Big 12: BCS

Controversy will not leave with BCS

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
1:30
PM ET


On paper, it looks as easy as 1, 2, 3 … 4.

Florida State. Auburn. Alabama. Michigan State.

Were the College Football Playoff selection committee actually deliberating this season, though, it's hard to imagine the top four teams would align as easily as they did in this year's final BCS standings. There was no drama, no controversy, no undefeated team locked out of the sport's biggest game. As Auburn wrapped up its SEC title and Florida State finished the season as the only undefeated team remaining in the BCS, college football had its answer for a national championship game before it was officially revealed.

Expect a little more debate next year.

The computers have their formulas. The 13 committee members have their opinions. With subjectivity added to the equation, trying to pinpoint the top four teams in the country would have added far more intrigue to this year's selection process. Fans stuck in the mindset of the current system -- one filled with objective weightings and data -- are going to be disappointed, because that's not the committee's approach. Whether or not Auburn is better than Alabama will come down to a vote. While the No. 1 team in the country might not have been a question this year, there are now three more spots to argue about.

It was only a week ago that nobody could agree on No. 2.

If you think Auburn's improbable run to the national title was more luck than it was leverage against lesser opponents -- a deflected Hail Mary pass to beat Georgia and a 109-yard field goal return to beat Alabama -- odds are at least one person on the committee might think so, too. Don't think a two-loss Stanford team has an argument over a one-loss Big Ten champ? Think again. Go ahead and throw Baylor and Ohio State into the mix, too.

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BCS

Metrics can help the CFP committee

November, 13, 2013
11/13/13
4:00
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The 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee met in Washington, D.C., this week, and it was announced that it will reveal four interim rankings before the inaugural selection weekend in 2014.

Of course, a little light bulb immediately fizzled to life -- bizzz-fizzzz! -- over the heads of many in the ESPN offices in lovely Bristol, Conn. Interim rankings? Why wait until 2014? Let's do it now. As in right now.

That's what everyone wants, right? The playoff to start this year, not next. Or so you think.

The committee will be made up of 13 human beings, ready-made with their own ideas about evaluating and ranking college football teams. Many of them will be old-school, laboriously reviewing hours of game tape and giving teams their fearsome "sight test." Some will embrace the sabermetric revolution that has unceremoniously stomped on cherished sporting ideas such as clutch play, momentum and locker room chemistry.

For our purposes, the ESPN.com 2013 College Football Playoff Selection Committee will be made up of the guys who made A's in calculus in 10th grade and then moved on to the Jacobian conjecture: ESPN Stats & Information geniuses.

Those folks have devised an all-encompassing metric -- Championship Drive Ratings -- that measures the résumés of college football teams, putting a heavy emphasis on strength of schedule, as the CFP committee is expected to do. It measures how difficult it is for an average FBS team to achieve the team in question's results.

So, the season ends today, and based on Championship Drive Ratings -- drumroll, please -- the four-team playoff would go: 1. Alabama; 2. Stanford; 3. Florida State; 4. Ohio State.

That's right, unbeaten Baylor, you are eclipsed by Stanford, which lost to now-4-5 Utah on Oct. 12.

Got a feeling ESPN's Stats & Info's Q-rating just dropped precipitously in Waco.

The good news, of course, is the season doesn't end today.

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Predicting the 2013 season: Week 15

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
4:00
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Today, we wrap up our series projecting the final records for every team in the Big 12. Here's how I slot Week 15:

Texas 31, Baylor 27: Baylor doesn't get its storybook ending for Floyd Case Stadium, but the Longhorns clinch a share of the Big 12 title with a big win over the Bears. David Ash closes the season with one of the best games of his career to give Texas its moment in the season finale.

Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 38 (OT): Another year, another Bedlam classic. The Pokes get the job done in Stillwater and clinch a share of the Big 12 title, too. OSU came up on the wrong side of the overtime drama and blew a double-digit lead in Norman a year ago, but that won't be the case this time around. Another field storming for the OSU faithful. Enjoy, folks.

