The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is the ultimate postseason prize for Big 12 teams
With football season less than 100 days away, Big 12 teams are already thinking about their postseason goals.
The 2013-14 season will be the last season of the current BCS format. So with the new four-team playoff format, some changes will soon be implemented to the bowls that Big 12 teams go to.
However, this season will feature the same format as the 2012-13 bowl season.
Last year, nine of the 10 teams in the league made the postseason, with Kansas being the only team left out.
As the 2013 season is fast approaching, here are predictions for which teams will end up in which bowls.
WR Eric Ward (right) will have to put the team on his back in 2013.
With a new head coach and a new quarterback in Lubbock this season, the Texas Tech Red Raiders probably won't have a breakout year in the Big 12.
However, there is still plenty of talent on the roster, including standout wide receiver Eric Ward. He'll be a huge part of Kliff Kingsbury's scheme, which will likely look to continue air-raid style that the Red Raiders have been utilizing since the days of Mike Leach.
If the offense can continue to put up big numbers, this team should get enough wins to be bowl eligible. However, three of them will probably have to come against the team's three non-conference opponents: SMU, Stephen F. Austin and Texas State.
Once the Red Raiders step into the Big 12, finding more than three or four wins in league will be tough. That means the Red Raiders will likely go to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which gets the eighth pick of Big 12 teams.
The Red Raiders are actually probably better than Iowa State, the seventh team on this list, but it's more likely that the Pinstripe Bowl will leave a Texas team out of New York City and allow the Heart of Dallas Bowl to select the Red Raiders.
QB Jordan Barnett and the team that upset then-No. 2 Oklahoma State lost in the Pinstripe Bowl to Rutgers later that season.
The Iowa State Cyclones are no strangers to the Pinstripe Bowl. Just three games after beating then-No. 2 Oklahoma State in 2011, the Cyclones traveled to Yankee Stadium to face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the second-ever Pinstripe Bowl.
The Cyclones lost to the Scarlet Knights 27-13 in a game that is now part of an 0-3 record the Big 12 has in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Now in the last year the Big 12 will go to the Pinstripe Bowl, the Cyclones may have a chance to redeem not only themselves but the entire conference as well.
The Cyclones have an uphill battle in 2013, which is why the bowl with the seventh pick of Big 12 teams may be the best Paul Rhoads and his team can do.
Wins on the schedule may be hard to come by, especially in league play for Iowa State. The Cyclones have a good chance to sweep through its three-game non-conference schedule against Northern Iowa, Iowa and Tulsa.
In the Big 12, the best chances for the Cyclones to get to six wins and bowl eligibility will be a home matchup with Kansas and road games against West Virginia and Texas Tech.
If the Cyclones drop one of those games, they'll have to either beat Texas, Oklahoma State or TCU at home or travel to Baylor, Kansas State or Oklahoma and steal one on the road.
Another year of disappointment for the Texas Longhorns will find QB David Ash (No. 14) and company in the Texas Bowl.
Last year was another season that saw the Texas Longhorns fall short of expectations. However, the Longhorns finished 8-4 in the regular season, well enough to earn a bid to the Alamo Bowl. There, the Longhorns beat Oregon State 31-27.
However, the 2013 schedule isn't kind to Mack Brown's bunch. The Longhorns may not even escape non-conference play with a perfect record, as they have to travel to BYU, an always tough team to beat on the road.
In Big 12 play, the only road game Texas should take care of without any problems is against West Virginia. They also visit TCU, Baylor and Iowa State in 2013.
The Longhorns should beat the Cyclones in Ames, Iowa. But winning in Ames is no guarantee in the Big 12. Just ask the 2011 Oklahoma State Cowboys, who lost to the Cyclones on the road and were knocked out of contention for a BCS national title berth because of it.
Defending home turf won't be easy either for Texas, as they have dates set up with Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Again, the only guarantee in there should be Kansas.
And let's not forget that the Longhorns have to play the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry, a game the Longhorns got embarrassed last year by a score of 63-21.
Finding six to seven wins for the Longhorns in their schedule isn't too tough. But finding anymore than maybe eight is really tough. That's why the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, the bowl with the sixth pick of Big 12 teams, is the projected postseason destination for the team.
