Big 12 has 3 games left, will leave 1 bowl spot unfilled
The winner of the Big 12 Conference's de facto championship game will get a sweet prize indeed.
While Oklahoma or Oklahoma State will be headed to the Sugar Bowl, the Big 12 overall won't have enough eligible teams to fill its seven guaranteed bowl spots.
Six Big 12 teams still have their regular-season finales to play Saturday, including the Bedlam rivalry game that will determine the conference champ. All of those teams already have six wins (or more) needed for bowl eligibility.
But none of the four teams that ended last weekend, including Texas and Texas Tech at 5-7, have winning records.
Seventh-ranked Oklahoma (9-2, 8-0 Big 12) and 11th-ranked Oklahoma State (9-2, 7-1) are both without a loss since September. In the other Big 12 regular-season finales, 14th-ranked West Virginia (9-2, 6-2) hosts Baylor (6-5, 3-5); and TCU (6-5, 4-4) is home against Kansas State (7-4, 5-3).
“I think our people would be fired up about the opportunity to be in a New Year's Day bowl,” coach Mike Gundy said Monday about the possibility of returning to the Sugar Bowl, where the Cowboys lost 48-20 last January.
“We had a great experience. We didn't play as well as we wanted to,” he said. “We were not a very healthy football team at that time and played a really, really good Ole Miss team.”
Oklahoma beat Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl three seasons ago, but last year was in the four-team playoff.
The Sooners, with eight wins in a row since losing two non-conference games, were eighth in the CFP ranking last week.
“You always want to have a chance at the national championship and the playoffs, but it doesn't work every year,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said during the Big 12 coaches teleconference. “You do the best you can.”
A new CFP ranking comes out Tuesday night, but the Sooners were already behind undefeated Alabama and one-loss Ohio State, which beat Oklahoma in September. The defending national champion Crimson Tide and the Buckeyes, even without going to the Big Ten title game, appear to be locked into playoff spots.
The winner of the Big Ten championship game — Wisconsin or Penn State — will have two losses, but both were also ahead of the Sooners. So were the potential ACC and Pac-12 champions.
With the Big 12 champion headed to the Sugar Bowl, or the runner-up if the champion somehow gets into the playoff, these are the league's other bowl spots to be filled:
The Alamo Bowl (vs. Pac-12) gets the second pick from Big 12 teams, followed by the Russell Athletic Bowl (vs. ACC), the Texas Bowl (vs. SEC), the Liberty Bowl (vs. SEC) and the Cactus Bowl (vs. Pac-12). That would leave the Armed Forces Bowl, with the smallest payout, without a Big 12 team for its game in TCU's home stadium.
Some other notes from the final Big 12 coaches teleconference of the season:
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has often talked about how unselfish his team is this season. The latest example is freshman running back Martell Pettaway, who had his redshirt pulled in the 11th game because of injuries, then ran 30 times for 180 yards and a touchdown. “We had no choice,” Holgorsen said. “If he was a selfish guy, he wouldn't have been on board with that. … He took advantage of his opportunity.”
Only the six coaches with games left took part in Monday's call. The leadoff spot held the past three seasons by Texas coach Charlie Strong, who was fired and replaced by Tom Herman, was silent, as were the usual slots for David Beaty of Kansas (2-10), Matt Campbell of Iowa State (3-9) and Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech (5-7) .
TCU, which got bowl eligible with its 31-9 win at Texas, also had two double-overtime losses and lost at home to Big 12-leading Oklahoma by six points. Coach Gary Patterson said many players will be back next year, along with some that missed this season with injuries. “We're going to see how much this group grows up,” he said.
LIKE THE MULLET
“Heck, it's grown on me through the season. Maybe I wasn't such a fan early on, but I've come to really like it,” Stoops said, chuckling, about Gundy's mullet haircut.