Big 12 Bowl Season Preview - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Big 12 Bowl Season Preview


The Big 12 did something this year that no conference had ever done. Ninety percent of the conference's teams reached bowl eligibility.

Those nine bowl eligible teams will play their games over the next week. The first of those games will be Thursday night, when Baylor (7-5) heads to the Bridgepoint Education Holiday to take on No.17 UCLA (9-4).

The Bruins nearly earned a trip to the Rose Bowl, but they lost by three in the Pac-12 Championship Game and ended up in San Diego. The offense is led by Johnathan Franklin, who ran for 1,700 yards on the season and broke the school's record for career all-purpose yards. Brett Hundley threw for 3,411 yards on the year, too, so UCLA will provide a challenge for the Baylor defense.

Baylor certainly had issues on that side of the ball during the regular season. This team was one of the hottest in the Big 12 at the end of the year, though. The Bears won four of their last five games, including the upset of then-top-ranked Kansas State. The team boasts one of the best offenses in the country, so this game should provide plenty of points.

The next game will be between Texas Tech (7-5) and Minnesota (6-6) in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Friday night. Both teams missed the postseason last season, and this is Minnesota's first bowl game since the 2009 Insight Bowl.

The Golden Gophers played poorly down the stretch, losing six of their final eight games. The only two wins in that span came against Illinois and Purdue- teams with a combined 8-16 record.

Minnesota's defense is going to have to find a way to slow down the potent Texas Tech offense, because the Golden Gophers aren't going to win a shootout. The Red Raiders are second in the country in passing yards per game and score 37 points per game. On the other hand, Minnesota is 99th in the country in scoring. Texas Tech has struggled on defense, but should have better success against Minnesota.

Saturday will feature three Big 12 bowl games. The first of those will be the New Era Pinstripe Bowl between West Virginia (7-5) and Syracuse (7-5). These two were obviously conference rivals just a year ago. The Orange has won two consecutive games against the Mountaineers, including a 49-23 blowout last year.

Both of these teams have pretty powerful offenses. Syracuse is led by Ryan Nassib, who throws for more than 300 yards per game. He had 229 yards and four touchdowns in last year's game. Syracuse won five of its last six games to get a share of the Big East Championship.

West Virginia comes into this game on less of a high note. The Mountaineers lost five in a row before winning their last two games against Iowa State and Kansas. The team has been led by a great offense, but the defense has really struggled for most of the year. Geno Smith reached the 4,000-yard plateau for the second consecutive season and threw for 40 touchdowns. Once again, this one should be high-scoring.

No. 23 Texas (8-4) and No.13 Oregon State (9-3) will then meet in San Antonio for the Valero Alamo Bowl.

The Beavers were one of the biggest surprises of the college football season. Coming off a 3-9 season, they won their first six games and spent some time in the top ten. Sean Mannion was the team's starting quarterback for most of the year, but Cody Vaz was recently named the starter for the bowl game. Each quarterback has missed time with injury, but head coach Mike Riley had to make a decision between two healthy quarterbacks for this one.

Texas has also split playing time among two quarterbacks, but it will be David Ash starting on Saturday. The Longhorns are coming off consecutive losses, so they'll be looking to end on a high note in this game.

The last game on Saturday will be the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, which will feature TCU (7-5) and Michigan State (6-6).

The Horned Frogs ended the season playing four consecutive ranked teams, but they were able to come away with wins in two of those in order to earn an invite to Tucson. They haven't been as explosive on offense as some other teams in the conference, but the defense was one of the best in the Big 12.

That defense will have to deal with Le'Veon Bell, one of the few bright spots on the Michigan State team this season. Bell rushed for 1,648 yards and eleven touchdowns on the season. He'll be going up against the best rush defense in the Big 12 in TCU.

The next bowl game will be a rematch, as Iowa State (6-6) and Tulsa (10-3) will meet up on Monday in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. These two teams met in the season's opening week, and Iowa State came away with a 38-23 win. Tulsa had a great season after that and eventually beat UCF to win the C-USA Championship.

Tulsa boasts a very good running game, but Iowa State yielded just 160 yards in the teams' previous meeting. The Cyclones lost five of their final seven games, so they aren't necessarily playing their best football coming into this game.

The next day, Oklahoma State (7-5) will face Purdue (6-6) in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Boilermakers were able to make a bowl game despite a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season. It took three consecutive wins at the end of the season to get a sixth win.

Oklahoma State's offense, like so many others in the conference, was among the best in the country this season. The team is fourth in the country with 44 points per game. The defense should have an easier time going up against Purdue rather than some of the high-powered Big 12 offenses.

Late in the season, there was still a chance that the Cowboys could sneak their way into a share of the Big 12 Championship, so it will be interesting to see if they act disappointed to be playing in this game. This should still be a good matchup for them, though.

The way the bowl schedule is set up, the Fiesta Bowl will not actually be the last Big 12 game. That honor goes to the AT&T Cotton Bowl, which should be a very interesting game. No.11 Oklahoma (10-2) will take on former division rival, No.9 Texas A&M (10-2), on January 4th.

After this game, the Sooners will have played all three Heisman finalists. How well they contain Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel will decide who comes away with the win. Manziel is the team's leading passer and rusher, and is the first freshman to ever win the Heisman. If he has a big day, it could be tough for Oklahoma to keep up.

That being said, the Sooners have a pretty good offense themselves. Landry Jones returned for another season in order to lead Oklahoma to a National Championship, and while that didn't happen, he did have a pretty good season, leading the nation's fifth-best passing attack.

Oklahoma was a favorite to earn an at-large bid to a BCS bowl until Northern Illinois climbed into the top 16 and took that final spot.

Because of that, No.5 Kansas State (11-1) will be the conference's only representative in one of those bowls, playing NO.4 Oregon (11-1) in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 3rd.

The Wildcats seemed to be on their way to a berth in the National Championship Game, but a terrible game against Baylor ended that dream. Now, they'll be rewarded by playing an Oregon team that some thought was the best in the country this year.

Kansas State has one of the best playmakers in the country in Collin Klein. The quarterback was two yards shy of being the team's rushing leader on the season and went to New York as one of the Heisman finalists.

However, Oregon's offense has plenty of playmakers, too, and might have the most exciting offense in college football. Fortunately for Kansas State, this team has had experience facing good offenses, but Oregon's might be the toughest yet. It will be a lot to ask of the defense to slow the Ducks down enough to take pressure off of the offense. If they can do that, though, Kansas State has a good chance of winning this game.

A BCS win over a team like Oregon would be a great way to end what has been a great season for the Big 12. The conference has provided some very exciting football this year.

And with so many teams earning their way into the postseason, there will be plenty of Big 12 games to watch during bowl season, beginning with Thursday night.


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