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Thursday, December 16, 2010
Ranking the Big 12 bowl matchups

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Not sure what to expect with the Big 12's bowl slate over the holidays? It's a somewhat underwhelming slate. Here's who I'd like to see. Those aren't happening, but here's how I'd rank what we've got on the matchup sexiness scale:

1. AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan 7: Texas A&M vs. LSU. They say defense wins championships. That's not always true in beauty contests like these, but I'll take these two disciplined, hard-hitting defenses at Cowboys Stadium over the high-octane offenses elsewhere on this list. Plus, if it's close late ... Les Miles is involved.

2. Texas Bowl, Dec. 29: Baylor vs. Illinois. Zone-read enthusiasts, your day has arrived. Robert Griffin III and Jay Finley of Baylor should run it more than a few times. Nathan Scheelhaase and Mikel Leshoure at Illinois will do it even more. Expect lots of points from two good offenses, but Baylor's Griffin has a big edge when it comes to putting the ball in the air. The Illini secondary better be well-prepared to face the Bears, who have five receivers with at least 40 catches.

3. Valero Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona. The Cowboys secondary will get a tough test from the Wildcats' Nick Foles-led spread attack. And Oklahoma State fans will get another chance to yell at a Stoops.

4. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1: Oklahoma vs. Connecticut. I can't believe this game is this high, but Oklahoma is really in a no-win situation. Win big, and you do what everyone expected. Win by less than two possessions, and the BCS streak ends, but the talk about Bob Stoops-coached teams in BCS bowls won't. That could provide for some drama late.

5. Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30: Nebraska vs. Washington. We may have seen this before, but we haven't seen a healthy Taylor Martinez in a long time. This could be our last chance until next season. Don't expect him to run all over the Huskies, but this defense isn't anything like the ones he faced against Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

6. Insight Bowl, Dec. 28: Missouri vs. Iowa. Suspensions have sapped some of the energy out of this one; Iowa's Ricky Stanzi is running out of talent around him, but the Tigers will see a defensive line from the Hawkeyes unlike anything the've seen in awhile. That could mean trouble, and a one-dimensional offense.

7. TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 1: Texas Tech vs. Northwestern. The same goes for this one. The Wildcats lost their mojo without do-everything quarterback Dan Persa, and somehow it even transferred to the defense. But the 48 and 70 points Northwestern gave up to Illinois and Wisconsin came in a very different manner than how Texas Tech will try to score.

8. New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 30: Kansas State vs. Syracuse. The novelty of playing on a baseball field was lost a bit during the season, but some snow could make for a pretty old-school game. Daniel Thomas was built for nasty weather.