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Monday, November 17, 2008
Despite strength at top, Big 12 likely won't fill all bowl slots


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 is receiving unprecedented national attention this season. Most observers consider the teams at the top of the conference as good collectively as any in the nation.

But that upper dominance has come with a price. The strength bunched at the top will likely result in the conference being unable to fulfill its bowl obligations -- likely in history-making proportions.

The conference will already fall one bowl short of its obligations if it snags a second BCS bowl bid, as it appears likely to do. And it could fall two short unless Colorado notches a season-ending upset at Nebraska in its final game of the season.

If Colorado loses, it would mark the first time since 1997 that a Big 12 bowl team hasn't played in the Independence Bowl. And the Texas Bowl in Houston could again be without a Big 12 team for a second straight season.

All of the sorting will take place over the next two weeks. But for all of the strength at the top, the Big 12 still might not be able to complete its bowl portfolio come December.

Here's a look how each team could shake out during the final three weeks of the season:

Colorado: The offensively-challenged 5-6 Buffaloes have to win Nov. 28 in Lincoln over Nebraska to gain bowl eligibility. Colorado always plays well in Lincoln, winning two of their last three games there. That would earn the young Buffaloes a bowl trip to either Houston or Shreveport, La., and some important extra practices in December.

Possibilities: Independence Bowl, Texas Bowl.

Prediction: None.

Kansas: The slumping Jayhawks need a victory over Missouri to provide momentum after back-to-back losses to Nebraska and Texas. But they've already made history by making back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in the 119-season history of the program. Their final location will depend on the Nebraska-Colorado game and their regular-season finale.

Possibilities: Sun Bowl, Insight Bowl, Independence Bowl.

Prediction: Insight Bowl.

Missouri: Two straight October losses killed their national title hopes. But the Tigers can throw a monkey wrench into the Big 12's national title hopes with an upset in the title game -- not out of the realm of possibility considering the game's location in Kansas City and how they've been playing recently. Even with a loss, the Tigers figure to be traveling to somewhere warm for their bowl game.

Possibilities: Fiesta Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Sun Bowl, Gator Bowl.

Prediction: Holiday Bowl.

Nebraska: Bo Pelini has got the Cornhuskers believing after an impressive recent spurt. A win against Colorado, and some help from elsewhere around the country, could point them to the Gator Bowl. But the Alamo or Sun bowls are more likely destinations.

Possibilities: Gator Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Sun Bowl, Insight Bowl.

Prediction: Sun Bowl.

Oklahoma: The Sooners have the kind of closing schedule that could catapult them into the Big 12 title game and maybe even the national championship game. Or it could leave them in a much lesser bowl game depending on the results. Tough closing games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State might be tougher than anything the Sooners would face in the postseason.

Possibilities: BCS National Championship Game, Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Holiday Bowl.

Prediction: Cotton Bowl.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have a chance improve their bowl portfolio with their first 10-win season since 1988. And a victory over Oklahoma in the Bedlam Game might nab them a New Year's Day Bowl and a possible delicious rematch with Les Miles and LSU in the Cotton Bowl.

Possibilities: Cotton Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Gator Bowl

Prediction: Alamo Bowl.

Texas: The Longhorns still have serious national championship hopes alive with only a game against Texas A&M remaining. They need a big victory to impress the BCS computers and some help from with other BCS favorites dropping to sneak their way in. Depending on that game's results and how the South plays out, the Longhorns could play in Miami or end up in San Diego.

Possibilities: BCS National Championship Game, Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Holiday Bowl.

Prediction: Fiesta Bowl.

Texas Tech: A 10-0 start has the Red Raiders harboring serious mid-November national title hopes for the first time in school history. A victory this week over Oklahoma nails down their first Big 12 Championship Game appearance. A loss means they will likely have to rely on BCS standings to get there. If Tech can get past Missouri in the Big 12 title game -- and they've lost five or six to the Tigers in the Big 12 era -- it would earn them the first BCS berth in school history.

Possibilities: BCS National Championship Game, Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Holiday Bowl.

Prediction: BCS National Championship Game.