Ranking the Big 12 bowl games
The Big 12 bowl pairings have been announced, but which ones should you make the most effort to watch? Here are the seven Big 12 bowl games, ranked by watchability.
2. Cotton Bowl: Baylor vs. Michigan State
The only FBS team better in turnover margin are the Spartans, at +20, thought Baylor's no slouch at +12. This game is at No. 2 because of the teams' quality, and it's always more fun when contrasting styles go head to head. That's exactly what you'll see in Baylor's second trip to AT&T Stadium in three games. Baylor's aggressive, uptempo style has run 1,064 plays (the most in FBS) and gone 25-of-33 on fourth down this season. Michigan State has run just 906 plays and gone 8-of-14 on fourth downs. The Spartans actually average more yards per play (6.58 to 6.56) than Baylor.
I will henceforth refer to this game only as The Upgrade Bowl. When Texas A&M and Missouri left the conference, many thought WVU and TCU would be upgrades on the field for two programs that combined for just one conference title in league history. Through two years, that looked pretty foolish. This year, it turned in the Big 12's favor a little bit with TCU in the thick of the playoff hunt. The Frogs also won a Big 12 title, equaling Texas A&M's total and doing what Missouri never did. Now, in Memphis, we get Texas A&M's second game against a Big 12 member since leaving the league. It's not Texas, but it'll have plenty of intrigue.
4. Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Arkansas
After Oklahoma State was snubbed in 2011 in favor of Alabama, yours truly and plenty of others began a campaign for more games against the SEC. The Big 12 played just twice in 2010 and 2011. Well, here we are. The Big 12 will have three games against the SEC in the bowl season and all three are winnable matchups. If the league wants to improve its street cred, it needs to win these games. Lose them and the distance in reputation between the SEC and Big 12 will only grow. No Big 12 bowl game will have fewer passes and more quality running backs than this one.
5. Alamo Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA
This is the third time Bill Snyder has faced UCLA since he returned to the K-State sidelines in 2009. Snyder went 1-1 in a 2009 and 2010 home-and-home. The Wildcats demolished traditional power Michigan in last year's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but this is a matchup of top 15 teams and Kansas State is 0-3 in games against opponents in the final top 25 with two double-digit losses. Senior UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley finished 10th nationally in passer rating, but K-State receiver Tyler Lockett will be looking to end his career in style after being snubbed by the Biletnikoff Award. There's not a better route runner in college football.
6. Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Clemson
Call this game the VenaBowl. Longtime Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables takes on his former colleagues, but Clemson will be without offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who took the SMU head coaching job earlier this month. The Sooners will try and bounce back after their season ended with a thud, blowing a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead in half a quarter and losing in overtime, their third home loss of the season. Samaje Perine is questionable for the game with an ankle injury, too, which hurts it on the watchability scale. The Sooners didn't play pretty down the stretch and haven't beaten a bowl team since Oct. 11 vs. Texas.
7. Cactus Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Washington
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