The Best Storylines from Each of the Big 12's Bowl Games
Bowl season is rapidly approaching, providing college football fans all over the country a much-needed escape from visiting with the in-laws.
The Big 12's six bowls are full of storylines, from Mack Brown's last game at Texas to Oklahoma being a major underdog in a BCS bowl.
The Sooners aren't alone, however. Four Big 12 teams are listed as underdogs, according to VegasInsider.com, three of which are by double digits.
Bowl season could be rough for the Big 12. Or, it could be remembered as the year the conference rose to the occasion.
Which storylines stand out in the coming weeks?
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Kansas State vs. Michigan
Saturday, Dec. 28 at 10:15 p.m. ET
Can K-State Ride its Momentum into 2014 as a Preseason Big 12 Favorite?
Other than Oklahoma State, no Big 12 team finished the second half of the year hotter than Kansas State. The Wildcats won five of their last six games and looked nothing like the team that lost to North Dakota State in Week 1.
Capping off the season with a win over Michigan, however lowly the Wolverines are these days, would be a huge boost heading into the offseason. With quarterbacks Daniel Sams and Jake Waters returning in 2014, along with plenty of defensive players, the 'Cats should be one of the preseason favorites to win the Big 12.
Will This be Tyler Lockett's Last Game?
Speaking of returning starters, wide receiver Tyler Lockett could be on the fence. He's only a junior, so returning to Manhattan is certainly possible.
However, Lockett finished as one of the best at his position in the conference with 1,146 yards and eight touchdowns. He had a pair of games in which he went for over 200 yards receiving and another four games of over 100 yards.
A big game against the Wolverines might push him to capitalize on his outstanding year.
Getting Over Those Bowl Game Blues
As successful as K-State has been under head coach Bill Snyder, the Wildcats have been abysmal in bowl games.
Kansas State has lost five straight bowl games, a streak spanning a 10-year period. The last time the 'Cats won a bowl game? The 2002 Holiday Bowl against Arizona State.
Can K-State atone for its recent postseason woes? Snyder's team is a 3.5-point favorite over the Wolverines.
Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs. Texas
Monday, Dec. 30 at 6:45 p.m. ET
Can Texas Win One More for Mack Brown?
As if there was anything else to follow in this game. Texas head coach Mack Brown announced over the weekend that he would be stepping down after 16 seasons with the Longhorns. His final game will come in the Alamo Bowl against the Oregon Ducks.
On paper, this seems like a matchup nightmare. Decimated by injuries, the 'Horns lack several playmakers, especially on defense, to keep pace with Oregon. However, if the Ducks come to San Antonio with the same attitude they had when they traveled to Tucson last month (a game that ended in 42-16 loss to Arizona), Texas may have a chance.
The 'Horns should play inspired to try to send Brown out on the right note. The question is whether it will be enough.
How Creative Does Texas Get on Offense?
In theory, Texas' assistant coaches are fighting and/or auditioning for jobs—either with the 'Horns or elsewhere. A 14-point underdog, few people believe Texas can win anyway. It's time to open up the playbook and get funky. If nothing else, this will be the last game these coaches and this senior class will play together. Have some fun.
Additionally, will freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes see any significant playing time. This question has been asked for the better part of two months, but now would be a good time to see what he can do for the offense. His redshirt is burned, but he's been sitting on the sidelines.
Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech
Monday, Dec. 30 at 10:15 p.m. ET
Who Starts at Quarterback?
Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News previously reported that redshirt sophomore quarterback Michael Brewer would start for Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury has not confirmed that report, however, per Mike Graham of the Dallas Morning News.
Whoever does start will have an opportunity to get a leg up on the quarterback competition heading into spring practices. Since Brewer and freshman Davis Webb are the only two with any playing experience, they will be the front-runners to start in 2014.
Can Tech Stop the Bleeding of its Five-Game Losing Streak?
The word "fraud" gets thrown around entirely too often, and it's usually unwarranted. That said, going from 7-0 to 7-5 pretty much fits the definition.
Nothing would help rid the Red Raiders of that term more than beating a 10-win Arizona State team that was one win away from playing for the Rose Bowl. That won't be an easy task, obviously, but Texas Tech has shown it has the offensive firepower to keep pace. If ASU running back Marion Grice can't be there to shred Texas Tech's run defense, the Red Raiders may have a chance.
