Big 12 Report: Eight Big 12 teams prepare for bowl matchups

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jeffrey McWhorter/AP/Shutterstock (13448896e) Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl, in Dallas Texas Oklahoma Football, Dallas, United States – 08 Oct 2022

Big 12 Report: Eight Big 12 teams prepare for bowl matchups

After a long and exciting regular season, eight teams from the Big 12 have qualified for bowl games. 

While many critics feel that bowl games have lost their luster due to the College Football Playoff, extending the season and gaining valuable practice time is a huge opportunity to build for the future for many programs.

A win in a bowl game can catapult a team to a huge following year. The Vince Young-led championship campaign at Texas began when the Longhorns defeated Michigan in the Rose Bowl the year before. For one Big 12 team, this year’s bowl win could be the spark that ignites a magical season in 2023.

Bowl season also provides additional practice time, allowing teams to improve. Young players will get reps during bowl prep they would not be able to receive during the grind of the regular season. Many “hidden gems” begin their rise to stardom during the extra practices afforded by a bowl berth. 

For many players, bowl games represent one last chance to play the game they love. While some players skip bowl games to protect draft stock, many players that suit up for a bowl game are doing so for the last time. The vast majority will never play the game professionally and will instead embark on another phase of life after these games. 

Besides, bowl season is fun. Who doesn’t love the marathon sessions of one game after another, watching teams ordinarily outside your wheelhouse? In what essentially boils down to a “one-game season” it can be exciting to watch contrasting styles clash.

Some bowl games won’t be great, but football is like pizza – even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. So enjoy bowl season. You’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Around the Big 12

No. 3 TCU will take on No. 2 Michigan in a College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl on December 31. This game marks TCU’s first appearance in the CFP and the first for a Big 12 team since 2019. The Wolverines roll into the matchup after capturing a Big Ten title and trouncing archrival Ohio State 45-23. For the Horned Frogs, the national semifinal is a chance at redemption after a heartbreaking overtime loss to No. 9 Kansas State in the Big 12 title game.

2022 Big 12 Champion Kansas State, ranked No. 9, will take on No. 5 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Eve. This is the Wildcats’ first trip to the Sugar Bowl and a massive chance to make a statement by knocking off one of college football’s “big boys”. Alabama is a dangerous team that missed out on the CFP because of two losses by a combined four points. 

After rallying from a midseason three-game losing streak, the Oklahoma Sooners clawed back to a 6-6 record and have earned a trip to the Cheez-It Bowl to take on No. 13 Florida State. If the Sooners can knock off the Seminoles on December 29, it would put a huge exclamation point on Brent Venables’ first season at the helm and jump-start Oklahoma’s drive into 2023.

No. 20 Texas and No. 12 Washington meet in the Valero Alamo Bowl on December 29. Texas improved to 8-4 in year two of the Steve Sarkisian era, and the future looks bright for this young team.  Their opponent from the Pac-12 features the nation’s leading passer in Michael Penix Jr., providing a good test for the resurgent Longhorn defense. Running back Bijan Robinson is most likely playing his last game for Texas and hopes to exit Austin with a big performance.

In the TaxAct Texas Bowl, the Texas Tech Red Raiders will meet Ole Miss. The Red Raiders managed a 7-5 season in Joey McGuire’s first year in Lubbock, and a win against a quality SEC opponent would add to the positive vibes out west. A bowl victory could salvage the season for the now-unranked Rebels of Ole Miss, who climbed as high as No. 7 in the polls this season. Ole Miss is coached by Lane Kiffin, whose offensive attack should guarantee some fireworks.

In the first Big 12 versus SEC matchup of bowl season, the surprising Kansas Jayhawks will take on Arkansas in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Both teams finished the year 6-6, but both probably had higher hopes at some point this season. Any bowl season is a good season for Kansas, but people in Lawrence may have allowed themselves to dream of playing on New Year’s Day after starting the season 5-0. Instead, the Jayhawks went 1-5 from that point on and now head to the Liberty Bowl.  Likewise, Arkansas started 3-0 but could not navigate its schedule without taking some lumps, including a 21-19 loss to Liberty.  

Oklahoma State will meet Wisconsin in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on December 27. At midseason, the Cowboys were ranked in the top ten and in the thick of the Big 12 championship chase, but Oklahoma State finished 7-5 after injuries derailed their high-flying offense. Wisconsin is in the middle of a coaching change, hiring Luke Fickell from Cincinnati to replace the departed Paul Chryst.

2021 Big 12 champion Baylor will kick off bowl season for the conference when it takes on Air Force in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl on December 22.  The Bears’ season exemplified how difficult it is to maintain a championship program, falling to TCU, West Virginia, and BYU by a combined 10 points. Air Force will be a tricky opponent, entering with a record of 9-3 and running an unorthodox offense.

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