- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's take a look back at five meaningful games from the 2014 season that could resonate and reshape what we’ll get from the Big 12 in 2015. It’s no coincidence all five of these games came late in the season, because they’ve already proved to have an enduring impact this offseason.
Baylor 38, Kansas State 27: We won’t remember this game for Bryce Petty coming back from a concussion to throw for 412 yards on 85 percent passing or the fact Baylor notched another top-10 win inside brand-new McLane Stadium. No, we’ll remember this one for everything that happened after the final whistle: Art Briles’ onstage confrontation with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby after receiving one of two Big 12 title trophies, his postgame politicking and the Bears’ failure to surpass No. 5 in the final College Football Playoff rankings. That night and that moment led to a new tiebreaker policy in the Big 12 and renewed fears the conference might need a title game to settle its disputes.
TCU 42, Ole Miss 3: The statement game. The TCU team that showed up to destroy Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 sure looked like one that not only belonged in the College Football Playoff but also could have won it all. Inspired by their playoff snub, the Horned Frogs made a grand statement with a barrage of Trevone Boykin-led fireworks and suffocating defense (129 total yards, 9 rushing). They shut down Bo Wallace and shut out the Rebs for 3 ½ quarters after taking a 42-0 lead in the first few minutes of the second half. That performance set TCU up for top-five expectations and even some preseason No. 1 chatter. The Horned Frogs will have a lot to live up to in 2015.
Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 35 (OT): Tyreek Hill’s 92-yard punt return touchdown to force overtime goes down as an unforgettable bedlam moment, but there were so many other crazy aspects of this Dec. 6 stunner. The Pokes were in danger of finishing with a six-game losing streak and missing a bowl after starting 5-1. Mike Gundy’s job was potentially in jeopardy with a loss, too. Not to mention that freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph was making his second career start in Norman and threw an interception down seven points with 3:16 to go. And, oh yeah, don’t forget about Bob Stoops’ decision to redo the punt to Hill. Oops! The tide of momentum from this one helped Gundy repair his relationship with Boone Pickens, established Rudolph as a star in the making and perhaps gave the Cowboys a brand-new outlook for 2015. The 15 extra bowl practices were essential for a young team and paid off with a win over Washington in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl. The Sooners went the opposite direction.
Clemson 40, Oklahoma 6: Stoops really had no choice. After a humbling loss like this one, big changes were a necessity. Clemson, led by No. 2 quarterback Cole Stoudt, scored the first 40 points of the Russell Athletic Bowl in the final chapter of an OU season that came nowhere close to meeting expectations. Trevor Knight ended what should have been his breakout season on even shakier ground with a three-interception, 20-incompletion performance. Stoops made the difficult decision to fire offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell and pursue a return to air raid offensive philosophies with new OC Lincoln Riley. Might he have made those moves regardless of the bowl game blowout? Perhaps, but the collapse in Orlando, Florida, left no doubt and put even more pressure on Stoops going into his 17th year at OU.
Arkansas 31, Texas 7: The Longhorns’ regular-season finale against TCU did some damage, but getting embarrassed by the 6-6 Razorbacks in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl was a brutal wake-up call. Finishing with 59 yards of total offense and just two in the run game forced Charlie Strong to shake things up. He replaced two offensive assistants and began the necessary transition toward an up-tempo spread offense. Tyrone Swoopes needed a confidence-boosting performance and didn’t come close, which meant a reopened quarterback competition this spring and a big opportunity for Jerrod Heard. But, hey, this wasn’t the first time the Razorbacks broke a Big 12 team in 2014. Their 49-28 victory at Texas Tech in September resulted in defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt’s exit and badly shook up the Red Raiders’ season.
A look back at five meaningful games from the 2014 season that could resonate and reshape what we'll get from the Big 12 in 2015.