Merry Christmas Baylor family! With Big 12 bowls kicking off this Friday, here’s my gift to you all on this joyous day... Big 12 bowl game previews!
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl: #25 Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M
Friday, December 27th 5:45 PM CT, ESPN
#25 Oklahoma State (8-4) travels to Houston to take on Texas A&M (7-5) out of the SEC in the Texas Bowl. I think everyone was rooting for this to be a matchup between Texas and Texas A&M but this is still a fun game to kickoff the Big 12 bowl season. At the writing of this preview, A&M is favored by seven points and ESPN’s FPI gives them about a 62% chance of victory. You’re going to notice a trend of Big 12 teams being underdogs in these games. A bit of a boost for Oklahoma State will be the return of Spencer Sanders, who had been declared out for the season with a thumb injury but was announced as being back by Coach Mike Gundy. Sanders at times looked great but was pretty turnover prone so while that news isn’t bad news, it could be a mixed bag. Ultimately, A&M had a stronger defense this season while OSU had a superior offense. If Chuba Hubbard can get the ball moving on the ground I think OSU could cruise to a victory. If Oklahoma State has to start throwing a lot, that’s where the Aggies could take advantage of a tumultuous quarterback situation. Notably, A&M never beat a ranked team this season. Even though they’re favored, I don’t quite see it happening here against the 25th ranked Cowboys. OSU runs the ball just well enough to outshine Kellen Mond and the Aggie offense.
42-38 Oklahoma State
Camping World Bowl: Iowa State vs. #15 Notre Dame
Saturday, December 28th 11:00 AM CT, ABC
This is certainly an interesting matchup, where it seems like Cyclones fans’ traveling prowess has rewarded them with a significantly better bowl than their record might justify. Iowa State (7-5) will play #15 Notre Dame (10-2) in Orlando for the Camping World Bowl. Somewhat surprisingly, Notre Dame is only a 4 point favorite. However, there is some merit to this. At times during this season Iowa State looked like they were one of the top tier teams in the Big 12. When Brock Purdy is on his game it is near impossible to slow them down. Further, they boast a similar defensive scheme to Baylor, which has served them quite well in the Big 12. On the flipside, Notre Dame has had a slightly stronger defense, especially against the pass. However, the Notre Dame offense is weaker. Ian Book and the Fighting Irish offense have had a difficult time pushing the ball down field throughout the season. With the 3-5-3 defense Iowa State runs, I suspect they will be able to create a lot of congestion in the short passing game and force Notre Dame to either throw deep or run the ball. ND has done fairly well rushing but the deep ball will be more challenging. Really this game could come down to which Purdy comes out to play. I’ll bank on him playing up to the opponent like he has a number of times and the Cyclones squeak out a win.
30-28 Iowa State
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: #4 Oklahoma vs. #1 LSU
Saturday, December 28th 3:00 PM CT, ESPN
Once again, #4 Oklahoma (12-1) is in the playoff. Once again they are a heavy underdog against a top seeded foe. #1 LSU (13-0) is favored by 13 points at the writing of this article. And this is a weird game to pick on the Oklahoma side. The Sooners have consistently had one of the top offenses in the country the last few years. That hasn’t changed per se this year, but I’m really far less impressed with this offense than the Mayfield and Murray iterations. Much of that has to do with Jalen Hurts who doesn’t have the same arm talent as his predecessors and has seemed far more turnover prone. However, the Oklahoma defense has made dramatic improvements under new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. The question will be if that defense can hold up against the new Heisman winner, quarterback Joe Burrow. It doesn’t help that OU’s starting defensive end, along with some other players, are suspended for this game. LSU’s Burrow has been incredible this year and has plenty of talent around him. That will be a tall order for any team. Plus, LSU might very well be the best defense OU has played... and that OU offense looked very lackluster against Baylor in the Big 12 Championship. As with years past, I doubt OU makes it through the semifinals of the playoff.
