How will the Big 12 do in the bowl games?
It seems like the Big 12 and Pac-12 are just alternating appearances in the College Football Playoff. This year it’s the Big-12 and one of its flagship programs returns with another chance to play in the National Championship Game.
Oklahoma has been the only team to represent the Big 12 in the playoff. The Sooners lost big to Clemson in the Orange Bowl in 2015 but will take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the Rose Bowl. It may seem like heresy to have a Rose Bowl game without a Big Ten or Pac-12 team involved but this is still expected to be a good game.
Any game that has quarterback Baker Mayfield is going to be good. The senior lit up the stat sheet with 4,340 passing yards and 41 touchdowns. Junior Austin Seibert also took specialist to another level by scoring 120 points as a kicker on 15 field goals and 75 PATs while also serving as the punter.
The skill position players have produced the same under first year head coach Lincoln Riley, even though the names may be different. The Sooner defense, which didn’t return a lot of players, allowed an average of 25 points per game, which is a bit impressive considering how advanced Big 12 offenses are.
The Sooners are going to have to overcome the classical ground and pound SEC team in Georgia, who are 4th in the country in points allowed per game (13.2) and 11th in rushing yards per game (263.5). I believe in the Baker and Oklahoma will beat Georgia on their way to their first title game appearance since 2008.
Camping World Bowl: (22) Virginia Tech vs. (19) Oklahoma State
The name may sound silly, but this is the third best bowl game for the Big 12. Oklahoma State have won games like this one before but Virginia Tech’s defense will pose the toughest challenge to the Cowboys this season. The Hookies are 5th in the nation in points allowed per game (13.5).
The Cowboys offense would be the perfect test for the VT defense. Mason Rudolph is a NFL prospect at quarterback, was at his best this season, throwing for 4,553 yards and 35 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver James Washington netted 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns and sophomore running back Justice Hill’s 1,347 yards and 14 touchdowns complete the highly potent offense. Something has to give, and it won’t be the Pokes.
Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida
Another season, another Texas Tech team that is 6-6 and full of hot air. By that I mean the Red Raiders’ head coach looks like Ryan Gosling but talks like Matthew McConaughey oversee a passing offense that is 11th in the nation in passing yards per game (326.8).
In David Gibbs’ third year as defensive coordinator, the defense hasn’t looked much better. The Red Raiders once again allowed over 30 points per game.
At least games involving Texas Teach are always fun to watch for those who love offense. Senior quarterback Nic Shimonek finally got his chance to start and threw for 3,547 yards and 30 touchdowns. Nine of those touchdowns went to junior wide receiver Keke Coutee, who also netted 1,242 receiving yards.
Former Texas head coach Charlie Strong rebounded well in South Florida and has a star quarterback of his own in Quinton Flowers, who threw for 2,600 yards, ran for 972 more and scored a total of 31 touchdowns. USF is in the top ten in rushing and have a top 20 offense overall but we’ve seen Texas Tech beat 10-win teams before in bowl games as the underdog but this won’t be one of them.
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah vs. West Virginia
West Virginia stays mediocre. The last time the Mountaineers were in the top ten, they lost to Oklahoma State last year on the road. Like Texas Tech, West Virginia threw for a ton of yards with Will Grier (3,490 yd, 34 td) and got a thousand yard rusher in Justin Crawford.
West Virginia will take on a Utah team that started the season 4-0 but went 2-6 the rest of the way. The Utes beat Colorado 34-13 in a game that decided the bowl status of both teams. Running back Zach Moss rushed for 1,023 yards and nine touchdowns. If West Virginia can stop him, they’ll win. I don’t think they will.
Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA
UCLA is more like the other Big 12 teams than Kansas State ever was. Oddly enough, UCLA is 6-0 at home but 0-6 on the road. Josh Rosen (3,717 yd, 26 td) will try to send Jim Mora out a winner against Bill Snyder’s Wildcats, he most likely will.
Valero Alamo Bowl: (13) Stanford vs. (15) TCU
TCU has defense. Stanford has a Heisman finalist at running back and also defense. It’s like both poker hands have a matching pair but only one of them has an ace on top of that. I predict the Pac-12 goes 3-0 against the Big 12.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Missouri
Texas has returned to the bowls in Tom Herman’s first season at head coach. The Longhorns get to stay close to home in Houston and take on a Missouri team that has us all scratching our head wonder just how they got here in the first place. Same can be said about Texas too.
One player to look closely at is Ray Guy Award finalist Michael Dickson. You might be watching him star at his position whether you like it or not, because fireworks are not expected from Texas.
Also watch the game to scout Missouri quarterback Drew Lock (3,695 yd, 43 td). If he declares for the NFL Draft after his junior season, the Arizona Cardinals could use him.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: (20) Memphis vs. Iowa State
It’s quite amazing to see that Iowa State reached bowl eligibility by beating both Oklahoma and TCU. David Montgomery (1,094 yd, 11 td) is the ISU bell cow but if the Cyclones are going to win, they will need to win the field position battle. Senior Colin Downing is one the best punters in the country. The Cyclones also have a top 30 defense that allows 21 points per game on average but will be taking on a Memphis team on the road (rare for a bowl game) that fell a few points short of the American Athletic Conference because the Tigers just couldn’t get to 60 points. Home field advantage might prove to be the difference in this game for Memphis.
Cuban Cowboy Bowl Picks: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Missouri, UCLA, Utah, South Florida and Stanford.