Bob Stoops has to replace his QB and plenty of others in Norman this season.
The last time the Oklahoma Sooners played in the Holiday Bowl was in 2005, when they beat Oregon 17-14.
However, after appearing in the Cotton Bowl last year, the Sooners will slide down to the bowl with the fifth pick of Big 12 teams in 2013.
The main reason: It's an almost brand new team in Norman.
Not only does Bob Stoops have to replace QB Landry Jones, but he also has to replace seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, according to ESPN's David Ubben.
Other big-time losses for the Sooners include running back Dominique Whaley, wide receiver Kenny Stills and offensive tackle Lane Johnson.
Not only does Stoops have to replace a bunch of players, he also has a tougher schedule in 2014 than he did in 2012.
The two losses in 2012 for the Sooners came at home to Kansas State and Notre Dame. Now Oklahoma has to travel to Manhattan, Kan. and South Bend, Ind. in 2013. Those dates certainly won't be easy.
Beside Notre Dame, the other two non-conference games against Louisiana-Monroe and Tulsa are pretty easy matchups. Home matchups against West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State should also be games the Sooners breeze through.
The road is brutal to the Sooners though in 2013. In addition to traveling to Kansas State and Notre Dame, Oklahoma also travels to Waco, Texas and Stillwater, Okla. to play the Baylor Bears and Oklahoma State Cowboys respectively. Those games won't be easy at all.
Regardless of the lack of returners and a brutal schedule, it's still Bob Stoops running the show, and it's still Oklahoma football. The Sooners will find seven to eight wins. However, it's just tough to say they'll get much more, which is why the Holiday Bowl is a good projection for Oklahoma.
QB Clint Chelf simply doesn't have what it takes to get Oklahoma State to a primetime bowl game like the Fiesta Bowl or Cotton Bowl.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are projected to have a big season.
After appearing in the Heart of Dallas Bowl one year ago, the Cowboys are currently projected as the 15th-best team in the nation heading into 2013, according to Mark Schlabach of ESPN.
However, the Cowboys may be a bit overrated and don't necessarily deserve the spot as the Big 12's second-highest-ranked team in Schlabach's rankings.
First off, to win in the Big 12, you have to have quality play at quarterback. Right now, the starter is projected to be Clint Chelf. Not only has Chelf failed to start a full season in the Big 12, but he's only thrown for 300 yards in a game once, and that was against Baylor, one of the worst defenses in the league.
Secondly, the Cowboys have a very tough schedule which will prevent them from going to an elite bowl game like the Fiesta Bowl or Cotton Bowl.
Oklahoma State kicks off the season against SEC foe Mississippi State. While the Bulldogs aren't one of the elite teams in the SEC, playing a team from college football's best conference to start off the year is not easy.
Boone Pickens Stadium will also get its share of contenders coming into town in 2013. The Cowboys have four extremely tough league games in Stillwater against Kansas State, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma. All of those games could go either way.
Road games against Iowa State and Texas aren't a walk in the park either. Just ask Mike Gundy about how he feels about playing in Ames. If his team didn't get upset there in 2011, he would've played for a national title.
The Cowboys have a lot of talent on their roster, so eight wins is a good mark to reach. But with such a brutal schedule, it's tough to imagine that the Cowboys will finish in the top two of the league. That's why the bowl with the fourth pick of Big 12 teams, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, is where the Cowboys will end up.
Bill Snyder will need to work his magic in Manhattan again for the Wildcats to have a good year in 2013.
One year removed from a Big 12 title and a berth into the Fiesta Bowl, the Kansas State Wildcats have to build from the ground up in 2013.
The Wildcats have the fewest returners of any team in the Big 12 with just eight total, according to David Ubben of ESPN.
However, will Bill Snyder at the helm and a favorable schedule for the Wildcats, this team could see another very successful year in 2013.
Bill Snyder is legendary for not scheduling tough teams for his non-conference slate. So the home games against North Dakota State, Louisiana-Lafayette and UMass should be easy contests for the Wildcats.
Kansas State then kicks off Big 12 play against Texas in Austin. While the Longhorns are going to be a tough team to beat in 2013, the Wildcats are notorious for taking care of Mack Brown's squad.