Autozone Liberty Bowl: Kansas State vs. #23 Navy
Tuesday, December 31st 2:45 PM CT, ESPN
Wildcat fans are very #MadOnline about this bowl matchup. Kansas State (8-4) got passed over in the bowl selection process by some teams they beat with worse records. Still, KState needs to have its collective head screwed on straight to avoid losing to #23 Navy (10-2) in Memphis for the Liberty Bowl. Navy is currently a two point favorite over Kansas State. Navy is always a difficult matchup because of their option style offensive attack. However, Kansas State has the benefit of multiple weeks to prepare for that unique scheme. The problem Kansas State will have is their run defense has been just okay this season. It will really have to step up to take down the Midshipmen. Further, Kansas State’s offense has been weaker both in yardage and scoring than Navy’s this season. If Navy can effectively ball control and suck the life out of the game, they could get a slow building blowout victory. I don’t think Navy quite pushes it to that point, but I think they do get the win.
Valero Alamo Bowl: Texas vs. #11 Utah
Tuesday, December 31st 6:30 PM CT, ESPN
Texas (7-5) enters this Alamo Bowl on the heels of a very disappointing season and a lot of assistant coaching turnover. Coach Tom Herman fired defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, replacing him with former Rutgers coach Chris Ash. He also demoted offensive coordinator Tim Beck and fired or demoted a number of other assistants. Clearly, Herman is fed up with how the season went and understands he may be coaching for his job next season. None of that inspires much confidence for Texas as they take on #11 Utah (11-2). While Utah has struggled against ranked teams this season, they have demolished lesser competition with their overwhelming defense and dynamic offense. While Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger has thrown more touchdown passes than Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley, Huntley has been far more efficient with far fewer passing attempts. Utah also boasts a significantly stronger rushing attack. But where the Utes will ultimately win this game is their defense. Utah only allows, on average, 256.2 yards and 13.2 points. Texas gives up 446.3 yards and 28.9 points on average. With all the turnover and the decided statistical advantage in favor of Utah, the seven point spread for Utah seems too low.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: #7 Baylor vs. #5 Georgia
Wednesday, January 1st 7:45 PM CT, ESPN
This is the big one for Bears fans as #7 Baylor (11-2) takes on SEC foe #5 Georgia (11-2) in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. This is also a significant bowl for national audiences as it is the last of the New Year’s Six bowls. Baylor enters this game as a six point underdog to Georgia. However, a quick history lesson is in order. This is the first time Baylor has played in the Sugar Bowl since 1957. On the other hand, Georgia played in the Sugar Bowl just last year. Further, they got smoked by Texas in a clear let down spot after they just missed on the playoff. Well, one year later and they are once again playing a Big 12 team from Texas in a bowl game they don’t really want to be in. Meanwhile, Baylor is looking to cap off its meteoric rise with a top notch bowl win and momentum moving into next season. Statistically, quarterback Jake Fromm of Georgia looks pretty similar to Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer. However, we still don’t know what the status of Brewer is after suffering a concussion in the Big 12 Championship. That would leave the job in the hands of either Gerry Bohanon or Jacob Zeno. Bohanon looked... pretty unprepared in the Big 12 championship game. Zeno, on the other hand, came in and immediately started slinging the ball. Coach Matt Rhule has also said Bohanon got banged up in the championship. So while it is unclear who will start, I might put my bet on Zeno. On the whole, Baylor’s offense has been slightly better than Georgia’s. Defensively, Georgia has slightly better total yardage and points stats. However, Baylor’s defense has weathered the Big 12 which boasts stronger offenses. So it’s hard to say which team has the defensive edge, but one thing is clear: this game might very well become a defensive slugfest. I am most concerned about Baylor’s offensive line protecting whoever is taking snaps. Still, I think the defense pulls together one more strong game, giving the offense enough to work with to get an extremely narrow win.