FINAL BIG 12 STANDINGS

1. Texas -- 10-2 (7-2)
1. Oklahoma State -- 10-2 (7-2)
1. TCU -- 10-2 (7-2)
4. Oklahoma -- 8-4 (6-3)
5. Baylor -- 8-4 (5-4)
6. Kansas State -- 7-5 (4-5)
6. Texas Tech -- 7-5 (4-5)
8. West Virginia -- 6-6 (3-6)
9. Iowa State -- 4-8 (2-7)
10. Kansas -- 2-10 (0-9)

So, who wins the Big 12 title? Congratulations, BCS. That's for you to decide. TCU beat Texas and lost to Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State beat TCU and lost to Texas. Texas beat OSU but lost to the Horned Frogs. All three teams will have a shot to crack the BCS, but the standings will decide my league title winner and if the conference gets a second bid to college football's big boy games in the final year of the BCS.
Feisty.
I want to play Golden Tee with Andy Dwyer for 10 hours.
Thanks for all the e-mails this week. Interesting stuff as always. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

Bert in Frisco, Texas writes: You keeping talking about Texas Tech surprising everyone next season. What does surprising mean exactly and how many wins do you think surprising translates to?

David Ubben: Texas Tech has obviously overhauled its coaching staff on the sideline, and you have to figure there will be some growing pains in Kliff Kingsbury's first year as a head coach. That's no small task for a young guy who hasn't been in coaching long. It also doesn't have a returning starter at quarterback. There's lots of room for the Red Raiders to falter next year, and the expectations will be mild, likely 6-8 wins. That said, when you look at the rest of the team (and Kingsbury's upside) the potential to be a really, really good team is absolutely there.

Michael Brewer has looked great in his spot duty. Receiver Eric Ward is back and Jakeem Grant looked good this year, not to mention TE Jace Amaro, who's probably the most talented guy on the entire offense. ESPN 150 receivers Dominique Wheeler and Reginald Davis will be playing this year, too. Kerry Hyder and Terrance Bullitt are solid on the defensive side, and running backs Kenny Williams and SaDale Foster are solid.

Tech has the advantage next year of perhaps sneaking up on teams, too. Nobody (except maybe WVU) will be fired up to beat Tech. Nobody's got them circled on the calendar. The Red Raiders should be solid, though, and if the ball bounces their way a few times, don't be surprised if they win 10 games or more.



Rick in Waco, Texas writes: DU,Please give some justification (that would be acceptable to a reasonable person ) for grading Baylor an A on offense and OK State an A+. In case you took a nap in the off season, Baylor lost their all time leading receiver that was arguably better than the receiver lost by OSU. We lost a 1500 yard rusher (school record), two offensive linemen... Oh yea, and the Heisman Trophy winner. I realize that BU was just plain bad on the defensive side for the first 4 games in conference, and even struggled on O a bit in that stretch - but showed they could play with ANYONE in the second half. There's not a team in team in the country that they would have been concerned to play in December or January.

DU: Hey, remember that time when Baylor's No. 1 QB got hurt, and then a few games later, the No. 2 guy went down, too? Then after replacing him with the No. 1 guy, the No. 1 guy got hurt a game and a half later and the Bears had to finish the season with their No. 3 quarterback, but still finished in the top five nationally in total offense?

Me either.

Baylor lost a little more than OSU, mostly at running back, but most everyone knew Baylor had depth at the position anyway. OSU went through just as much as Baylor did, but its offense was more consistent through the first half of the season and at the end of the year, was basically on pace with the Bears, despite dealing with all that from the quarterback position. It's that simple.



Vince Young in Texas writes: Is it possible that I could be back in Philadelphia with the hiring of Chip Kelly? I know Vick is a great athlete but he's a little injury prone and I ran an offense very similar at the best school on the planet, THE University of Texas.

