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Big 12 Preview: Bowl Week

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Looking ahead to this weekend's Big 12 games that don't involve a certain team wearing green and gold

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It's the most wonderful time of the year: bowl season! After another season of fun in the Big 12 Conference, seven of the league's ten teams have advanced to play in the postseason, including two among the New Year's Six bowls. As conference champions, your Baylor Bears are playing in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl but what about the rest of the Big 12? We've previewed every game up until now, so let's preview the bowls as well. Here are the picks:

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M v. West Virginia
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (Memphis, TN)
Dec. 29, 1:00 PM CT
ESPN
Line: West Virginia (-1.5)

It's a matchup of Big 12 old vs. new as West Virginia goes up against the Aggies in lovely Memphis. Neither of these teams had the Liberty Bowl in mind in early October, especially A&M who was at one point ranked in the top 5, but a last chance remains to end 2014 on a high note. The big story leading into this one is West Virginia QB Clint Trickett's announcement late last week that he was retiring from playing football due to multiple concussions. The Mountaineers had to finish the season with Skyler Howard so this will not be a total shock to their system but it is still a loss. WVU will look to take advantage of an A&M defense that has been without a coordinator for the last few weeks following the firing of Mark Snyder. On the other side, Texas A&M has had some QB shuffling of their own as Kyle Allen took over as the starter in November after Kenny Hill lost any and all trillness that he built up in their season opening win at South Carolina. This will be one of those bowl games that the team that wants it more will likely be the team that ends up on top. Expect a high scoring affair given the vast amount of wide receiver talent on display in this game with Kevin White and Mario Alford of WVU going up against Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones for A&M. As much as I want to go with the Mountaineers for a multitude of reasons, I'm going to take the Aggies in a close one.

Prediction: Texas A&M 38 West Virginia 35

Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma v. #17 Clemson
Citrus Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Dec. 29, 4:30 PM CT
ESPN
Line: Oklahoma (-4.5)

After a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama and a preseason top 5 ranking, the Russell Athletic Bowl wasn't exactly the expectation in Norman this season but alas that's where the Sooners will match up against the Clemson Tigers from the ACC. If nothing else, this is an intriguing matchup as Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables faces off against the OU team where he held the same position from 1999-2011. The Sooners get a boost in this game as Trevor Knight will return as the Oklahoma QB for the first time since he was knocked out with a neck injury in the 4th quarter against Baylor back on November 8th. Knight helps the Sooner offense maintain a semblance of an aerial attack while also providing another threat in the run game. Clemson cannot say the same as freshman QB Deshaun Watson underwent knee surgery following the end of the regular season so Cole Stoudt will get the start for Dabo Swinney's Tigers. The key matchup in this game will be Oklahoma's offensive line leading the way for Samaje Perine against the Clemson defensive front led by stud DE Vic Beasley. If Oklahoma can get their ground game going early, they could make it a long day for a Clemson team that has been inconsistent on offense all season and will be hampered by the loss of Watson. The Sooner defensive line should be able to get after Stoudt and force him into some mistakes. I like Oklahoma to get their 9th win of the season and bring home a win for the Big 12.

Prediction: Oklahoma 28 Clemson 20

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas v. Texas
NRG Stadium (Houston, TX)
Dec. 29, 8:00 PM CT
ESPN
Line: Arkansas (-6.5)

This isn't the heavily rumored Texas-Texas A&M matchup that many folks were hoping for but the Texas Bowl should still appeal to the Southwest Conference purist as Arkansas and Texas rekindle their rivalry in Houston. The two teams have met 74 times previously with Texas holding a 53-21 advantage all-time. This will be the 5th meeting since Arkansas left the Southwest Conference in 1991 to join the SEC. The week got off to an interesting start between these two thanks to Bret Bielema. This will be an old school type of game in terms of style of play as well. Both teams prefer to win via a punishing ground game and solid defense. The matchup of Arkansas' offensive line against Texas' defensive line should be a fun one to watch. Arkansas has the largest offensive line in FOOTBALL (NFL included) but will be dealing with one of the best interior defensive linemen in the country in Malcom Brown of UT. Arkansas has a pair of 1000+ yard rushers in Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins that will test the Texas defense for all 60 minutes. Similarly, the Longhorns will look for big games from Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown to take pressure off of QB Tyrone Swoopes, who struggled mightily in an embarrassing Thanksgiving night loss to TCU. Arkansas' defense only gave up 38 points in its last 4 games, including 2 shut outs, so Texas will need to be on its game. In the end, I just think the Razorbacks are too big and strong for Texas in this one. Arkansas wins in a slugfest.

