dec. 1., which was a makeup for its weather-cancelled season opener against South Dakota State. With a bowl bid already locked up, and no chance of advancing higher, there wasn’t much to draw a crowd, according to today’s cynical outlooks. However, 56,738 ISU fans disagreed, reaffirming their place as the top fan base in the conference.
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Which current Big 12 member has the best bowl winning percentage? Extra credit if you said “Kansas”. The Jayhawks haven’t been to many bowls, but they are 3-1 (.750) in their postseason appearances as members of the conference. West Virginia is the worst at 1-4 (.200).
TCU vs. California
Wed Dec 26 9:00 PM* ESPN
This could be a good match-up, until the cheesy commercials for the bowl’s title sponsor overwhelm the senses. Gary Patterson has the knack of keeping his team playing hard, and after weathering a tough season, he could be the difference in getting his team ready to play. The Horned Frogs are the pick.
Baylor vs. Vanderbilt
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Thu Dec 27 9:00 PM ESPN
The Bears’ recovery from the ashes of the Art Briles-era scandal took an unexpected leap up this year, as they earned a bowl spot with a win in their season finale. (That victory kept Texas Tech out of a bowl game and sealed head coach Kilff Kingsbury’s fate.) Vanderbilt, though, is another matter entirely, and even enthusiasm for making the postseason won’t be enough to push the Bears past the Commodores.
West Virginia vs. Syracuse
Camping World Bowl
Fri Dec 28 5:15 PM ESPN
Without four starters, including quarterback Will Grier and receiver Gary Jennings, and little motivation after entering the season with hopes of a Big 12 Championship or a higher-profile bowl, it’s tough to see the Mountaineers getting a win over an Orange squad that is fired up for its first postseason appearance in half a decade.
Iowa State vs. Washington State
Valero Alamo Bowl
Fri Dec 28 9:00 PM ESPN
Iowa State, on the strength of its expected fan attendance, slid into the best of the second tier Big 12 bowls. It has the blueprint to stop passing attacks, as it demonstrated in Big 12 games, and it has the offensive weapons to keep the Cougar defense guessing. Will Wazzu be able to overcome the disappointment of losing the Apple Cup and falling out of a Rose Bowl berth? Even if it is, the Cyclones are the selection.
Oklahoma vs Alabama
CFP Semifinal – Orange Bowl
Sat Dec 29 8:00 PM ESPN
The Sooners have the offensive firepower to score on an Alabama defense that isn’t as strong as in years past. However, they’d probably have to score on every possession to match what the Crimson Tide might do to their own defense. OU could win a 63-62 shootout, but the bigger likelihood is that Alabama gets a handful of stops to move on to the championship game.
Oklahoma State vs. Missouri
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Mon Dec 31 3:450 PM ESPN
Like West Virginia, Oklahoma State has a pair of players skipping the bowl. Unlike the Mountaineers, their quarterback is not on that list. Missouri is a strong opponent, but the Cowboys have played their best games against their better opponents this year, and there’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue. OSU is the upset selection.
Texas vs. Georgia
All-State Sugar Bowl
Tue Jan 1 8:45 PM ESPN
The long break before this game should have allowed Longhorn quarterback Sam Ehlinger to heal, but this is a very tough Bulldog squad that would have been in any CFP playoff that included more than four teams. Like most of the bowl games, the question comes down to motivation. Will Georgia be moping about not being in the CFP, or will it be all-out to prove that its omission was a massive mistake? Although history suggests the former, this is probably a challenge the Dogs, who will be playing in front of about 40,000 of their fans, will embrace. Georgia is the pick.
* All Times Eastern