DU: I don't see it. Young's a great athlete, but there's a big misconception about how much Oregon's quarterbacks run. Last year, it was on just over 10 percent of the Ducks 1,000+ snaps. I expect that number will shrink even more in the NFL. Having a QB who can move is integral in running the zone read, but you still have to run the other 90 percent of your offense, too. That requires a guy who can deliver the ball accurately with velocity and good decison-making. Guys like Cam Newton, Kaepernick, RG3 and Russell Wilson have shown an ability to do that. Vince Young has not for the better part of his career.



David in Wichita, Kan. writes: Why are we only seeing a big difference for 7-on-7 on the offensive side of the ball? Shouldn't there be a marked improvement in coverage skills as well?

DU: Interesting question, David. Fantastic name, by the way. One would think so, but the results clearly indicate that has not been the case. It's apparent that 7-on-7 far benefits offensive players, but much more so the quarterbacks. Playing that much skeleton helps their decision-making and accuracy and gets them extremely comfortable delivering intermediate and deep balls, something that wasn't the case long ago. That's the biggest difference, and the biggest reason why the impact of 7-on-7 has swung so heavily in the offense's favor. Quarterbacks are better.

Lunch links: K-State coaching exodus

January, 18, 2013
1/18/13
12:00
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I think (today's links) would be like a Kevin Durant jumpshot: Perfecto!
Before the season began, I released my picks for the Big 12's 1,000-yard receivers in 2012. The Big 12 had four 1,000-yard rushers in 2011, but I picked the league to have five in 2012.

There were 35 1,000-yard receivers this season across college football, but six came from the Big 12. Here's how I picked them from the Big 12 this year.

1. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin did what we all thought he would do: Had a huge senior season. He validated his status as one of the Big 12's most dangerous players and was third in the league with 1,289 yards and 12 scores.

2. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia: Bailey was a touchdown machine this year, hauling in 25 touchdowns, seven more than any other player in the country. He was a nominee for the Biletnikoff Award and racked up 1,622 yards on his league-high 114 catches. Both WVU receivers were anything but overrated this year. Studs, the both of them.

3. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor: I said there was a good shot Williams could crack 1,000 yards easily, but I never thought he'd make it look this easy. I had high hopes for Williams, but he far exceeded them, leading the nation with 1,832 yards on 97 catches with 12 scores. What a year.

4. Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma: I picked Stills to crack his first-ever 1,000-yard season, but he came up short in a year he even admitted was a bit disappointing. He finished seventh in the league with 959 yards, just 41 short of a 1,000-yard season. He'd have cleared 1,000 yards if he had 50 yards receiving against TCU's stingy defense. He did have 11 scores, including four against West Virginia.

5. Josh Boyce, WR, TCU: Boyce likely would have cleared 1,000 yards if Casey Pachall stayed on the team. He took a bit of a step back this year, though, with only two 100-yard games this season and finishing with 891 yards and seven touchdowns. He had 998 yards and nine scores last season in the MWC.

Sadly, though, I missed three of the Big 12's 1,000-yard receivers this season. I did give Darrin Moore and Josh Stewart my apologies in the preseason post, but I predicted the touches would be too spread out for either player to top 1,000 yards. Shows what I know.

Here are the guys I didn't get:

Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State: Stewart was the biggest breakout star in the Big 12 this year and will be the Big 12's leading returning receiver in 2012. He caught 101 passes for 1,210 yards this season, with seven touchdowns. Heck of a year, and high hopes for his junior campaign, especially considering he racked up those numbers with three different quarterbacks playing about a third of the season each.

Darrin Moore, WR, Texas Tech: Tech hadn't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Michael Crabtree won his second Biletnikoff Award back in 2008. The Red Raiders had two this year, and Moore led the team in receptions (92) and touchdowns (13).

Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech: Ward took home the Red Raiders' receiving title and elected to stay in Lubbock for his senior season, too. He caught 82 balls for 12 touchdowns and 1,053 yards. Great season, and he'll be a huge help for Michael Brewer next year.
Oh, offseason links make me sad again. How long until the season gets here again?

Lunch links: OSU's coordinator change

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
12:00
PM ET
I don't know if you know this, but things with fat in them taste way better than things that don't!
The Big 12 bowl season is over, but just as we did for the weekend rewind all season long, it's time to look back on the best and worst of the bowl season.

