The X-Factor Player in Every Big 12 Bowl Game
The X factor is that one intangible in every game that, despite its usually rare appearance, can be a game-changer.
Every team has an X factor player. He's that player whose performance can and will lift a team up in victory when the rest of the team just isn't clicking.
Who are these guys?
We've got your Big 12 X factors right here in every single Big 12 bowl.
Holiday Bowl: Baylor vs UCLA
This is very simple: If running back Lache Seastrunk rushes for over 100 yards against a BCS team, the Baylor Bears win.
The Bears lost four straight games (WVU, TCU, Texas, Iowa State) before righting themselves against Kansas. Seastrunk never rushed more than 56 yards in any of those losses, but rushed for 103 against Kansas.
The Baylor Bears then lost to Oklahoma—Seastrunk rushed for 91 yards—before reeling off three consecutive wins over Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State to end their regular season.
Seastrunk rushed for 185, 136 and 178 yards in those games, respectively.
Lache Seastrunk is the very definition of the X factor.
Meineke Bowl: Texas Tech vs Minnesota
I'll be honest here—I don't think the Texas Tech Red Raiders need any X Factor to beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but if I have to pick one that makes a definitive statement, it's going to be tight end Jace Amaro.
Amaro had a spleen injury that has kept him sidelined since mid-October, but he is now practicing with the team, albeit wearing a red no-contact jersey.
If Amaro plays in the bowl, quarterback Seth Doege will be firing passes to the 6'5", 257-pound target when he rolls out of the pocket—those diminutive defensive backs won't have a chance at defending the pass.
As of now, Amaro's status is questionable but if he is ready to go against Minnesota, you can put a big "X" on his jersey.
Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia vs Syracuse
Syracuse held four Big East opponents to under 100 yards rushing: Pittsburgh (27 yards), Rutgers (85 yards), UConn (minus-six) and Louisville (48 yards). West Virginia quarterback, Geno Smith, is not going to be running unabated through the Orange's defense.
The Mountaineers and the Orange played last year, and the Orange won 49-23 after constantly pressuring Geno Smith. I don't expect that to change since Syracuse averages two sacks per game.
But one player can literally take the wind out of the Orange's sails, and that guy is Tavon Austin. If the Orange score points, they are going to have to kick it off to Austin, and that's a big risk because Austin is lightning in a bottle; he's scored two touchdowns on kick/punt returns this year.
If they kick away from him, they risk the ball going out of bounds (a foul) and giving the Mountaineers great field position. If they kick to him, Austin could burn them and take it to the house.
Tavon Austin is the X factor.
Alamo Bowl: Texas vs Oregon State
With defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat out for the year (pectoral muscle), the pass-rushing burden will be on Alex Okafor, who is listed as probable (ankle) for the game.
Oregon State has allowed less than two sacks per game on average, so Texas' secondary is going to have to step up and play lights out defense.
Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton are two of the country's best receivers, and that's where cornerbacks Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom are going to have to step up big time—the duo has six interceptions between the two of them.
Some well-timed picks by either Diggs or Byndom will certainly dilute the Beavers' passing game.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: TCU vs Michigan State
Let's face it, the final score of this game may be 10-7 because both teams have great defenses and...how shall we say it...not very prolific offenses.
Both TCU and Michigan State average less than 400 yards of total offense per game, so don't expect this bowl to have different results. Unless one offensive player happens to steal the defense's thunder, I expect the X factor of this bowl to be a defensive player.
Defensive end Devonte Fields is a true freshman who made All-Big-12 first team this year. Fields had nine sacks (second in the league) and a league-leading 17.5 tackles for loss.
Devonte Fields will be pumped to have his first meet and greet with Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell.
Liberty Bowl: Tulsa vs Iowa State
Tulsa has a lethal rushing attack averaging over 240 yards per game, which means the Iowa State defense will be tested to its limit in the Liberty Bowl.
Two of the best linebackers in the Big 12, Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, figure to be the X factors in this game—Klein leads the Cyclones in tackles with 98.
If Klein doesn't have a big day of 10-plus tackles, Iowa State will be having a long day in Memphis.
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Oklahoma State vs Purdue
Everything points to a rout of Oklahoma State over Purdue, which means the Cowboys may come out flat. Real flat.
The one guy that may inspire the offense or defense is the kicker, and the Cowboys' Quinn Sharp is that guy. Nothing is a bigger morale booster than having a punter boom one 60 yards after a three-and-out by the offense.
I'm not saying this game will be close—especially if Joseph Randle has a big day on the ground—but expect the Cowboys to come out flat and Quinn Sharp to bail them out with his leg via punting or kicking the ball through the uprights.
Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State vs Oregon
The Oregon Ducks will be running the ball left, right and up the middle. So far, only one team has been able to stop the Ducks this year, and that was Stanford. How did the Cardinal do it?
The outstanding Cardinal defense limited Oregon to just 198 rushing yards when the Ducks had averaged 325 yards per game in their first 10 games.
Arthur Brown and Co. will have to stuff the middle while the Wildcats defensive ends pinch the edges. Brown is one of the best linebackers in the country, and this game will be his moment to revel in if he can limit running backs Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs Texas A&M
The Oklahoma Sooners face the high-flying Texas A&M Aggies in what is sure to be a shootout, but it won't be just a one-sided affair—technically, if it was one-sided, it wouldn't be a shootout, now would it?
Sooner quarterback Landry Jones is probably one of the most undervalued passers in the country—he went 46-of-71 and 500 yards against Oklahoma State and 38-of-51 and 554 yards against West Virginia.
In fact, if the rust hasn't settled in, Jones could continue his scorched earth passing game and steal Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman winner Johnny Manziel's thunder.