An­a­lyz­ing nine bowl matchups for Big 12

Three other matchups to be with Big Ten.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS BRIEFING - Con­tact Kevin Lyt­tle at 4453615.

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.

Fri­DAY

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.

SATUr­DAY

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.

MON­DAY

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.

TUeS­DAY

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.

JAN. 3

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.

JAN. 4

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),

CHRISTO­PHER JACK­SON / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

West Vir­ginia all-pur­pose threat Tavon Austin (1,259 yards re­ceiv­ing, 903 in re­turns, 598 rush­ing) faces Syra­cuse.

TONY GUTIERREZ / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Safety Sam Holl leads an im­proved de­fense, but Bay­lor still ranks just 117th head­ing into a po­ten­tial shootout with UCLA.

RODOLFO GON­ZA­LEZ / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Des­mond Jack­son (left) and the Texas de­fense will face Ore­gon State; Kansas State’s Collin Klein will bat­tle Ore­gon.

DAVE EINSEL / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ok­la­homa’s big chal­lenge will be try­ing to con­tain Heis­man-win­ning quar­ter­back Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M (2).

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