Best offensive performance: Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia. West Virginia got stuck in a snowstorm in New York City, and producing offense in that wasn't easy. Still, Bailey put together the best performance, grabbing seven passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the Mountaineers' loss to Syracuse.

[+] EnlargeAlex Okafor
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDefensive end Alex Okafor set the Alamo Bowl record with 4.5 sacks against Oregon State.
Best defensive performance: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas. This was the best performance of any player in the Big 12 the whole bowl season. Okafor was unblockable in the second half, racking up 4.5 sacks and five tackles for loss in the Longhorns' comeback win against Oregon State. He made eight tackles and forced a fumble.

Best play: David Ash, QB, Texas. Ash was nearly dragged down in the backfield, but somehow slipped out of a sack and rolled to his left to extend the play. Running back Johnathan Gray leaked out of the backfield, and Ash threw a perfect strike across his body and hit Gray in the hands for a 15-yard touchdown pass to get the Longhorns to within three points midway through the fourth quarter. Honorable mention: Ash's 36-yard bomb to Marquise Goodwin to take the lead with 36 seconds to play.

Biggest impact play: D.J. Johnson, S, Texas Tech. The Red Raiders hadn't forced a turnover since Oct. 20, but Johnson intercepted a pass in the final minute, returning it 39 yards to set up a game-winning field goal. Minnesota was driving in a tie game, but the Red Raiders' late flurry produced an unlikely comeback win.

Best catch: Isaiah Anderson, WR, Oklahoma State. Anderson caught five balls for 78 yards, but his crazy, spinning, aerial catch in the back of the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown put OSU up 45-0 and provided the best highlight of the Big 12 bowl season.

Worst play: Cornelius Lucas, OL, Kansas State. Kansas State faced a fourth-and-1 at Oregon's 18, but tried to draw Oregon offside and probably planned to go for it anyway after taking a timeout. The Wildcats trailed 15-10, but Lucas inexplicably moved early on a play that probably never would have happened. It backed up Kansas State five yards, and the powerful short-yardage offense couldn't go for it. Anthony Cantele missed the 40-yard kick that ensued, and Oregon answered with a quick touchdown before half to go up 12.

Most boneheaded play: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech. Amaro, who might be Tech's most talented player, missed half the season with a rib injury. He finally got to return, but he didn't seem to take that privilege very seriously. Right in front of an official, he pinned a Minnesota defender and threw a punch. He drew a flag and was ejected, but that flag backed up Texas Tech from the Golden Gophers' 1-yard line to the 16. The ensuing field goal was blocked, and Tech needed a late-game rally to win.

Craziest reaction to a boneheaded play: Texas Tech. According to a report from Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas Tech officials had to relay a message to Amaro telling him not to tweet about his ejection. Hours later, he tweeted a weak apology: "I want to apologize for being ejected. As bad as it seems, which it does, I had no intention of a punch. But the idea to get off of him," he wrote.

Best moment: Ash gets the win. It was an emotional bowl week full of distractions for Texas' team as two players were sent home after a police investigation into an alleged sexual assault. Texas' offense struggled for much of the first half, but Ash got hot late and capped the game with a 36-yard touchdown pass over the top to the speedy Goodwin. It gave Texas a huge win, the Big 12's best win of the entire season.

Worst moment: Michigan State takes the game back. TCU inexplicably blew a 13-0 lead when Michigan State's offense came alive, but Jaden Oberkrom gave the Frogs hope with a 53-yard kick to get the lead back, 16-14. It didn't last long. Michigan State strung together a drive and with 61 seconds to play, Dan Conroy boomed a 47-yard kick to take the wind out of TCU's sails after a difficult, emotional season.

