Big 12: Texas Bowl
But you haven’t seen anything yet.
With that in mind, I dusted off my crystal ball and looked ahead to see some of the major events that we could see during the upcoming decade.
- We’ll see some realignment in the league as Missouri leaves for the Big Ten and TCU is added to fill the Tigers' place. That move will give Big 12 leaders an excuse for realignment that eventually will be selected from a blind draw of plans at Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe’s desk. The Osborne Division will have Nebraska, Colorado, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. The Royal Division will give a home to TCU, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State. After four years of play, that grouping will prove so unpopular that the old divisional format will be adapted with TCU joining the South Division and Oklahoma State moving to the North.
- Mike Leach eventually will return to the Big 12 – but this time as a television analyst. His quirky conversational style will be panned by the critics but embraced by fans. And he’ll also appear on television in a continuing role of his good friend Donald Trump’s series “The Apprentice.”
- After being rebuffed by the major television networks, the Big 12 and Pac-10 will strike out on their own with a television network jointly owned by both. It will give us a late game every Thursday night from the Pac-10, along with an early Big 12 game every Saturday at noon. The two conferences will share the prime Saturday afternoon programming window and games on Saturday night, building national awareness for both conferences.
- The most intriguing part of the Pac-10/Big 12 programming association will be the “Kickoff Classic,” a week-long start of the season where the Big 12 teams will meet their counterparts from the Pac-10 in a series of eight games each year. The series starts off with a bang when USC beats Texas in 2015 at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, earning a measure of revenge for losing to the Longhorns in the national championship game in 2006.
- By that time, Will Muschamp will have taken over at Texas. Mack Brown will remain at Texas through the 2012 season, celebrating as Garrett Gilbert leads the Longhorns to the national championship with a victory over Ohio State in the BCS title game. After that game, Brown announces his resignation, with Muschamp taking over and naming Major Applewhite as his offensive coordinator and Kirby Smart as his defensive coordinator in his first series of personnel moves.
- Bob Stoops’ association with Oklahoma will end in the middle of the decade when he accepts an offer to become the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. At the time, it will end the longest association of any Big 12 coach with their school. He’ll be replaced at Oklahoma by Houston coach Kevin Sumlin.
- After Bo Pelini leaves for the vacant LSU job after the 2014 season, former Cornhusker Turner Gill takes over the Nebraska program after developing his Kansas program into a solid bowl contender. His hiring is one of the last acts that Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne orchestrates before his retirement.
- Much to the chagrin of football fans, the BCS will endure. We’ll see one alteration, however. A “plus-one” model will be added with one game added for the national championship. Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma all will win national championships during the upcoming decade. With Boone Pickens' influence lessening, Oklahoma State will fall back into a lesser position in the South. And Colorado will go through two head coaches in the decade before hiring Kyle Shanahan in 2018.
- Thanks to huge seasons from Robert Griffin and national interception leader Ahmad Dixon, Baylor will end its bowl drought with an appearance in the 2011 Texas Bowl. To celebrate, the Dr Pepper bottlers in Waco will release a commemorative bottle that becomes a prized collectors’ item.
- One change in the BCS will affect the Big 12. The Cotton Bowl eventually will become the fifth bowl in the national title rotation. To fill that hole, the Alamo Bowl will move to New Year’s Day as the destination for the top Big 12 team that doesn’t make the BCS.
But before leaving for the airport, it's time to provide some tasty lunchtime links.
There's lots going on around the conference today.
Here are some of the major stories.
- Mike Gundy told the Tulsa World’s Bill Haisten said he has no plans to relinquish calling plays in 2010, despite what he called “issues” in his offense last season.
- The Austin American-Statesman’s Kirk Bohls opines that Texas needs to set a timetable for a coaching transition from Mack Brown to Will Muschamp to stop some of the inevitable questioning for him every time a top coaching job comes open.
- Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads looks to future improvement in a wide-ranging interview with Jake Lovett of the Iowa State Daily.
- Sources are telling the Austin American-Statesman’s Randy Riggs that Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter could be headed to Texas A&M as the Aggies’ new defensive coordinator.
- The Boulder Camera’s Kyle Ringo reports that Darrell Scott is in limbo after not enrolling at Colorado or officially transferring to another school.
