Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Big 12 did what was expected in bowls
By ESPN.com staff
Six wins is a lot. Especially when it's in just eight bowl games.
But surveying the landscape, and it's hard to draw much from the Big 12's bowl performance, the conference did exactly what was expected.
Compared to college football's standard these days (the SEC) the Big 12 can be encouraged. It's 6-2 record is a better winning percentage than the SEC whether you want to count the national championship (6-3) or not (5-2).
But then again, the same Big 12 won every game it was favored to win.
It lost every game it was favored to lose.
The Big 12 holds the distinction of the only league in which every bowl tie-in is with another automatically qualifying conference, so that's something. This season, though, the Big 12 mostly took care of business.
That's an improvement on 2010 when Big 12 teams were run over by any and everyone in the ground game and went just 4-4.
That season, the Big 12 was favored to win seven games.
Both years, the league took care of business in the BCS, which is important to any league's reputation. Last year, Oklahoma's win over UConn fell under the "took care of business" umbrella.
But this season? The Big 12 can hang its reputation on Oklahoma State's win over Stanford. It was the league's best nonconference victory of the season by a long way, and the Cowboys won it in memorable fashion.
This season, the Big 12 needed all the memorable moments it could find. There was Stanford's two missed field goals and Oklahoma State's game-winning touchdown turned 24-yard pass that set up the game-winning field goal.
Baylor beat Washington in a game that was memorable from start to finish. The Bears set a bowl record with 777 yards of offense in the 67-56 win, and its 67 points were a bowl record for a week, before West Virginia scored 70 in a win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
But beyond those two? The Big 12 did what it was supposed to do, it just did so in largely forgettable fashion.
Missouri's Zaviar Gooden snagged an acrobatic interception, but there's not much else to take away from the Tigers' solid win over North Carolina, except that Missouri's multifaceted rushing offense exposed UNC's overrated defense up front. Texas' defense mucked up an ugly game in a 21-10 win over California.
Iowa State's quarterback(s), surprisingly, struggled against Rutgers and the defense gave up 173 yards rushing to the nation's No. 112 rushing offense, almost twice its average.
Oklahoma and Texas A&M? Well, they were a lot better than their two plodding Big Ten opponents, Iowa and Northwestern. Both proved it, though A&M tried to blow its 30-7 lead late in the 33-22 win. Oklahoma was uninspired but won by double digits.
Kansas State made uncharacteristic mistakes and put its run-heavy offense in a big hole against an Arkansas team that played its best defensive game of the season.
For the Big 12 it was all a good and solid bowl performance.
But not much more. And ultimately, outside of a few flashes, forgettable.