With the regular season in the books and the Big 12 having crowned its champion(s), one might think that the Power Rankings would be taking a break- and they are! However with the Big 12's bowl lineup being announced there's something else to have a look at- how good any of these games are actually going to be. With a full bowl season, unless you're one of those fans who espouses the conference loyalty dogma and will be watching all of the Big 12 bowl games, it's important to take note of which games are going to be worth a gander. Here are the Big 12 bowls in order of how interesting the matchup is (as well as how good the teams are)- in reverse order this time.
7.) The Unwatcha-Bowl (Cactus Bowl)- Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-6) vs. Washington Huskies (8-5)
It's been a weird season for both of these teams, starting the season ranked and watching lofty aspirations be slowly dashed as the meat grinder of a conference season kicked in. The difference is that while the Huskies managed to keep it close against a variety of ranked opponents, the Cowboys managed to get their doors blown off in all of their attempts against ranked teams (with the exception of the season opener and finale). Still, this game would have a lot more interest if the Cowboy's star receiver Tyreek Hill hadn't done some fairly disgusting acts to get kicked off the team- as it is, I think the Huskies won't have much trouble picking up their first win of the season against a bowl eligible team.
6.) The Preseason Playoff Matchup Bowl (Russel Athletic Bowl)- Oklahoma Sooners (8-4) vs. #17 Clemson (9-3)
You could also call this one the Brent Venables bowl, as Venables left Norman with a host of "good riddance" comments from Sooner fans who had grown dissatisfied with the calls of the 2006 Broyles award nominee and were eager to welcome another Stoops back home. Now, of course, Vernables is considered one of the top DCs in the country, and Sooner fans are fed up with the calls of Mark Stoops- maybe the defensive fault lies a little higher up the ladder? There's a bit of star power to be had in this one, as each team has a freshman sensation in the backfield (OU's Samaje Perine and Clemson's DeShaun Watson) but it's hard to have any confidence at all in the Sooners at this point. Whichever team wins this one will start in the preseason top 8, though.
5.) The Kansas State sure seems to end up with unfavorable bowl matchups, huh? Bowl (Alamo Bowl)- #11 Kansas State Wildcats (9-3) vs. #14 UCLA Bruins (9-3)
With the exception of last year's matchup against the Michigan Wolverines (whose huge fanbase always jumps them up the bowl selecting order more than their record ever could), Kansas State has had a really rough run of it in bowls, usually paired up against high powered offenses that the cats just can't keep up with. Although UCLA isn't a 50+ points a game offense, they do have an excellent quarterback, a solid running game and a defense that has punished teams that can't run the ball effectively against them. Kansas State has an excellent quarterback and Tyler Lockett's special teams. This one may surprise, but I think it's more likely to be a beatdown than a tight one.
4.) The One Big Win Bowl (Liberty Bowl)- West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (7-5)
It could also be called the "Can't we go back to our coaches first year?" bowl, as both Dana Holgorsen and Kevin Sumlin started their stint with their current university strong, but have had inconsistent results since. Or maybe even the "Conference Championship frontrunner for a week" bowl, with each team pulling out a surprise result that launched them into the national conversation... briefly. Heck, it might even be the "Why'd we stick with that first guy at quarterback for so long" bowl. Both of these teams have either hung tough or been on the butt-end of a butt kicking this year when playing against good teams, so really anything could happen in this matchup- but the most likely outcome is a lot of points. I can hardly wait!
3.) The "Is Texas going to forget it's a rivalry again?" Bowl (Texas Bowl)- Texas Longhorns (6-6) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (6-6)
I'm a bit biased because I love this rivalry, and am very pleased that the bowl gods conspired to bring these two teams together, as two 6-6 teams with fairly simple offensive gameplans and decent-to-good defenses don't really signal that a game is going to be a blast to watch. However, this is Texas and Arkansas, and it's been a few years since the teams have played- which means Arkansas is going to be absolutely amped in a way that Texas hasn't seen since A&M left the conference. You see, while the rivalry between Texas and Arkansas is a long and storied one, like most of the other Longhorn rivalries, a lot more hate was coming toward the Horns than was actually being reciprocated. Arkansas fans loathe the Longhorns, to the point where when the Hogs pulled off the upset in Austin, the team stormed the field, planted the Arkansas state flag in the ground and dug up huge swatches of grass to take back to Fayetteville with them. They even made T-shirts commemorating three straight wins over the Longhorns- though the bookend games were 13 years apart. While I'm sure Charlie Strong will be showing his guys film of old Texas/Arkansas games and pipe in the "Woo Pig Sooie" chant to practice with, I don't think the Longhorns will be prepared for the fire that the Hogs are going to want to dish out- and I honestly can't wait to see it.
2.) The "If it weren't for those darn Buckeyes" Bowl (Cotton Bowl)- #5 Baylor Bears (11-1) vs. #8 Michigan State Spartans (10-2)
If Ohio State hadn't bounced back from that loss to Virginia Tech as well as they had, the fanbases of these two teams would both be absolutely convinced that they would have ended up in the playoff (MSU would have). This is an interesting matchup for the simple fact that MSU's defense pretty much invented the "Commit borderline pass interference on every play, the refs probably won't call it" defense that Baylor DC Phil Bennett has used to turn around the fortunes of the Baylor defense (before Baylor fans think I'm taking unjustified digs at them, the system works, just look at last year's Super Bowl champion Seahawks), and that physical style in the secondary, combined with a unique cover 4 will be a very interesting matchup for the explosive Baylor offense. This one could be tight or a blowout either way and I wouldn't be surprised- which makes it a very interesting game to watch.
1.) The Actual Playoff Caliber Bowl (Peach Bowl)- The#6 TCU Horned Frogs (11-1) vs. #9 Ole Miss Rebels/BlackBears? (9-3)
Yep, Baylor got the more highly ranked opponent, but TCU has the opportunity to make the bigger statement against a team that was one ghastly injury (google LaQuon Treadwell Auburn at your own risk, I won't link it here) and one perfect suckstorm from being the second SEC team in the playoff this year. The Ole Miss defense is legit and will test TCU's offensive line in a wide variety of ways, while their offense will be in for an interesting day against the Frogs underrated defense. If the Frogs take down a member of the vaunted SEC in the heart of SEC power, a top 5 end of season ranking (and likely top 5 preseason ranking) awaits, while Ole Miss will likely find itself in the top 10 in the preseason no matter what happens in this one. Will the three letter chant at the end of the game be "Ess-Eee-See" or "T-C-U"?
That's how I see the bowl matchups. Agree? Disagree? Think Baylor should be ranked last? Let us know in the comments.