- College Football News’ Robert Cirminiello has high early marks for Kansas’ hiring of Turner Gill and Texas Tech’s addition of Tommy Tuberville as new head coaches.
- The maintenance staff at Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts’ apartment foiled an apparent burglary attempt in the quarterback's residence Thursday afternoon.
- Sacramento Bee sports editor Bill Bradley analyzes the recent turnover in college head coaches at jobs including Texas Tech and Kansas.
- Craig James tells the Dallas Morning News’ Robert T. Garrett he thinks his role in Mike Leach’s firing will be “inconsequential” in a potential run for the U.S. Senate.
- The Bryan Eagle’s Robert Cessna reports that Von Miller will become Texas A&M’s first returning position All-America since Leeland McElroy in 1995 when he returns for his senior season.
- The Sporting News reports the Big 12 was involved in four of the top 10 bowls in terms of attendance this season -- the Citi BCS National Championship Game, the AT&T Cotton, the Texas and the Valero Alamo bowls.
- About 500 Texas Tech fans turned out Thursday in Lubbock to rally in support of ousted Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Matthew McGowan reports.
The Big 12 had the bowl with the highest television rating and also the lowest rating, according to information compiled by the Sports Business Daily.
Here's a look at how the Big 12's bowls fared, according to a chart compiled by the Birmingham News.
- The Citi BCS National Championship Game between Texas and Alabama on ABC garnered a 17.2 ranking -- the top ratings of any bowl and up 9 percent from last season.
- The controversial firing of Mike Leach helped the Valero Alamo Bowl game between Texas Tech and Michigan State earn the second-highest ranking for the conference and the highest by any bowl shown on ESPN in history. The game earned a 4.8 rating, up 23 percent from last season.
- The AT&T Cotton Bowl ranked ninth among all bowls and third among Big 12 games. The Oklahoma State-Mississippi game earned a 4.5 rating, up 2 percent from last season.
- The Pacific Life Holiday Bowl between Nebraska and Arizona checked in at 15th place and fourth among Big 12 games. The game earned a 3.7 rating, down 5 percent from last season.
- The Brut Sun Bowl was in 17th place and fifth among Big 12 games. The Stanford-Oklahoma game earned a 3.3 rating, up 50 percent from last season.
- The Texas Bowl was in 23rd place and sixth among Big 12 games. The Missouri-Navy game earned a 2.1 rating during its first time on ESPN, up 2,000 percent from the ratings last season on the NFL Network.
- The AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl was in 25th place and seventh among Big 12 bowl games. The Texas A&M-Georgia game earned a 2.0 rating, up 150 percent from last season.
- The Insight Bowl between was in 34th place and eight among Big 12 bowl games. The Iowa State-Minnesota game carried by the NFL Network earned an 0.4 rating, unchanged from last season.
- Garrett Gilbert looks like a keeper at quarterback. Although the national championship game was a difficult learning laboratory, the freshman Texas quarterback showed the kind of flashes that helped make him last season's most heralded quarterback recruit. Gilbert will still be learning as he goes into his sophomore season, but appeared to have confidence in throwing the ball downfield against the tough Alabama secondary as the game progressed. That success was the major reason the Longhorns were able to improbably climb back into the game against the Crimson Tide. With speedsters Malcolm Williams, Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe back for next season, expect the Longhorns to employ a more vertical passing game with Gilbert in charge than the short-passing game that was favored with Colt McCoy during his career.
- Texas Tech's quarterback battle in 2010 will be the most interesting in the conference. Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield both were productive in the Red Raiders' Valero Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan State. Potts claimed the Valero Alamo Bowl's most valuable offensive player honors and Sheffield directed the Red Raiders' comeback over the Spartans. But both quarterbacks will come in even with new coach Tommy Tuberville and a new offensive coordinator taking over. The job is there for the taking for either one of them.
- Iowa State's surprising success likely will be short lived. The Big 12's feel-good story of the season was capped with Iowa State's victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. Paul Rhoads' victory should resonate for the ISU program for the next several months. And the way it finished couldn't have been more fitting as cornerback Ter'ran Benton, who missed most of the season with a broken leg, iced the victory by recovering a Minnesota fumble in the final minutes. But as sweet as the bowl victory might have been for ISU fans, a significantly more difficult schedule looms next season. They better enjoy the spoils of a bowl victory while they can with Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Utah and Northern Illinois looming on the 2010 schedule.
- Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson had the best bowl game of anybody around the Nebraska program. And he needed it. Complaints about Watson's offensive philosophy were growing after the Cornhuskers' offense limped toward the finish line at the end of the regular season. Watson utilized the time off before the Holiday Bowl to help rebuild Zac Lee's confidence, find a way to get Niles Paul involved and utilize a Wildcat attack with Rex Burkhead running the ball. All worked masterfully in the Cornhuskers' 33-0 victory over Arizona in their top offensive performance of the season. That production should help turn around public perception about Watson's offense and catapult the Cornhuskers into spring practice with some badly needed offensive confidence.
- Missouri's refusal to run the ball against Navy was the biggest shock in the Texas Bowl. The Tigers had all kinds of chances to take control of the game, utilizing their superior size in the trenches against Navy's undersized read-and-react defense. And they still didn't do it in a stunning 35-13 loss to the Midshipmen. Even as Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green used a two-man defensive front, Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost stubbornly tried to keep throwing the ball. Missouri's running backs only ended up with 16 carries in the game. It was understandable that Yost thought the Tigers could keep passing with Blaine Gabbert and Danario Alexander. But a little balance would have kept the game from getting away from them.
Best game: In the grand scheme of things, Iowa State’s 14-13 triumph over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl was a matchup of two 6-6 teams. But the Cyclones’ pulsating victory still provided much excitement for the Cyclones. Alexander Robinson rushed for 137 yards in the victory that was settled by a late fumble recovery by ISU cornerback Ter’ran Benton, who was playing in his first game since breaking his leg on Oct. 24. Benton pounced on the turnover by Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray and the ISU did the rest with a clock-killing drive that provided an unexpected bowl victory for coach Paul Rhoads. Yes, that’s the same team that was expected to struggle to stay out of the North Division cellar before the season.
Best relief performance: Texas Tech starting quarterback Taylor Potts had a strong game in the Valero Alamo Bowl, but the Red Raiders needed a spark as they trailed Michigan State 31-27 early in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Steven Sheffield responded by completing his first six passes after relieving Potts, driving for two touchdowns to claim the victory. Potts earned the game’s most valuable player honors, but Sheffield finished by completing 9-for-11 passes for 88 yards as he directed the comeback.
Best use of bowl practice: Nebraska’s maligned offense showed some unexpected punch against Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson took advantage of bowl preparations to rebuild quarterback Zac Lee’s confidence and incorporate freshman Rex Burkhead into the Wildcat formation. The result was a 33-0 victory over the Wildcats with 223 yards of rushing -- most for the Cornhuskers since the first game of the season.
Best bow to youth: Injuries forced Oklahoma to employ freshmen defenders including defensive linemen David King, defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland and cornerback Demontre Hurst against Stanford in the Brut Sun Bowl. The trio came up big throughout the game to spark the Sooners’ 31-27 victory over the Cardinal. “The future’s bright,” Oklahoma defensive ends coach Chris Wilson understated to the Oklahoman after the game.
Most significant injury: Texas moved the ball smartly against Alabama, gaining 26 yards on five plays with Colt McCoy in charge. But McCoy went down with nerve damage to his right shoulder, the Longhorns’ offense unraveled during the rest of the half with backup Garrett Gilbert at quarterback. Alabama took advantage to charge a 24-6 halftime and take control of the Citi BCS National Championship Game.
Worst reaction to a defensive formation: Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green dared Missouri to run the ball by using an alignment with two down linemen. Even with Derrick Washington in the backfield, the Tigers could produce only 65 yards rushing as they repeatedly passed and sputtered in a 35-13 loss to the Midshipmen.
Worst finish: Mississippi’s defense took over down the stretch, forcing turnovers on the Cowboys’ final six turnovers. Zac Robinson’s offense contributed four interceptions and his team lost two fumbles as the Rebels claimed a 21-7 victory over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
Worst play call: Texas could have gone to halftime trailing by only 11 points. But Texas coach Mack Brown elected to have Garrett Gilbert attempt a seemingly safe shovel pass to D.J. Monroe. The ball was batted around and finally ended up in the arms of Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, who then stiff-armed Gilbert to the ground and pirouetted around Kyle Hix en route to a 28-yard touchdown return.
