What we learned in the Big 12 bowls

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
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The Big 12 bowls are over, and here's what we learned over the past couple of weeks.

The top of the Big 12 is weak. Oregon and Texas A&M are bona fide top 5 teams in my book this year, and Oklahoma and Kansas State showed quite obviously that neither was in the same league. The Sooners and Wildcats suffered lopsided losses and didn't even look like top 10 teams, which the final polls confirmed. K-State was in position to play for the national title, but how many believe it would have done all that much better vs. Alabama last night? I buy Oklahoma State last year, but for the second time in three years, the Big 12 didn't have a team that belonged in the national title picture at the end of the season.

[+] EnlargeLache Seastrunk
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/USA TODAY SportsLache Seastrunk and Baylor arguably played better than any other Big 12 team late in the season.
The middle of the Big 12 is anything but weak. You saw it on display big time. Oklahoma State flexed, and so did Baylor, though the Bears were probably the most impressive of the bunch. Baylor was the Big 12's hottest team to close the season, but Oklahoma State was probably better than its record and lost a couple of heartbreakers to close the year. Both were solid teams that probably deserved nods in the top 25 to close the season. Texas has its issues, but the Longhorns successfully grabbed the Big 12's best nonconference win of the entire season, coming back to knock off then-No. 13 Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl.

The Big 12 can stop the run, sort of. You have to be amazed at what TCU and Baylor did to two really good backs in Le'Veon Bell at Michigan State and Johnathan Franklin at UCLA. Kenjon Barner of Oregon got the best of K-State in the second half and Oregon State's Storm Woods gave Texas trouble, but Franklin managed just 34 yards on 14 carries. Bell managed 145 yards on 32 carries, but it was below his season average for the season. Point is, this wasn't the running game nightmare from a few years ago, when the Big 12 racked up losses because of its inability to slow down average backs.

The league has a flare for the dramatic. We saw some great games down the stretch this season like Texas Tech and Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia/Oklahoma State/TCU and more. That didn't stop in the bowl season. The Red Raiders rallied in the final two minutes to beat Minnesota on a last-second field goal and Texas knocked off Oregon State with a late bomb from David Ash to Marquise Goodwin to erase a double-digit deficit in the game's last nine minutes. TCU also lost on a late field goal, just a minute after going ahead with a crazy 53-yard field goal from Jaden Oberkrom.

The bottom of the Big 12? Questionable at best. West Virginia's got all the flash with quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, and Iowa State stays in games (and eventually wins them) with its defense. Both units had disastrous bowl games against average teams in Syracuse and Tulsa. The snow is a legit excuse for West Virginia's high-flying passing game, but Tulsa completely dominated the line of scrimmage against Iowa State's defense and brought the league's bottom two bowl teams down a peg. Even Texas Tech struggled with a mediocre Minnesota team, though to its credit, rallied for an emotional win.

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