The All-Big 12 Bowl Team

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
11:00
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The Big 12 had nine teams in bowl games this season, and here is the best of the best in the Big 12's postseason. Let's get to it.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDavid Ash's big plays fueled Texas' comeback against Oregon State.
QB: David Ash, Texas: He edges out Clint Chelf because of his game-changing plays in the Longhorns' win against Oregon State. Ash had the best play of the entire bowl season with a crazy escape and acrobatic touchdown pass to Johnathan Gray, and he hit Marquise Goodwin on a 36-yard bomb to put the Longhorns ahead in the final minutes. He finished 21-of-33 with 241 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 22 yards and a score.

RB: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Seastrunk helped Baylor rout UCLA with 138 yards and a score on 16 carries in the Bears' Holiday Bowl win.

RB: Glasco Martin IV, Baylor: How many rushers did the Big 12 have this bowl season who had at least 95 yards? Two, and both played for Baylor. Martin scored three touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl and carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards. Heck of a night for the Bears backs.

WR: Darrin Moore, Texas Tech: Moore was the most consistent receiver in the bowl season with 11 catches for 84 yards, keeping the chains moving for the Red Raiders in their Meineke Car Care Bowl win against Minnesota.

WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia: Despite playing in a snowstorm, Bailey had the best performance of any Big 12 receiver. He caught eight balls for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It wasn't enough to get the Pinstripe Bowl win, but no other Mountaineer scored a touchdown.

WR: Marquise Goodwin, Texas: The track star's touches were limited, but he had a huge impact. His 36-yard grab with 2:24 to play proved to be the game winner, and he finished with four catches for 68 yards. He also had one carry -- which he turned into a 64-yard touchdown, looking as fast as any player in college football while streaking to the end zone.

TE: Ernst Brun Jr., Iowa State: Brun caught four passes for 102 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown, to get the first-quarter party started for the Cyclones, which scored 17 points in the quarter. The rest of the game was forgettable, but Brun had one of the longest plays of Iowa State's season.

OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor: The Bears' left guard was a big reason why Baylor had so much success running the ball. Baylor racked up 306 yards on the ground against UCLA.

OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State: Purdue's Kawann Short is a stud and arguably the team's best player, but Taylor helped Oklahoma State rack up 58 points and helped hold the Boilermakers defensive tackle to just one tackle and one sack. Short had minimal impact throughout the game.

OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders ran the ball well -- on the few occasions they did -- and Seth Doege had plenty of time. Waddle was a big reason why for both.

OL: Lane Johnson, Oklahoma: Texas A&M wrecking ball Damontre Moore declared for the NFL draft before the Cotton Bowl, but credit Johnson at tackle, who helped hold him to five tackles, one tackle for loss and zero sacks, despite Landry Jones throwing 48 passes.

OL: Ivory Wade, Baylor: Those 306 yards rushing for the Bears didn't come easy. Most of them came on the interior, and Wade was a solid presence in the middle of the line.

DEFENSE

DL: Chris McAllister, Baylor: He was one of a handful of guys to hold UCLA's Johnathan Franklin to 34 yards on 14 carries, had five tackles, including two sacks, and batted down a pass to help keep UCLA's passing game grounded.

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas: Okafor is my defensive MVP of the Big 12 bowl season. He gave Oregon State's offensive line nightmares and helped the Longhorns stage a late comeback with 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and eight stops. He also forced a fumble.

DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State: The Wildcats had a rough night against Oregon, but Williams played pretty well with nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.

DL: Terrance Lloyd, Baylor: Lloyd was part of the Baylor gang who helped UCLA have its worst running game of the season. He had four tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. No zone read for you.

LB: Terence Garvin, West Virginia: Garvin was everywhere for the West Virginia defense, which largely struggled in a blowout loss to Syracuse. He forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, broke up a pass, had two sacks, made three tackles for loss and had 15 tackles.

LB: Tyler Johnson, Oklahoma State: Johnson blew up what Purdue likes to refer to as its "passing game." He made six tackles, had two sacks and forced two fumbles, including a huge hit on Purdue quarterback Robert Marve.

LB: Eddie Lackey, Baylor: Lackey was another part of Baylor's defense that put together one of its best games of the season. He made 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and five tackles.