Worst officiating call: With about nine minutes remaining in a tie game, Oklahoma State had the ball on the Ole Miss 19-yard line and appeared poised to claim the lead. Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe looked to have obviously jumped offsides on a snap as he charged past center Andrew Lewis before the snap was completed. Feeling that he had a free play, Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson threw to the end zone, where he was intercepted by Ole Miss free safety Kendrick Lewis in the end zone. Robinson begged to have the call overturned, but the officials didn’t do it. The Cowboys unraveled from that point in the game.
Worst special teams: Texas A&M’s struggles on special teams were the biggest reason the Aggies dropped a 44-20 loss to Georgia in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl. The Bulldogs blocked a field-goal attempt, returned a kick for a touchdown and blocked a punt in the first half. The Aggies capped the debacle by snapping the ball over A&M punter Ryan Epperson's head in the third quarter, leading to another Georgia touchdown. The special-teams meltdown was the major reason the Aggies dropped their 11th game in their last 13 bowl games.
WHO TO WATCH: Danario Alexander, WR, Missouri
Biletnikoff Award voters made a dreadful mistake by not adding Alexander to their watch list late in the year after Alexander's one-man assault on Big 12 defenses over the last half of the season. Alexander nearly made history by becoming the first wide receiver in NCAA history to post four straight 200-yard receiving games after notching 214 yards against Baylor, 200 against Kansas State, 173 yards against Iowa State and 233 yards against Kansas in his final game. He produced 107 catches this season after recording 78 catches over his first three seasons at Missouri, finishing 2009 as the nation’s leader in receiving yards (1,644) and average receiving yards per game (137.0). The tall, angular Alexander will be difficult for the undersized Navy secondary to contain. And his breakaway speed will be a concern for Navy every time he touches the ball.
WHAT TO WATCH: Missouri’s run containment against Navy’s triple-option
Missouri defensive ends Aldon Smith and Brian Coulter will be challenged to stop Navy’s strong outside running game keyed by quarterback Ricky Dobbs and his pitches to running backs Marcus Curry and Bobby Doyle. Missouri doesn’t see this offense very often, but the Tigers have had a long time to prepare for Thursday’s game after ranking 15th in rush defense during the regular season. Missouri’s defensive linemen need to do a good job of staying on their feet against Navy’s undersized offensive linemen and its storied ability at cut-blocking. Missouri linebackers Andrew Gachkar and Sean Weatherspoon also need to maintain their lanes of pursuit as they try to stop Dobbs, who rushed for 1,037 yards and set an NCAA single-season record for a quarterback with 24 rushing touchdowns.
WHY WATCH: Contrasting offensive styles make for entertaining games
Navy and Missouri have two of the nation’s most intriguing offenses. They just account for their yards in different ways. The Midshipmen rank fourth nationally in rushing, but 119th in passing offense. Missouri is 14th passing, but are 81st rushing. Missouri’s quick-strike offense keyed by quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Alexander would appear to give the Tugers a firepower edge, although Navy has been effective this season and would have its first 10-win season since 2004 with an upset.
PREDICTION: This should be a classic battle of different offensive styles. Tiger fans have been vociferous about their disappointment in getting the Texas Bowl, their fourth Texas-based bowl in the last four seasons, despite other Big 12 teams with lesser records being snapped up ahead of them in the conference’s pecking order. Gary Pinkel’s team can’t afford to let those bad feelings linger, or it could be a long day against the underrated Midshipmen. But this game looks like a good draw for Missouri, whose big-play passing offense and strong rush defense appear well-suited to control Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo's plucky team. Missouri 42, Navy 24.
But as we get ready for those eight games, it's clear that several key players need to step up with big games in order to help their team's winning hopes.
Here's my list of 12 players or groups who need to have big games to bolster their team's bowl hopes.
- Texas quarterback Colt McCoy: His Heisman hopes sank after his nine-sack, three-interception performance in the Big 12 title game. But he has bigger aspirations if he can finish his career by leading his team to the national championship against Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game.
- Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams: He could become the fourth starter at center for Oklahoma this season if Brian Lepak doesn't respond to treatment before the Sooners' Brut Sun Bowl game against Stanford. Williams has become one of college football's best offensive linemen at tackle and looked good in practice earlier this season at center. He'll face a big test against massive 315-pound Stanford nose tackle Ekom Udofi if he plays at center in the bowl game.
- Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter: After struggling with a nagging foot injury most of the season, Hunter has been diagnosed at "close to 100 percent" by Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. The Cowboys had a strong running game and led the conference in rushing but still missed a true breakaway threat without Hunter in the lineup. His return will provide an infusion of speed that could be important for their hopes against Mississippi in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
- Texas guards Michael Huey and Charlie Tanner and center Chris Hall: After their struggles against Ndamukong Suh in the Big 12 championship game, this trio will really be under the gun against Alabama All-American tackle Terrence Cody and All-American middle linebacker Rolando McClain. They must play better than they did against Nebraska if they have any hopes of bringing the national title home to Austin.
- Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson: After gamely trying to play against Oklahoma on a sprained ankle, Robinson says that he's healthy for Mississippi in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Robinson's injury and a sputtering attack helped explain the Cowboys' difficulties in a 27-0 loss that ultimately cost them a shot at a BCS at-large berth. Robinson must run the offense better against a similarly strong Mississippi defensive front if the Cowboys are to pull off an upset victory.
- Texas Tech running back Baron Batch: Batch is one of the Red Raiders' most consistent receivers and top rushing threats. He'll be critically important in the Valero Alamo Bowl as he goes up against Michigan State All-Big Ten linebacker Greg Jones. Michigan State is being universally dismissed because of their suspension-wracked roster. All of that will make Jones and the defense eager to become involved early. Batch will be tested to keep Jones and the Spartans away from starting quarterback Taylor Potts.
- Missouri's defensive front: The grouping of defensive ends Aldon Smith and Brian Coulter, tackle Dominique Hamilton and nose tackle Jaron Baston played very well down the stretch as they allowed only 52.4 yards rushing per game during a strong 4-1 finish. But the Tigers' defensive front will be facing a huge challenge in stopping Navy's unique run-based offense in the Texas Bowl. The Midshipmen rank fourth nationally in rushing and are keyed by quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who averages 85.5 rushing yards per game and ranks second nationally with 24 rushing touchdowns. Keeping Navy in check will be a big challenge for the Tigers, particularly the defensive front.
- Iowa State cornerback Ter'ran Benton: The suspension of Kennard Banks will thrust Benton into the starting lineup for the Cyclones in the Insight Bowl against Minnesota. Benton is recovering after breaking his left leg Oct. 24 against Nebraska and missing the final four games of the season. Top Minnesota receiver Eric Decker is injured and will miss the bowl game, but Troy Stoudermire and Brandon Green will no doubt test Banks early and often in the Dec. 31 game.
- Iowa State running back Alexander Robinson: When Robinson is an effective ball-carrying threat, the Cyclones have a much better chance at winning. That's why it will be important to get him going early against a Minnesota defense that tends to wear down if it plays too much. Robinson's running will be an important part in trying to do just that.
- Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones: When he was on, Jones was one of the most effective passers in the Big 12, torching Tulsa for six touchdown passes, Texas A&M for five touchdown passes and Kansas State for four. But he also struggled with five interceptions against Nebraska. He'll need a big game against a similarly streaky Stanford team that ranked 95th in pass efficiency defense, 105th in pass defense and allowed 15 touchdowns in its last five games.
- Texas A&M safety Jordan Pugh: He'll be important in coordinating work in a secondary that features two sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup. After A&M's struggles in a 49-39 loss to Texas in the regular-season finale, the group will be facing a similarly high-powered offensive threat from Georgia. Joe Cox and A.J. Green no doubt saw the Aggies' struggles against Texas and will be intent on duplicating them in the Independence Bowl. It will be important for Pugh to keep his young teammates focused -- particularly if they struggle early.
- Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee: His struggles running the Nebraska offense were apparent in the Cornhuskers' loss to Texas where they produced only five first downs and amassed only 105 yards in the game. The offense must perk up against Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl and Lee will be most under the gun to make it happen. He showed flashes of a passing touch earlier in the season, but the Cornhuskers relied on a run-heavy game down the stretch to win the North Division. A couple of well-timed passes from Lee early in the game against the Wildcats could open up the Nebraska offense for the rest of the game.
