Missouri and Texas have gotten the Big 12 off to a perfect start to the bowl season with convincing wins this week over North Carolina and California in the Independence Bowl and Holiday Bowl, respectively.
The way I see things, Big 12 teams are almost assured of posting five wins out of their eight scheduled bowl appearances, with a good chance of winning six or seven of the eight games and an outside shot at a perfect 8-0 bowl record this postseason.
In my bowl predictions with fellow SB Nation staff writer Chris Schumerth, I projected seven wins for Big 12 teams, giving sixth-ranked Arkansas the edge over eighth-ranked Kansas State, the Big 12 runner-up this past college football season. This is what I see realistically happening, but I’m really pulling for the Big 12 to run the table.
The one thing that would dampen that fantastic showing is that two of the victories would be by schools that were playing their final games as members of the Big 12 Conference. Both Texas A&M and Missouri will be members of the college football’s toughest conference, the SEC, next fall. Not even bowl victories by soon-to-be Big 12 newcomers TCU and West Virginia would change that.
Four more bowl games involving Big 12 schools will be played over the next three days, beginning tonight when 15th-ranked Baylor (9-3) and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III take on the Washington Huskies (7-5) out of the Pac-12 Conference in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Baylor is the only school in the FBS (Football Bowl Series) division that is averaging more than 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing this season.
Although the Huskies played fairly well against two other quality quarterbacks (Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley of USC) this season, I don’t see any way they can hold down RG3, let alone stop bruising running back Terrance Ganaway, for a full 60 minutes, despite the fact only three of the last nine quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy have won their bowl game (including three from the Big 12 who came up losers after taking home college football’s most prized award).
Friday night bowl action has Oklahoma (9-3) facing Iowa (7-5) in the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., and Iowa State (6-6) going against Rutgers (8-4) from the Big East Conference in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to be played in Yankee Stadium in New York City.
Oklahoma stood 8-1 and very much in contention for an eighth Big 12 championship after beating Texas A&M in early November. But the Sooners lost consensus All-American wide-receiver Ryan Broyles for the season late in that game and have not been the same team since. With Broyles out, OU quarterback Landry Jones, one of the nation’s leaders in passing yardage, did not throw a single touchdown pass in the Sooners’ final three games, and once-No. 1 Oklahoma went down to defeat in two of three outings.
The Sooners are literally limping into their Insight Bowl matchup with Big Ten opponent Iowa. Injuries and transfers have decimated Bob Stoops’ team at the wide-receiver and running-back positions. Said Stoops about his injury problem: “You work some of your other personnel groupings, but some guys just need to step up and play a little more.”
Oklahoma is not the same OU team that started the season, but the Sooners still should have enough firepower and defensive finesse to take care of business against the Hawkeyes, but not by the two-touchdown margin the oddsmakers have projected.
This will be only the second meeting ever between Oklahoma and Iowa. Stoops, a former defensive back at Iowa, played in the only other game between the two teams, a 21-6 OU win in Norman in 1979.
Iowa State is not favored in its game with Rutgers, but the Cyclones weren’t favored against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech or Connecticut this season, either. Paul Rhoads’ team has played very well behind freshman quarterback Jared Barnett. The Cyclones finished out the regular season with games against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State, the Big 12’s top three teams. Although the Cyclones only won one of the three, they played tough in all three and actually were in good position to take two of the three.
Rutgers won eight games this season, despite being picked to finish last in the Big East in the preseason. The Scarlet Knights own the better record, but the strength of their schedule doesn’t compare with the Big 12 opponents Iowa State had to go up against. The Cyclones get it done in a close one.
SEC-bound Texas A&M and Northwestern play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston on New Year’s Eve day. This is a matchup of 6-6 teams that were headed in opposite directions at the end of the regular season. The Aggies dropped four of their final five games, although five of their six losses on the season were by seven or fewer points. Meanwhile, Northwestern rebounded from a 2-5 start to the season, winning four of its last five games to become bowl eligible.
With the game being played in Houston, it will be more like a home game for A&M, who are expected to have most of the fan support. That 12th-man advantage could well be the difference, as it has been in many Aggie football wins down through history.
Hopefully, the Big 12 will be sitting at 6-0 by the end of the weekend, setting the stage for two of the biggest games of the bowl season: No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 4 Stanford in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 2) in Glendale, Ariz., and the Cotton Bowl game (Jan. 6) in Dallas between No. 8 Kansas State and No. 6 Arkansas. You can’t get much better than that for a pair of season finales.
For more information:
Big 12 Conference official website