Prediction: Arkansas 23 Texas 13

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
#9 Ole Miss v. #6 TCU
Georgia Dome (Atlanta, GA)
Dec. 31, 11:30 AM CT
ESPN
Line: TCU (-3.5)

The first of the New Year's Six games has a Big 12/SEC flavor as TCU takes on Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl. TCU will look to come out and prove that they should have been a part of the College Football Playoff after falling from 3rd to 6th in the final CFP rankings despite a 55-3 trouncing of Iowa State on the last Saturday of the regular season. Even though the Frogs were unable to clinch a spot among the final four, an opportunity against an elite SEC West opponent is not a bad consolation prize. It provides a game where TCU can prove that it's spread offense that took the Big 12 by storm this season was no fluke against the top scoring defense in the country in Ole Miss, who allowed just 13.8 ppg during the regular season. Yet this will be the toughest test for the Rebel defense to date as well because, with all due respect to Auburn QB Nick Marshall, Trevone Boykin will be the best dual-threat QB that Ole Miss has seen all season. And the Frogs throw a ton of skill position talent at a defense led by WRs Josh Doctson and Deante' Gray and RB Aaron Green. When Ole Miss has the ball, it really depends on how QB Bo Wallace is feeling on gameday. When Dr. Bo is on, the Rebels can be tough to stop through the air as they are loaded with WR talent as well. When he isn't, he can take Ole Miss right out of a game. Look for the aggressive TCU defense to try to get after Wallace with their linebacking core to force him into poor decisions. I really think this is a perfect matchup for TCU to potentially flex their muscles if they come out with a chip on their shoulder, something that Gary Patterson has made a career out of in his 15 year tenure as the head coach in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs make a statement not only for themselves, but also for the Big 12.

Prediction: TCU 44 Ole Miss 28

Valero Alamo Bowl
#11 Kansas State v. #14 UCLA
Alamodome (San Antonio, TX)
Jan. 2, 5:45 PM CT
ESPN
Line: UCLA (-1)

Snyderball in San Antonio! K-State makes an appearance in the Alamo Bowl for the first time since an infamous game in 1998 as they take on former Baylor bowl game whipping boy UCLA. Kansas State comes in at 9-3 but with something to prove as their 3 losses were arguably to the 3 best teams on their schedule in Baylor, TCU and Auburn. The Wildcats have been consistently solid all season behind a stout defense and a potent passing game, but their ceiling has yet to be determined. UCLA has put up the same 9-3 record but it has been much more of a roller coaster ride for Jim Mora's Bruins. Led by junior QB Brett Hundley, UCLA has the talent to be one of the elite teams in the country and have shown it at times, but also have shown that they are capable of getting blown out by Stanford and nearly losing to Colorado. Defensively, the Bruins will look to LBs Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks to be playmakers to slow the K-State rushing attack and make life more difficult on Jake Waters, Tyler Lockett and the KSU passing game. If Charles Jones has a nice day on the ground, it will likely spell a long day for UCLA. The same probably applies for K-State's defense against UCLA RB Paul Perkins, who went over 1500 yards of total offense this season. I think this will be an interesting contrast in styles that will go right down to the wire. And while I think UCLA can out-athlete K-State, it's hard to pick against Bill Snyder with a month of preparation. I'll take the Wildcats to become the Big 12's 3rd 10 win team.

Prediction: Kansas State 31 UCLA 27

TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Washington v. Oklahoma State
Sun Devil Stadium (Tempe, AZ)
Jan. 2, 9:15 PM CT
ESPN
Line: Washington (-6)

Anyone see Oklahoma State making a bowl game with 3 weeks to go in the regular season? Yeah, neither did I. But the Cowboys pulled off the big upset in the Bedlam game in Norman to pick up win number 6 and send them to the Cactus Bowl in Arizona against former Boise State coach Chris Petersen and the Washington Huskies. True freshman QB Mason Rudolph has seemed to put a new spring in the step of the Oklahoma State offense since his redshirt was pulled prior to the Baylor game on November 22nd. The Cowboys will have to make due without Tyreek Hill, who has been kicked off the team after a domestic violence arrest (seriously guys, this crap needs to stop), so expect OSU to rely heavily on Desmond Roland in the ground game. I would expect Mike Gundy's offense to throw out a few special wrinkles as well considering that this is a bowl game that they are significant underdogs in. Washington has some great talent in RB/LB Shaq Thompson and QB Cyler Miles but inconsistency is what led UW to 8-5 rather than the lofty goals it had at the outset of the season. The Huskies should absolutely win this game on paper but something about this Oklahoma State team makes me think that they're primed for a big upset to cap off a strong finish to the season.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 24 Washington 23