Obviously, these games aren't quite as prevalent as bracket sheets during the NCAA men's tournament, but they assuredly are growing. I know I have several offers and have to get my sheets ready by Saturday's games.
Here are my picks for Big 12 bowl games ranked one through eight in terms of my confidence in the results of the games. I'll have much more extensive previews before the games and I reserve my right to make a last-minute change, but here are my picks in place for Saturday's confidence-pick deadline.
8 points: Texas Tech over Michigan State, Valero Alamo Bowl. The Red Raiders are catching the Spartans at exactly the right time. And the fact that Michigan State is riddled with suspensions only makes the Red Raiders' opportunity to win that much greater. Tech's Taylor Potts should have a huge game against the Spartans' struggling secondary that ranks 96th in pass-efficiency defense and 103rd in pass defense.
7 points: Missouri over Navy, Texas Bowl. The Tigers played well late in the season when Blaine Gabbert was healthy. Danario Alexander was the Big 12's most explosive player down the stretch. And while the defense isn't their best quality, I like their chances of being able to stuff Navy's run-heavy offense. Missouri limited four of its last five opponents to 77 yards rushing or less and Dave Steckel's group will have a long time to prepare for the option.
6 points: Georgia over Texas A&M, Advocare V100 Independence Bowl. Which Aggies team will show up for this game? The one that nearly beat Texas or the one that was blown out by Oklahoma or Kansas State? I think that Joe Cox and A.J. Green will have a lot of success against the Aggies' struggling defense, providing they can effectively keep Von Miller out of the Georgia backfield.
5 points: Oklahoma over Stanford, Brut Sun Bowl. The Sooners are intent on turning around after losing five of their last six bowl games. Oklahoma gets a break because of Andrew Luck's iffy status for the Cardinal. Look for the Sooners' run defense to clamp down on Toby Gerhart and Ryan Broyles and Landry Jones to make enough big plays to win.
4 points: Mississippi over Oklahoma State, AT&T Cotton Bowl. How much will that blowout loss at Oklahoma in Bedlam harm the Cowboys' psyche? I'm thinking more than might be expected as underrated bowl game coach Houston Nutt will assuredly have the Rebels ready to play. Look for a game similar to last year's Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech where the Rebels win the game in the trenches.
3 points: Arizona over Nebraska, Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Look for a defensive struggle between good buddies Mike Stoops and Bo Pelini. But with Nebraska's well-chronicled offensive struggles against better opponents, it might be more of the same for the Cornhuskers in the bowl game. This one should be tight, but look for Arizona quarterback Nick Foles to make enough big plays to give the Wildcats a narrow victory.
2 points: Iowa State over Minnesota, Insight Bowl. The Cyclones definitely are happy to move up this far in the bowl pecking order. That attitude, along with strong inside running by Alexander Robinson, might be enough to catapult them to a big effort over the Gophers. Minnesota has been to the Insight Bowl three times in the last four seasons and might be a little bored with another trip to the desert this time around.
1 point: Texas over Alabama, Citi BCS National Championship Game. The Longhorns are underdogs in this one, but I'm thinking they are going to be a little tired about pundits talking about how fortunate they are to be playing in this game. The Longhorns are actually a better match for the Crimson Tide than they would have been against Florida. Will Muschamp's expertise on Nick Saban and his system will be pivotal. And I think Texas' run defense will keep Mark Ingram bottled up and that Colt McCoy will outplay Greg McElroy for his fourth bowl victory.
That would produce a 5-3 bowl record for the Big 12 this time around. It might be a little optimistic, but I'm fairly confident the teams can play to my expected levels.
What about some of your picks? I'm curious what you believe is a legitimate record the Big 12 can achieve this season.
As always, it looks like a good haul.
The NCAA allows each bowl to award up to $500 in gifts to 125 participants from each school. Those schools can and typically do purchase additional packages that they can distribute to participants beyond those at a school. Additionally, each school can provide players with gifts up to $350 from its own budget.
The Sports Business Journal reports that these gift packages provide a gift niche that is worth more $12 million in direct spending.
Here's the haul of gifts for each Big 12 school from a master list including all bowls.