Enjoy Tight End Jace Amaro one more time (probably)
There's a compelling case to be made that Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro was actually the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year. There certainly aren't many players more valuable to his team than Amaro. The guy is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
B/R's Matt Miller projects Amaro as a first-round prospect in the upcoming NFL draft. It will be tough for the junior to turn that down for another year in Lubbock. If the Holiday Bowl is Amaro's last game, take a minute and enjoy what he's brought to the field.
Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs. UCF
Wednesday, Jan. 1 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Will Art Briles Still Be the Head Coach?
This is more of a storyline leading up to the game, but it's a big one nevertheless. Now that the Texas job is officially open, and now that Nick Saban is signing an extension with Alabama, all eyes will turn to Briles.
Briles recently inked a 10-year extension with Baylor, and the Dallas Morning News reported he will make over $4 million a year. Baylor is investing in him and the football program; that's all a coach can really ask for in an employer.
Is Texas technically a better job? Sure, it's one of the top jobs in the country. But consider that Briles was one loss away to Oklahoma State from playing in a BCS National Championship. Point being, he can win at Baylor. He doesn't need Texas for that.
Still, Texas should make a run at him. The next couple of weeks should be quite interesting.
The Return of Tevin Reese and the Vertical Passing Attack
Last week, Baylor wide receiver Tevin Reese tweeted "CLEARED!!!," indicating he is good to go for the Fiesta Bowl. Reese suffered a wrist injury against Oklahoma and was ruled out for the rest of the regular season.
Baylor's vertical passing game hasn't quite been the same since. The back injury to offensive lineman Spencer Drango has played a part as well, as did the opposing defenses Baylor played over the past month. Still, Reese's absence has been noticeable.
With Reese back, it will be interesting to see if Baylor's offense looks more like it did toward the beginning of the season.
Will Bryce Petty show he was a Heisman snub?
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was going to win the Heisman Trophy whether Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty went to New York as a finalist or not. That said, Petty has a legitimate gripe that he didn't make the final cut.
What better way to show voters they wrongfully ignored you than by throwing for 400 yards or accounting for five touchdowns on a national stage?
Will this be Lache Seastrunk's last game at Baylor?
There's a recurring theme developing here. Bowl games are oftentimes the curtain call for NFL-bound players. Per David Ubben of Fox Sports, Seastrunk has indicated before he wants to return to Waco for another year, but will he?
B/R's Matt Miller projects Seastrunk as a second-round talent. With the value of running backs going down in the NFL, it may behoove him to go now.
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Thursday, Jan. 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Oklahoma, the Underdogs
Can anyone remember a time when a program as well-known as Oklahoma received so little respect?
The Sooners had 10 wins this season, including one over Oklahoma State that prevented the Cowboys from going to the BCS. Yet Oklahoma was not the popular choice to go to the Sugar Bowl to play Alabama; many folks felt Oregon was more deserving of that at-large spot.
Head coach Bob Stoops can quiet the critics by stunning the Tide in New Orleans. 2013 should go down as one of Stoops' better coaching jobs in Norman, so it's not impossible that he would find a way to beat Nick Saban. Still, Oklahoma is a two-touchdown underdog against Alabama. This is setting up to be quite a challenge.
Will the Offense Have the Firepower?
Oklahoma's defense was a liability last year. This season, the frustration has flipped to the offensive side of the ball.
Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight stabilized the offense over the final couple of games, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. So the question will be whether Knight or Blake Bell gets the start at quarterback against Alabama.
Knight gives the Sooners a better chance because of his mobility, but he would also need to have the game of his career.
Cotton Bowl: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State
Friday, Jan. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET
A Rematch of the Old Big 12 (and Big 8)
Both Missouri and Oklahoma State have played in the Cotton Bowl over the past several years, but this will be the first time they face off against each other as members of opposing conferences.
These are two programs who know each other inside and out since they competed against each other in the Big 12 and the Big 8. Both had exceptional years, and it should be one of the more exciting bowl games of the postseason.
Chances of a Shootout?
Both defenses have been stout, especially against the run. However, Missouri was gashed in the SEC Championship Game by Auburn. Can Oklahoma State take advantage with running back Desmond Roland and quarterback Clint Chelf?
Both teams have high-powered offenses as well. Mizzou's big wide receivers should provide an interesting matchup to Oklahoma State's talented secondary.
A high-scoring Cotton Bowl would be so much fun to watch.