Analyzing nine bowl matchups for Big 12
Three other matchups to be with Big Ten.
8:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Can the Bears get enough stops?
The Bears defense improved in the threegame winning streak to end the season yet still ranks 117th. Emerging linebackers Eddie Lackey and Bryce Hager (Westlake) and safety Sam Holl need impact plays to help cover for glaring weaknesses in the front four and at corner.
Baylor will score plenty with the nation’s No. 1 total offense. The last team with the ball probably wins this shootout.
Meineke Car Care Bowl Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Minnesota (6-6), 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Can the Red Raiders force any turnovers?
Remarkably, Tech failed to produce a turnover in the final five games, four of them losses. For the year, Tech had just 10 and was 106th in turnover margin.
The good news is all the Golden Gophers can do is run, and they lack explosion. Even with Tommy Tuberville high- tailing it out of town, QB Seth Doege and the second-ranked Air Raid offense should romp. Tech is a whopping 13point favorite.
Pinstripe Bowl West Virginia (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5), 2:15 p.m. (ESPN)
How does Tavon Austin dazzle us this time?
This just in: Austin scooted for 15 yards in the time it took you to read this sentence. The little guy had 572 all-purpose yards against Oklahoma. For the year, he has 1,259 receiving yards, 903 return and 598 rushing. Even though he’s 5-9, 170, he’s starting to show up in the first round of NFL mock drafts.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State (6-6), 9:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Will Trevone Boykin sustain enough drives?
The Horned Frogs’ freshman QB is erratic and, knowing that, Gary Patterson keeps him on a short leash. That means TCU’s excellent receiving corps is under-utilized. Boykin also has to be a main running threat because backfield depth is so thin.
The Frogs need timeconsuming drives to play keep away from the Spartans’ 238-pound sledgehammer, Le’Veon Bell (1,648 rushing yards).
Alamo Bowl Texas (8-4) vs. 15-Oregon State (9-3), 5:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Will the poor-tackling Horns’ D weather the Storm?
Pflugerville’s Storm Woods will be the latest back to take aim at Texas’ 101st-ranked rushing defense. The Beavers have a pair of 1,000-yard wideouts, but stopping Woods (822 yards, 4.8 average) would make them one dimensional. Then another ex-Pflugerville star, senior DE Alex Okafor, could try to go out with a bang.
Liberty Bowl Iowa State (6-6) vs.Tulsa (10-3), 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
How do the Cyclones battle an opponent bent on revenge?
The ’Clones rallied to beat the Golden Hurricane 38-23 in the season opener. In bowl rematches of regularseason games, the team that lost has won 10 of the last 15. Iowa State is at a psychological disadvantage, and it doesn’t help that the ’Clones are No. 88 in total offense and No. 98 in total defense.
Heart of Dallas Bowl Oklahoma State (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6), 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
Can the Cowboys avoid laughing at their foe?
The Boilermakers, like Minnesota, don’t belong in a bowl. They fired their coach, which says it all. Minor bowls often come down to motivation. As long as OSU players don’t stay out all night long on New Year’s Eve, they should have plenty to dust Purdue.
Fiesta Bowl 7-Kansas State (11-1) vs. 5-Oregon (11-1), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
How do the Wildcats prevent this from becoming a track meet?
K-State wants to go low and slow; Oregon is pedal to the metal. The Wildcats are short on speed, so discipline and gap control will be crucial in containing Ducks’ QB Marcus Mariota, RB Kenjon Barner and WR/ RB De’Anthony Thomas. K-State needs to take care of all the little things, and it is No. 1 in turnover margin and return yardage.
Cotton Bowl 10-Texas A&M (10-2) vs. 12-Oklahoma (10-2), 7:10 p.m. (FOX)
Is there any way to slow down Johnny Heisman?
The Sooners defense has been poor against the run (81st) but is 10th vs. the pass. Johnny Manziel will do his thing; OU isn’t disruptive (109th in tackles for loss, 63rd in sacks). But it’s possible Manziel is outshined by Landry Jones. The Big 12 career passing leader is making his college farewell, and he’ll be amped to show the kid how it’s done.
Big 12 football teams scheduled so softly out of conference that we really don’t have a good feel for where it rates this year.
It’s certainly not the SEC, which had six 10-game winners who each made the top 10 of the final BCS poll. The Big 12 has only two teams in the AP Top 25.
So No. 1 is definitely out. What about No. 2? Can the Big 12 stack up to the Pac-12?
We’re about to find out. There are three attractive Big 12 vs. Pac-12 bowl matchups, starting Thursday night when Baylor plays UCLA in the Holiday Bowl.
Oddsmakers like the Pac12 in all three, although UCLA and Oregon State (vs. Texas in the Alamo) are just slight favorites. Fifth-ranked Oregon is a strong choice (9.5 points) over Big 12 champ Kansas State in the Fiesta.
The Big 12 lacked a single non-league marquee victory, but these Pac-12 tests, plus Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, will provide ample opportunity.
Unless it gets skunked by the Pac-12, the Big 12 should build a strong bowl record simply because it is matched up with the downtrodden Big Ten a lot more (three times) than the mighty SEC (once).
The Big 12 is favored in all three games against the Big Ten. In fact, Oklahoma State, playing Minnesota in the Heart of Dallas, is the biggest favorite (18 points) in any of the 35 bowls. And the Cowboys lost their last two games.
Here is a key question each Big 12 team has to answer, tackling the bowls chronologically: THURSDAY
Holiday Bowl Baylor (7-5) vs. 17-UCLA (9-4),
West Virginia all-purpose threat Tavon Austin (1,259 yards receiving, 903 in returns, 598 rushing) faces Syracuse.
Safety Sam Holl leads an improved defense, but Baylor still ranks just 117th heading into a potential shootout with UCLA.
Desmond Jackson (left) and the Texas defense will face Oregon State; Kansas State’s Collin Klein will battle Oregon.
Oklahoma’s big challenge will be trying to contain Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M (2).