Advocare V100 Independence Bowl (Texas A&M): Sony gift suite, Timely Watch Co. watch, New Era hat, football.
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl (Nebraska): Flo TV personal television (includes one year of service), Best Buy gift card, Tourneau watch, Sports Tek hooded sweatshirt, cap.
Brut Sun (Oklahoma): Sony gift suite, Timely Watch Co. watch, Majestic fleece pullover, VP Sports cap, Ogio Politan laptop pack, Brut hair dryer, coin.
Texas (Missouri): $300 Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Under Armour shirt and hat, Texas Bowl T-shirt, Under Armour backpack, belt buckle.
Insight (Iowa State): Sony gift suite, Fossil watch, hat, Ogio Bounty Hunter or Hermit laptop pack.
Valero Alamo Bowl (Texas Tech): 32-gig iPod Touch, Dr. Dre Monster Beats headphones, Fossil watch, Oakley Antix sunglasses, Shutt mini-helmet, panoramic photo.
Citi BCS National Championship (Texas): Sony gift suite with Trek and Garmin, Fossil watch, New Era 59Fifty hat, Ogio Politan laptop pack.
Note: AT&T Cotton Bowl officials did not make their information available. Gift suites are arranged as private events where game participants and often bowl VIPs are given an order form and allowed to select gifts up to a value that is determined by each specific bowl, not exceeding the NCAA’s limit of $500 per bowl game.
Source: Sports Business Journal.
We've got some good games and others that might not be as appealing for those from outside the respective fan bases. Here's a look at how I rank the Big 12's eight bowl games this season.
I based my selections on importance, style of the two teams, coaching and starpower. Here are my rankings.
1. Citi BCS National Championship Game
Texas vs. Alabama
My take: The national title will be decided between two tradition-steeped programs with Heisman finalists Colt McCoy and Mark Ingram. Who could ask for more?
2. Brut Sun Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Stanford
My take: Even if Andrew Luck doesn't play, we'll have an intriguing battle between Toby Gerhart and the Sooners' defense. Toss in the Sooners' need for a bowl victory and this could be a good one.
3. Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. Arizona
My take: Two strong defenses will square off in this game. Throw in two fiery coaches like Mike Stoops and Bo Pelini and it should be an intriguing coaching matchup.
4. Advocare V100 Independence Bowl
Texas A&M vs. Georgia
My take: Sure, the Georgia staff has been blown up after the firing of Willie Martinez. But two high-powered offenses keyed by Jerrod Johnson and Joe Cox should result in a lot of points and passing yards.
5. Texas Bowl
Missouri vs. Navy
My take: The Tigers slid all the way into the bottom of the Big 12's pecking order, but this game still will be interesting. Danario Alexander and the potent Missouri passing game against Navy's option attack should be an interesting contrast of styles.
6. AT&T Cotton Bowl
Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi
My take: The Cowboys must rebound from their final-game struggles at Oklahoma, or they will face a difficult challenge against Jevan Snead and the Rebels.
7. Valero Alamo Bowl
Texas Tech vs. Michigan State
My take: Texas Tech's high-powered offense and underrated defense will be going against an undermanned Spartan team wracked by suspensions. I have no idea how either team will approach their trip to San Antonio.
8. Insight Bowl
Iowa State vs. Minnesota
My take: Insight Bowl officials jumped all over the Cyclones, hoping they will drive tickets for this battle of 6-6 programs. They better hope the Arizona golfing is good, because Minnesota's struggling offense produced no touchdowns in the last two games of the season.
Here's a list with all of the dates, times and networks, along with who will be the home team in the game. All times are ET.
- Citi BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 7, 8 p.m. ET, FOX Sports, Pasadena, Calif. -- Texas (13-0) vs. Alabama (13-0). Alabama will be the home team.
- AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 2, 2 p.m., FOX Sports, Arlington, Texas -- Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Mississippi (8-4). Mississippi will be the home team.
- Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN, San Diego -- Nebraska (9-4) vs. Arizona (8-4). Nebraska will be the home team.
- Valero Alamo Bowl, Jan. 2, 9 p.m., ESPN, San Antonio – Texas Tech (8-4) vs. Michigan State (6-6). Texas Tech will be the home team.