DB: Jason Verrett, TCU: Most of Michigan State's night was frustrating in the passing game before some late success, and Verrett was a big reason for those struggles. He broke up two passes, made a tackle for loss and had 12 tackles.

DB: D.J. Johnson, Texas Tech: Johnson made 14 tackles and is on this team for one of the biggest plays of Texas Tech's season. The defense hadn't forced a turnover since Oct. 20, but Johnson picked off a Gophers pass in the final minute with Minnesota driving and the game tied. He returned it 39 yards, helping to set up the winning field goal as time expired.

DB: Jeremy Reeves, Iowa State: Reeves returned a Cody Green interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Liberty Bowl loss. He had six tackles with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

DB: Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State: No second-half comebacks for Purdue. Lowe opened the half with a 37-yard fumble return for a score and made seven tackles with half a tackle for loss.

SPECIALISTS

KR: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech: This one is pretty simple. Grant returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score, giving Texas Tech a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter of its Meineke Car Care Bowl win.

PR: Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State: Purdue faked a punt to keep its opening drive alive but punted on its next set of downs. The always-shifty Stewart delivered a 64-yard punt return, giving Oklahoma State the ball on the Purdue 19-yard line. The Cowboys scored for a 7-0 lead to kick off the Heart of Dallas Bowl rout.

K: Jaden Oberkrom, TCU: He edges out Texas Tech's Ryan Bustin, who kicked a 28-yard winner, for making all three of his attempts, including a crazy 53-yarder for a 16-14 lead with 2:42 to play. He also made kicks of 47 and 31 yards.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State: He narrowly edges out Oklahoma's Tress Way (five punts, three inside 20, long of 58 yards, average 49.4 yards) for this award after pinning Purdue inside its 20-yard line on two of his three punts. He boomed a 65-yarder and averaged nearly 53 yards on his three punts. He was more valuable for Oklahoma State because field position mattered to Purdue. It didn't to Texas A&M.
The Big 12 sent nine teams to bowl games, which for a 10-team league is no small accomplishment. As has been well-documented on this blog, it was the highest percentage for any league in the history of college football.

The Big 12 was the best league in college football from top to bottom (or, perhaps more accurately, bottom to top), but qualifying for those bowl games also means you've got to play them. The lesson the Big 12 learned was clear: Its strength was in the middle of the league, with mostly just OK teams at the top and good-but-questionable teams at the bottom.

[+] EnlargeBaylor's Lache Seastrunk
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsPerformances like those of Lache Seastrunk and Baylor allowed the Big 12's middle to pull away from the rest of the country.
Oklahoma and Kansas State made it clear: The Big 12 lacked a team that deserved to be in the national title hunt this season. Both finished outside the top 10 in both polls after suffering embarrassing losses in marquee bowl games to teams that looked the part of top five teams. They were outscored by a combined 40-7 in the second half of their games against Texas A&M and Oregon.

Like in 2010, the Big 12 was weak at the top. The same was true at the bottom, where overachieving Iowa State played its worst game of the year against a 10-win Tulsa team that cracked the Top 25 and dominated the line of scrimmage while the Cyclones offense sputtered. West Virginia's fall from grace (and the top five ... and Big 12 respectability) finished in predictably ugly fashion. When you began writing the story of WVU's season, you couldn't have written a more gruesome finish than a 24-point loss to a Big East team (the same Big East, though, that went 4-1 against the SEC this year) in a snowstorm.

Where the Big 12 shined, though, was predictable. The middle of the league was perhaps its biggest strength relative to the rest of college football, and we saw that play out on the field. Oklahoma State drew one of the easiest matchups of the bowl season and made a mediocre Big Ten team in Purdue look like an FCS team, delivering the worst beating of anyone the Boilermakers faced all season.

The Big 12's biggest wins, though, came in two of its toughest matchups against the league that was its toughest competition for the nation's No. 2 league: the Pac-12.

