Great post­sea­son for the Big 12; for­get­table year for state of Texas


An­other bloated bowl sea­son, after 40 games, has win­nowed down to the only col­lege foot­ball matchup that truly has cap­tured the fancy of fans since the post­sea­son sched­ule was set Dec. 4.

We’ll learn today whether this year’s Col­lege Foot­ball Playoff cham­pi­onship game be­tween top-ranked Alabama (14-0) and sec­ond-seeded Clem­son (13-1) can mea­sure up to last year’s clas­sic that ended with the Crim­son Tide’s 45-40 tri­umph. To get to this re­match in Tampa, we waded through 40 un­der­card matchups that taught us some un­ex­pected lessons. Among them:

The ACC and Big 12, con­sid­ered the na­tion’s soft­est Power 5 con­fer­ences through­out the reg­u­lar sea­son, de­served more re­spect than they re­ceived from Septem­ber through Novem­ber. Teams from the ACC (8-3) and Big 12 (4-2) won at least twothirds of their bowl games. More-her­alded teams from the SEC (6-6), Pac-12 (3-3) and Big Ten (3-7) fell far short of that mark, with the Big Ten com­pletely soil­ing its reg­u­larsea­son rep­u­ta­tion as the na­tion’s strong­est con­fer­ence in 2016.

Texas’ teams can­not flip the fo­cus fast enough to Feb. 1 and na­tional sign­ing day for high school prospects. The sooner the state’s 12 FBS pro­grams can dis­tance them­selves from 2016’s col­lec­tive record of 65-85, in­clud­ing a 1-5 mark in bowl games, the bet­ter. The state’s lone bowl win­ner was Bay­lor (7-6), which broke a six-game los­ing streak by de­feat­ing Boise State 31-12 in the Cac­tus Bowl. As things stand, fans should pre­pare for all 12 of the Lone Star State’s ma­jor­col­lege teams to fin­ish un­ranked for the first time in 49 years when The As­so­ci­ated Press re­leases its post­sea­son poll Tues­day. The state’s best records be­long to un­ranked Hous­ton (9-4) and un­ranked Texas A&M (8-5), both of which lost their bowl games.

There are too many un­wor­thy par­tic­i­pants. A whop­ping 13 bowl teams, in­clud­ing three schools from Texas, fin­ished their sea­sons with los­ing records. The roll call in­cludes TCU (6-7), North Texas (5-8), UTSA (6-7), South Carolina (6-7), Van­der­bilt (6-7), In­di­ana (6-7), Mary­land (6-7), Mis­sis­sippi State (6-7), UCF (6-7), Cen­tral Michi­gan (6-7), South Alabama (6-7), Louisiana Lafayette (6-7) and Mi­ami, Ohio (6-7). Per­haps more stun­ning, Mis­sis­sippi State won its bowl game to post its 6-7 record.

As for the 2016 post­sea­son, here’s a list of awards for this year’s par­tic­i­pants:

Most Un­der­rated Team: Un­ranked San Diego State (11-3), the Moun­tain West cham­pion, ham­mered Hous­ton, 34-10, in the Las Ve­gas Bowl to emerge as one of 11 teams to win at least 11 games. Coach Rocky Long’s Aztecs re­lied on run­ning back Don­nell Pumphrey, who ground out an FBS-best 2,133 yards as a se­nior to be­come the NCAA ca­reer leader for rush­ing yards (6,405). San Diego State ranks among the na­tion’s top 20 teams in 22 sta­tis­ti­cal cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing to­tal of­fense, scor­ing de­fense, rush­ing of­fense and turnover mar­gin.

Most Over­rated Team: No. 21 Iowa (8-5) failed to score a touch­down in its 30-3 loss to No. 20 Florida in the Out­back Bowl. It marked the Hawkeyes’ fifth con­sec­u­tive bowl de­feat, with the last three (2014-16 sea­sons) by a com­bined 73 points.

Best Con­fer­ence: The ACC, with its 8-3 mark, ruled the roost based on win­ning per­cent­age (.727). The Big 12 and Sun Belt, both at 4-2, fin­ished with .667 marks.

Worst Con­fer­ence: The MAC fin­ished 0-6, in­clud­ing West­ern Michi­gan’s 24-16 loss to Wis­con­sin in the Cot­ton Bowl. The next-big­gest strug­gler was the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence, at 2-5 (.285 win­ning per­cent­age).

Best New De­vel­op­ment: UTSA, in its sixth sea­son with a foot­ball pro­gram, earned the first bowl berth in school his­tory. The Road­run­ners dropped a heart­breaker to New Mex­ico, 23-20, in the Gil­dan New Mex­ico Bowl but be­came the lat­est pro­gram from the Lone Star State to get a taste of col­lege foot­ball’s post­sea­son.

Worst New De­vel­op­ment: Three no­table play­ers skipped their teams’ bowl games to pro­tect them­selves from po­ten­tial in­juries heading into the NFL Draft: LSU run­ning

back Leonard Four­nette, Stan­ford run­ning back Chris­tian McCaf­frey and Bay­lor run­ning back Shock Lin­wood. While un­der­stand­able, and likely a sound busi­ness de­ci­sion for Four­nette and McCaf­frey, the de­ci­sions blur the lines about the min­i­mal level of com­mit­ment fans should expect from star play­ers in their fi­nal sea­sons. Expect more of this be­hav­ior, not less, go­ing for­ward.

Most Stun­ning Re­sult: Bay­lor, which en­tered bowl week with a lame-duck coach­ing staff and a six-game los­ing streak, pulled it to­gether to knock off a Boise State team seek­ing to build on a 10-win sea­son. But the Bears pre­vailed, 31-12, in the Cac­tus Bowl. Least Stun­ning Re­sult: Top-ranked Alabama, the na­tion’s lone re­main­ing un­de­feated FBS team, de­feated Washington, 24-7, in the Peach Bowl in its CFP semi­fi­nal matchup. Best Post­sea­son Cel­e­bra­tion: Kansas State play­ers dump­ing a cooler filled with col­or­ful con­fetti, rather than ice-cold Ga­torade, on their 77-year-old coach, Bill Snyder, after the Wild­cats de­feated Texas A&M, 33-28, in the Texas Bowl.

Worst Post­sea­son Cel­e­bra­tion: Ok­la­homa team­mates throw­ing fake punches at run­ning back Joe Mixon after Mixon scored a touch­down in the team’s 35-19 vic­tory over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

A 2014 video of Mixon punch­ing a woman in a Nor­man, Okla., deli, which earned the run­ning back a one-year sus­pen­sion from the team, was fi­nally made pub­lic in De­cem­ber and has trig­gered the ire of many col­lege foot­ball fans. The cel­e­bra­tion was in poor taste and in­cred­i­bly in­sen­si­tive to the vic­tim of Mixon’s punch, who suf­fered bro­ken bones in her face.


Re­ceiver KD Can­non (9) and Bay­lor pro­vided the big­gest sur­prise of the bowl sea­son. The Bears routed Boise State de­spite com­ing in on a six-game los­ing streak.

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