- Brut Sun Bowl, Dec. 31, 2 p.m., CBS, El Paso, Texas -- Oklahoma (7-5) vs. Stanford (8-4). Stanford will be the home team.
- Insight Bowl, Dec. 31, 6 p.m., NFL Network, Tempe, Ariz. – Iowa State (6-6) vs. Minnesota (6-6). Iowa State will be the home team.
- Advocare V100 Independence Bowl, Dec. 28, 5 p.m., ESPN, Shreveport, La. -- Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Georgia (7-5). Georgia will be the home team.
- Texas Bowl, Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m., ESPN, Houston -- Missouri (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4) - Missouri will be the home team.
Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Missouri was one of the Big 12’s hottest teams down the stretch, but fell to the conference’s lowest bowl affiliation as it was jumped by Iowa State and Texas A&M. Texas Bowl officials might not be complaining too much considering the interesting contrast they will receive in their game against Navy.
Danario Alexander was the conference’s most explosive offensive player in the final month of the season, emerging as the nation’s leader in receiving yards per game (137 yards per game) and third in receptions (8.92 receptions). Sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert played strong during a three-game winning streak to finish the season and completed the year by passing for 3,302 yards and 23 touchdowns.
The Tigers ranked 109th in pass defense, but that shouldn’t be a concern against Navy, which ranks third in rushing but next to last nationally in passing. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo is familiar with bowl games after directing the Midshipmen into bowl games in each of his three seasons as a coach.
Navy's rushing attack is keyed by junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who rushed for 913 yards and 23 touchdowns, which ranks second nationally. It will mark the first time these teams have played since Missouri claimed a 21-14 victory in the 1960 Orange Bowl.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big East's hard-line pronouncement about its availability for the Gator Bowl might add another potential suitor into the Big 12's upcoming bowl mix.
New Big East commissioner John Marinatto told the Tampa Tribune that he is unwilling to continue the "shared-pick" arrangement that sends the Big East No. 2 team twice and the Big 12 No. 4 team twice in a four-year period to the Jacksonville-based bowl.
"It would be doubtful," Marinatto told the Tribune. "It's not what we want and not what we're going to try for. It's not on our agenda. We believe the Big East has earned that, we don't want the hybrid model.
"If we have to go somewhere else, so be it."
In the other two years of the shared pick, the No. 4 Big 12 team will go to the Alamo Bowl and the No. 5 Big 12 team will go to the Sun Bowl. That will be the case during this upcoming season.
New agreements will begin in 2010 and Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe has been working furiously over the last several weeks with various current partners and potential new bowls for destinations for his teams.
Big 12 teams have played in the Gator Bowl in two of the last three seasons, with Texas Tech meeting Virginia in the 2008 game and Nebraska and Clemson meeting in the 2009 game. The Big 12 has won both of those games.
Beebe said last week that the Gator Bowl has been a strong arrangement for the Big 12 for several reasons. First, it is a New Year's Day game that provides the strong kind of exposure that the conference craves. Secondly, it is based in Florida to give them a consistent recruiting presence in another part of the country.
But the Jacksonville trip is an expensive one for Big 12 fans -- particularly if they are forced to buy their airline tickets inside a 21-day window from the game.
The Big 12's current bowl arrangement provides its winner to the BCS and its No. 2 team to the Cotton Bowl. That long-term relationship is unlikely to change -- particularly as the Cotton Bowl moves to the Dallas Cowboys' plush new stadium in Arlington, Texas.
But after that, the Gator Bowl could get in the mix for a No. 3 team which is currently held by the Holiday Bowl. Bowl sources indicate the Alamo Bowl also is interested in that team and the Houston Bowl could be interested as well.
A more regionally based bowl such as the Alamo or Texas bowl might make more sense and prove more attractive to more Big 12 schools because of its proximity inside the conference's geographic footprint.
Even with a higher payout at another bowl in another part of the country, that number could be diminished if the Big 12 school wouldn't sell its quota of tickets. The conference's teams would be more likely to sell those tickets if they played in a bowl game where fans could drive.
But both bowls would struggle matching the sizzle of playing inside Florida -- particularly considering every Big 12 team normally plays at least one game inside the state of Texas as part of its regular-season schedule.
I expect a lot of posturing and positioning in the next several weeks. But however it plays out, the Big 12's stature among the bowls has never appeared stronger.