By now you’ve already read it on Jug of Snyder, heard in on Sportscenter, and seen it posted on your friend’s Facebook wall, but it still bears repeating: the Big 12 conference set a national record by sending 90 percent of its teams to bowls this year! Three variables led to this outcome:
1. The conference played a pedestrian nonconference schedule. Let’s be honest here: aside from Notre Dame, there really weren’t any quality foes wading into Big 12 territory this year (well, KU did lose to Northern Illinois…). Everyone walked into conference play with easy wins under their belt.
2. The conference teams kicked the crap out of each other. No one was left unscathed, and a six of ten teams finished either 5-4 or 4-5 in conference play while Baylor went 3-6. Now that’s a balanced league.
3. Kansas. The perennial doormat ensured everyone a victory, and beating the Jayhawks was almost as easy as getting a tutor to do your homework at the University of Miami.
So with nine bowls on your plate, where do they fall in terms of watchability and excitement? The Jug’s very own list of worst to first (and yes, even ISU-Tulsa is better than the Heart of Texas Bowl):
Worst. Heart of Dallas Bowl
Purdue vs. Oklahoma State
Jan. 1: ESPNU, 12 p.m. ET, Cotton Bowl, Dallas
In what likely promises to be the most lopsided Big 12 postseason victory, the Cowboys are currently 17 point favorites, but even that line may not be enough. While Purdue took Ohio State into overtime and only lost to Notre Dame by three, they also finished 3-5 in a mediocre Big 10 and had to beat Indiana during their last game of the season just to get bowl eligible. Oklahoma State should be healthy and ready to dominate
8. Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
Dec. 28: ESPN, 9 p.m. ET, Reliant Stadium, Houston
In another Big 12 matchup against a Big 10 school that squeaked into bowl eligibility at 6-6, Texas Tech has the potential to blow Minnesota out of the water or continue their season collapse and let a Gopher team that went 2-6 in their league keep it interesting. Either the game gets out of hand when Texas Tech rediscovers its defense while Graham Harrell throws all over the place, or the game is close because Texas Tech plays bad football. Neither will be fun to watch.
7. AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Iowa State vs. Tulsa
Dec. 31: ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET, Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn.
Ugh to rematches. Tulsa will be the only non-AQ squad the Big 12 faces this postseason, as Iowa State finished 6-6 and was the last team in the conference selected to participate in a game. Given the lack of bowl tie-ins for all of the Big 12’s members, the Cyclones will be whisked away to Memphis to play a team they beat 38-23 during their home opener. Tulsa did manage to finish 10-3, but, ugh.
6. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
TCU vs. Michigan State
Dec. 29: ESPN, 10:15 p.m. ET, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
For all of Michigan State’s potential, the Spartans are actually the third 6-6 Big 10 school the Big 12 will face in the postseason. Michigan State’s offense has been awful, and its defense carried the team all year. TCU occasionally lit up the scoreboard, but the Horned Frogs are definitely defensively minded as well. First team to successfully execute a fake punt wins.
5. Valero Alamo Bowl
#23 Texas vs. #13 Oregon State
Dec. 29: ESPN, 6:45 p.m. ET, Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
A lot of pundits are excited about this game. A lot of pundits remain blinded by the ego of Texas and can’t appreciate that this team really isn’t that great. Oregon State is good and earned its top 15 ranking. The Beavers are only favored by two, which only makes sense because the crowd should be about 80 percent orange. Both teams are preparing for the game with a quarterback controversy looming overhead.
4. New Era Pinstripe Bowl
West Virginia vs. Syracuse
Dec. 29: ESPN, 3:15 p.m. ET, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.
Pitt won it’s final game of the year to finish 6-6 and reach bowl eligibility. NCAA fans across the country were robbed when the bowl selection committee opted not to host a backyard brawl in the Bronx by pairing Pitt and West Virginia. We don’t notice it much in the midwest, but that rivalry has posted some classic games over the years and dashed more than one BCS aspiration as underdog triumphed over favorite. Instead, the Mountaineers get a Syracuse team that’s been attempting to earn the title ‘resurgent’ over the past three years. Maybe they’ll get there in the Big 10 (Big 14?) next year.
3. Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
Baylor vs. #17 UCLA
Dec. 27: ESPN, 9:45 p.m. ET, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Baylor was the only team in the nation to defeat K-State, and their reward is a trip to San Diego against UCLA, who technically finished number two in the Pac-12 by winning their division but falling to Stanford 27-24 in the championship game (the Bruins also lost to Stanford by a score of 35-17 the week before). UCLA doesn’t exactly shut opponents down. Baylor is explosive. Expect fireworks.
2. AT&T Cotton Bowl
#9 Texas A&M vs. #11 Oklahoma
Jan. 4: Fox, 8 p.m. ET, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Match up of the team that left for greener pastures and the team that stayed. Texas A&M lost to Florida by three and LSU by five. That’s eight points against top ten teams that kept the Aggies from going undefeated. This is a quarterback battle in the making.
Best. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
#4 Oregon vs. #5 Kansas State
Jan. 3: ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Naturally – what else would you rank as the best bowl game for the Big 12? Both teams have only one loss. Bill Snyder is the face of traditional football, Chip Kelly is a pioneer of 21st century offenses. Oregon has three players in their backfield capable of competing for a Heisman, K-State only needs one. Most prognosticators don’t believe K-State can handle Oregon’s speed. Wildcat nation has heard that one before.