Thursday, December 15, 2011
What to watch in the Big 12 bowls
By David Ubben
Here are a few things to keep an eye on in the bowl games involving teams from the Big 12 this season.
1. The headless Aggies. A team playing in a bowl after firing its coach is a bit of a rarity, but that's where the Aggies are as they prepare to face Northwestern on Dec. 31 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. Defensive coordinator and interim head coach Tim DeRuyter is leaving to become the coach at Fresno State. Former coach Mike Sherman served as their offensive coordinator, too, and it'll be interesting to see what Texas A&M looks like without him. Cyrus Gray is questionable, but Northwestern's defense is a lot different than Texas'. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill should be able to win this game, but will Texas A&M look like it's playing for anything, and will it show it has fixed the second-half woes?
2. Oklahoma State on the big stage. Oklahoma State has played in a lot of big games over the past two years, but the two biggest -- Oklahoma in both years -- were played in its home stadium. The Cowboys never played in a Big 12 title setting and never played in a huge neutral-site game against a team suited to beat them. The Jan. 2 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, opposite Stanford, will be all new for the Cowboys. Will the team look the same after a week unlike anything it has experienced before?
3. Sooners stopping a swoon? Oklahoma finished the season with two losses in its final three games and now will be without Jaz Reynolds in the Dec. 30 Insight Bowl against Iowa. Landry Jones will be missing his No. 1 and No. 3 receivers, and the Hawkeyes' offense will take on a defense that struggled late in the year against Baylor and Oklahoma State. Iowa is closer to Iowa State -- Oklahoma's only victory in the final three games -- but the Sooners had better show up in this one, or this season will get even more forgettable.
4. A finale for RG3? At Baylor, 2011 has been unforgettable. The Bears already have nine wins, a third-place finish in the Big 12 and the school's first Heisman winner. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has become must-see TV, but the Valero Alamo Bowl against Washington on Dec. 29 might be the last time we see him in green and gold. There's no guarantee on either side, but what's Griffin got in store for the finale?
5. Did the Longhorns learn? Texas lamented its holidays at home last year, with players saying they never wanted to experience the feeling again. Several said they couldn't even watch the bowls. Well, the Longhorns are back. How much will they relish the Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl meeting with Cal? Texas should be back to health by then, and a big win in this game might produce big results next fall for a young offense that needs good vibes heading into the offseason.