Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Thoughts on the Big 12 bowl matchups
By David Ubben
We've got lots of time to talk bowls before they begin, but here's a few thoughts on how the Big 12 looks in each matchup heading into the postseason.
I mentioned this in my One Good Thing video from Monday, but the BCS' snub of Oklahoma might end up helping the Big 12 on the field, though it's certainly a hit in the checkbook. With every Big 12 team moving down a notch in the bowl pecking order, the matchups shifted heavily in favor of the Big 12 in several matchups. In many ways, conferences seal their reputations in the bowl season. For the Big 12, which was largely untested in nonconference play, this will be especially true.
Just like last season's Fiesta Bowl, the Big 12 and Pac-12 will play the best game outside of the title game pitting two teams that had national championship aspirations. Oklahoma State and Stanford played a classic last season in overtime. I'd expect Kansas State and Oregon to do the same this year in a gorgeous venue in Glendale, Ariz. K-State is an eight-point underdog, which is no surprise. Nobody in the Big 12 has the kind of speed backs Oregon does. The pace won't cause K-State to struggle, but we'll have a good idea how the Wildcats will handle that speed in the first quarter or so. Tough to tell this far out. K-State has never played a team like this before. Nobody's got speed in the backfield like Oregon.
Johnny Manziel makes this Texas A&M team different from those against which Bob Stoops went 11-2.
Meanwhile, the Cotton Bowl is the bowl season's next-best matchup, matching the Sooners against Texas A&M. It'll be another high-exposure game for the Big 12. The hard truth: The league's reputation this year will be made in those games. How you play against top-level competition decides that, and these are big-time matchups a whole lot of people want to see. Bob Stoops is 11-2 versus the Aggies, but this is a very different A&M team, probably the best he'll have seen, and the third Heisman candidate he'll have faced. Oklahoma's defense has struggled with mobile quarterbacks for a long while, even when Mike Stoops was the defensive coordinator. The Sooners will have to score a whole lot to win this one as a four-point underdog.
Baylor and UCLA? Nothing but fun in the Holiday Bowl. I can't wait. So much offense. Quarterback Brett Hundley is so fun to watch, and Johnathan Franklin's balance is amazing. He's got NFL back written all over him. You know about Baylor's offense. First one to 50 wins.
The biggest of the bowl lines in the Big 12? Oklahoma State, a 17-point favorite against Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. It's legit, though I do love referring to this game as the Zombie Cotton Bowl. The Boilermakers don't have a coach and were 3-6 and 0-5 in Big Ten play before ripping off a three-game winning streak against titans Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. If OSU can get beyond this business about getting dropped in the bowl pecking order (and keep coach Mike Gundy), it should be fine.
Florida over Louisville and the game mentioned above are the only ones with a bigger line this bowl season than Texas Tech, a two-touchdown favorite against another 6-6 team from the Big Ten, Minnesota. This one might be closer than we expect. Texas Tech is talented, but what have the Red Raiders done in the latter half of the season to make you believe they can roll over anyone? Kansas very nearly beat them, and perhaps should have. My gut says Tech rolls with a month to prepare for a bowl game after missing out last season, but don't be surprised if this one is tight.
Woof. Iowa State and Tulsa. I will watch this game because it's my job, but don't expect me to enjoy it. I hate rematches a whole lot. I do think it's a toss-up, and some late drama might spice this one up. Sometimes, the games you never expect are the games that turn out to be the most fun. (Hey there, Baylor vs. Kansas State!)
The weather will be interesting to watch in the Pinstripe Bowl. I love Syracuse's balance, and this game will have lots of points, too, but a bunch of Florida boys at West Virginia out in the cold at Yankee Stadium? Gotta look out for the upset, especially in a bowl game that falls well short of what WVU was dreaming about early this season.
I'm a little surprised Oregon State's not a bigger Alamo Bowl favorite against a Texas team that looked pretty underwhelming down the stretch, but I'm really intrigued to see what Texas does at quarterback. The guess here is Case McCoy, but I'd expect a pretty heated competition in the bowl practices. I still believe David Ash is the long-term guy for the Horns, but do you risk losing McCoy if you don't give him a fair shot? He turned the ball over against K-State, sure, but he also completed a whole bunch of passes, and I don't think he did enough to lose the gig.
TCU and Michigan State will look nothing like the football we're accustomed to seeing in the Big 12. Lots of pounding from MSU. Lots of zone read from TCU. Not a lot of passing. The Frogs are a two-point favorite and this is one of a handful of tossups. Whoever turns the ball over least wins this one. TCU racks up tons of takeaways ... and giveaways. I'm oddly excited for this game, and to see what differences there are between the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and its predecessor, the Insight Bowl.