The 2014 football season has ended, a champion has been crowned (though certainly not the one everyone expected) and the Big 12 capped off a season where it looked very much like it would have two teams make the playoff field for a while with a resounding thud in bowl season- going just 2-5. Admittedly, the Big 12 either were (or should have been in my opinion) underdogs in the vast majority of their bowl matchups, so as we'll work those expectations from the Bowl Watchability Rankings into just how impressive each performance ended up being. Starting from the top!
1.) TCU defeats Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, 42-3 (Watchability Ranking: #1)
The Frogs didn't just put on the most impressive performance of the Big 12 bowl season, but quite possibly the best performance of any team in the 2014 bowl season. The Frog defense absolutely suffocated everything that the Rebels attempted of offense, with only a bit of uncharacteristic generosity with turnovers from the TCU offense keeping things from turning into another Texas Tech-ish situation. How dominant was the TCU defense? On Ole Miss' only scoring drive of the game, they gained a net total of one yard. This is the sort of game that people will talk about for years to come when they talk about Ohio State winning the title "Yeah, but I still think that TCU could've beaten them." It's not the title we wanted, but it's what we've got.
2.) Oklahoma State defeats Washington in the Cactus Bowl, 30-22 (Watchability Ranking: #7)
This was the lone surprise of the Bowl season, as I had absolutely no faith in the Cowboys in this one- to the point where I dubbed it "The Un-Watcha-Bowl". To be fair, I did have my reasons- The Cowboys had to squeak into a bowl slot with an upset over Oklahoma (thanks to one of the worst decisions in Bob Stoops' coaching career), but the hero of that game was kicked off the team before this one. Somehow that didn't matter even a little bit, as the Cowboys ran roughshod over the Huskies early, scoring 24 points in the first half while their defense pitched a shutout. Things turned around a bit in the second half, but the game never felt like it was in danger in the second half. I underestimated you, Cowboys, but I'm afraid of you next year.
3.) Kansas State loses to UCLA in the Alamo Bowl, 35-40 (Watchability Ranking: #5)
I thought this one had "stinker" written all over it, as I had a high opinion of UCLA this year, while Kansas State was well coached, but had a very one dimensional offense. This certainly appeared to be the case early on, as the Bruins took a 31-6 lead into the half, but the Wildcats didn't quit and the Bruins may have busted out the "Alamo Bowl Champs" hats too soon, as Jake Waters led a splendid comeback attempt that fell only just short. The Wildcats didn't win, but they definitely outperformed my expectations- kudos!
4.) West Virginia loses to Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl, 37-45 (Watchability Ranking: #4)
Fans of defensive football were left crying as the Mountaineers and Aggies rolled up over 1000 yards with the Mountaineers just not able to make the most of their scoring opportunities in the second half. Still, I had thought that the two teams were more or less evenly matched, and the single digit point differential bore that out for the most part. Kevin White is a very good football player (just not as good as TCU's Kevin White).
5.) Texas loses to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl, 7-31 (Watchability Ranking: #3)
This one I absolutely called, but still ranked fairly highly in my watchability ranking because sometimes it's fun watching a car wreck. Arkansas came out rip roaring, chomping at the bit and ready to grind its most hated rival's face into the dirt, while Texas came out to play a football game, leading to the aforementioned crushing loss. So yes, it was an ugly, humiliating and deflating loss for the Longhorns, but it's one that I expected- not that disappointing for the conference.
6.) Oklahoma loses to Clemson in the Russel Athletic Bowl, 6-40 (Watchability Ranking: #6)
Spot on for this one again. Maligned former OU defensive Coordinator Brent Venables' Clemson Defense forced 5 turnovers and the Tigers absolutely embarrassed Oklahoma in a Peach Bowl-ish fashion, with the Sooners only points coming late in the fourth quarter, scoring a touchdown only to have 2013 All-Big 12 kicker Michael Hunnicutt miss the extra point. I can hardly thing of a more fitting end for the 2014 Oklahoma Sooners football team than that- a little bit of raised expectation that is immediately dashed by inexplicable ineptitude.
7.) Baylor loses to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, 41-42 (Watchability Ranking: #2)
This is not meant to be a reflection on the Baylor or Michigan State program, as the game definitely lived up to its billing as one of the highlight matchups of the season. However, after watching TCU decimate Ole Miss the day before, I have to admit that I thought that Baylor was going to plow over the Spartans and make a unified statement that "The Big 12 is better than the committee gave it credit for". It certainly looked like that was going to happen for a while, but then Baylor just stopped playing football after establishing a three score lead. In the fourth quarter. Instead of being a debate for the ages about which team was more deserving to make it into the playoffs, Baylor gracefully stepped aside.
And now, the final Power Rankings- annotated edition.
1.) TCU Horned Frogs (12-1, 8-1), Previous ranking: #1
The Frogs left no doubt who the best team in the conference was with a dominant Bowl performance.
2.) Baylor Bears (11-2, 8-1), Previous ranking: #2
The Bears chants of "61-58" now have a very simple response. 12-1 > 11-2
3.) Kansas State Wildcats (9-4, 7-2), Previous ranking: #3
Maybe a running game next year, guys?
4.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-6, 4-5), Previous ranking: #7
Kudos to the Cowboys for the huge jump, Mason Randolph is a keeper at QB (which may lead to yet more OSU QB transfers?)
5.) West Virginia Mountaineers (7-6, 5-4), Previous ranking: #4
Things are going to be rough next year without the Big 12's second best Kevin White.
6.) Oklahoma Sooners (8-5, 5-4), Previous ranking: #5
They fired most of the offensive staff, but I'm still worried about that defense.
7.) Texas Longhorns (6-7, 5-4), Previous ranking: #6
If their bowl opponent had been A&M maybe the Horns would have actually been ready to play.
8.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-8, 2-7), Previous ranking: #8
Seth Mahomes might be good. He'd better be, though, because that high ranking QB prospect that had been committed to play in Lubbock for months flipped his commitment.
9.) Kansas Jayhawks (3-9, 1-8), Previous ranking: #9
Hopefully they hired the right coach.
10.) Iowa State Cyclones (2-10, 0-9), Previous ranking: #10
At least they have the Cy-Hawk trophy, even if they don't have much hope that things will be better next year.
As always feel free to agree, disagree, call me names or praise my prognostications in the comments. Go Frogs!