Texas and Baylor both faced top 20 opponents from the Pac-12 and did so as underdogs. Baylor won in spectacular fashion in the Big 12's bowl opener, earning respect for the league and a clear edge in the Big 12 vs. Pac-12 debate. Oregon's beatdown of Kansas State leveled the playing field between the two leagues, but ultimately, those two games likely gave the Big 12 an edge in the debate between the two conferences. Despite the losses everywhere else, that's saying a little something.

The Big 12's lackluster performances on its biggest stages means it will fall short when it comes to national respect. It leaves the league without a single top 10 finisher and critics deservedly questioning the credentials of the league's co-champions. However, the strong performance against the Pac-12 gives it the edge as college football's No. 2 league.

For the Big 12 , there was no big movement or exodus into the Top 25, no grand statement. Just a 4-5 record and a feeling of being underwhelmed with college football's postseason complete.

What we learned in the Big 12 bowls

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
11:00
AM ET
The Big 12 bowls are over, and here's what we learned over the past couple of weeks.

The top of the Big 12 is weak. Oregon and Texas A&M are bona fide top 5 teams in my book this year, and Oklahoma and Kansas State showed quite obviously that neither was in the same league. The Sooners and Wildcats suffered lopsided losses and didn't even look like top 10 teams, which the final polls confirmed. K-State was in position to play for the national title, but how many believe it would have done all that much better vs. Alabama last night? I buy Oklahoma State last year, but for the second time in three years, the Big 12 didn't have a team that belonged in the national title picture at the end of the season.

[+] EnlargeLache Seastrunk
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/USA TODAY SportsLache Seastrunk and Baylor arguably played better than any other Big 12 team late in the season.
The middle of the Big 12 is anything but weak. You saw it on display big time. Oklahoma State flexed, and so did Baylor, though the Bears were probably the most impressive of the bunch. Baylor was the Big 12's hottest team to close the season, but Oklahoma State was probably better than its record and lost a couple of heartbreakers to close the year. Both were solid teams that probably deserved nods in the top 25 to close the season. Texas has its issues, but the Longhorns successfully grabbed the Big 12's best nonconference win of the entire season, coming back to knock off then-No. 13 Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl.

The Big 12 can stop the run, sort of. You have to be amazed at what TCU and Baylor did to two really good backs in Le'Veon Bell at Michigan State and Johnathan Franklin at UCLA. Kenjon Barner of Oregon got the best of K-State in the second half and Oregon State's Storm Woods gave Texas trouble, but Franklin managed just 34 yards on 14 carries. Bell managed 145 yards on 32 carries, but it was below his season average for the season. Point is, this wasn't the running game nightmare from a few years ago, when the Big 12 racked up losses because of its inability to slow down average backs.

The league has a flare for the dramatic. We saw some great games down the stretch this season like Texas Tech and Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia/Oklahoma State/TCU and more. That didn't stop in the bowl season. The Red Raiders rallied in the final two minutes to beat Minnesota on a last-second field goal and Texas knocked off Oregon State with a late bomb from David Ash to Marquise Goodwin to erase a double-digit deficit in the game's last nine minutes. TCU also lost on a late field goal, just a minute after going ahead with a crazy 53-yard field goal from Jaden Oberkrom.

The bottom of the Big 12? Questionable at best. West Virginia's got all the flash with quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, and Iowa State stays in games (and eventually wins them) with its defense. Both units had disastrous bowl games against average teams in Syracuse and Tulsa. The snow is a legit excuse for West Virginia's high-flying passing game, but Tulsa completely dominated the line of scrimmage against Iowa State's defense and brought the league's bottom two bowl teams down a peg. Even Texas Tech struggled with a mediocre Minnesota team, though to its credit, rallied for an emotional win.

Chat today at 3 p.m. ET

January, 8, 2013
1/08/13
2:30
PM ET
The season's over, and we've got plenty to talk about in today's chat at 3 p.m. ET. Got thoughts on this season? Thoughts on my power rankings from earlier today? Questions about the bowls?

We'll cover it all. Here's the link.

Drop your questions off before we start, keep them coming once I arrive and I'll see you there.

Once again, here's the link.

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