The Wildcats haven't lost to Texas since 2004 and have won five straight games against the Longhorns.
Kansas State gets to play some of its toughest opponents at home. Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma all have to travel to Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
The toughest road games besides Texas for the Wildcats will be at Oklahoma State. Kansas State also travels to Texas Tech and Kansas, both of which should be wins for Bill Snyder.
You'll never out-coach Bill Snyder. Even with bad teams, Snyder finds a way to get six wins. This team isn't bad, so nine or even 10 wins is certainly possible.
However, it's tough to see the Wildcats winning the Big 12 again, or even finishing in the top two.
But the Alamo Bowl, the bowl with the third selection of Big 12 teams, is certainly a quality draw for the Wildcats in 2013.
RB Lache Seastrunk will propel the Baylor Bears to the best non-BCS bowl in the country, the Cotton Bowl.
There is absolutely no better non-BCS bowl game than the Cotton Bowl.
It's played in Cowboys Stadium. It gets huge, primetime coverage on FOX. And it's simply one of the most historic college bowl games in the sport's history.
And in 2013, the Baylor Bears are going to represent the Big 12 in this prestigious bowl game.
Baylor finished last season as one of the hottest teams in the country. Not only did the Bears upset then-No. 1 Kansas State, they also smashed UCLA in the Holiday Bowl 49-26.
The Bears return 13 starters from that unit, according to ESPN's David Ubben, including running back Lache Seastrunk.
Seastrunk will be one of the best running backs in the entire country, making the transition for Art Briles and whoever he selects to replace QB Nick Florence much easier.
The schedule is also pretty favorable for the Bears. They won't get tested in its non-conference slate against Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe. So the Bears will have three games to work out any possible kinks in its scheme.
In league play, Baylor should find wins at home against West Virginia, Iowa State and Texas Tech. A road test against Kansas shouldn't be too hard either. That already puts the Bears at seven wins.
The toughest matchups will be at home against Oklahoma and Texas and on the road against Kansas State, Oklahoma State and TCU. Baylor beat two of those teams last year (Kansas State and Oklahoma State). If the Bears can find three wins in that bunch, it could compete for a conference title.
However, it usually takes 11 wins for a team to win the Big 12 and go to the Fiesta Bowl. So expect the Bears to settle for a big-time date in the Cotton Bowl.
QB Casey Pachall (left) and head coach Gary Patterson (right) will lead the TCU Horned Frogs to a Big 12 title.
Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs know what its like to be in a BCS bowl. In 2009 and 2010, the Horned Frogs appeared in the Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl respectively. They won the Rose Bowl over Wisconsin by a score of 21-19.
Now, as the Horned Frogs enter their second year in the Big 12, they have the pieces to win the conference and the Big 12's automatic bid to the Fiesta Bowl.
The biggest piece coming back in quarterback Casey Pachall. Before he left the team due to issues with drugs and alcohol last season, he led the Horned Frogs to a 4-0 record with 948 yards passing and 10 touchdowns.
If Pachall has cleaned up his act, he could be the best quarterback in a league that is known for having great signal-callers. That certainly gives TCU an edge.
The other edge is the number of returners the Horned Frogs have. According to David Ubben of ESPN, the Horned Frogs return 15 players, the second-highest in the conference.
Schedule-wise, the Horned Frogs will face a big hurdle early. The team faces LSU to start the season, and they'll do it without arguably their best defensive player in defensive end Devonte Fields, who was suspended for TCU's first two games.
However, once the Horned Frogs get past LSU, their schedule gets much easier. Their other two non-conference games against Southeastern Louisiana and SMU should be cake-walks.
In the Big 12, TCU faces Kansas, Texas, West Virginia and Baylor at home. The only really tough game there will be the Baylor Bears.
On the road, the Horned Frogs have to visit Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Kansas State. Those will be four extremely tough road games, but Gary Patterson is a great coach who knows how to handle big-time environments.
The Horned Frogs are poised for a big season in 2013. With the league having so many teams with so many new players, TCU has an opportunity to take the conference title. If they find a way to beat LSU to start the year, the Horned Frogs could have an outside shot at a national title berth.
But for now, expect the Horned Frogs to appear in the Fiesta Bowl.