Say what you will about using bowl victories to retroactively judge a team’s season or level expectations for the next one, but winning bowl games is fun and reflects well on a conference when it’s teams perform well.
It was certainly fun for the Big 12 this post-season. The conference went a perfect 5-0 (The Texas Bowl match-up between TCU and Arkansas was canceled due to COVID-19 issues) with wins against the SEC, ACC, Pac-12, and Army.
So with all of that in mind, why not rank the five bowl victories to determine which was the most impressive?
No. 5: Cheez-It Bowl
No. 21 OSU 37, No. 18 Miami 34
When the starting quarterback for your opponent goes out in the second quarter and you give up a 21-0 lead to win by three, you get the last spot. Not that Oklahoma State’s 37-34 victory over Miami is anything to be ashamed of. The Cowboys beat one of the better ACC teams in a match-up that most national sports writers felt OSU would lose.
Yes, Miami lost D’Erik King in the second quarter to an ACL injury, but Oklahoma State’s top receiver Tylan Wallace opted out at half-time, something that was reportedly planned ahead of time.
While OSU did squander a 21-0 lead, they never fell behind in the match-up. They were outgained yardage-wise by almost 100 yards (512-418) but won the turnover battle.
It was a nice endcap on a disappointing season for the Cowboys, that also pushed OSU’s bowl record to 10-5 under Mike Gundy. Not too shabby.
Honestly, this wasn’t a bad win, but someone had to be ranked 5th.
No. 4: Liberty Bowl
WVU 24, Army 21
This is credit to facing one of the most difficult to prepare for opponents; Army and their triple-option offense. West Virginia not only faced them, but came away with a 24-21 victory.
What’s most impressive about this win, is that West Virginia had to shift gears midway through bowl prep. The Mountaineers were originally scheduled to face Tennessee in Memphis. However, just 10 days before the bowl kicked-off, Tennessee dropped out due to Covid cases and was replaced with — let’s be honest — a more difficult foe in Army.
It was a back-and-forth affair, with the teams trading leads. It wasn’t until West Virginia head coach Neal Brown benched starting quarterback Jarrett Doege for back-up Austin Kendall after half-time that West Virginia’s offense was able to really get going.
Before you scoff, need I remind everyone that Kansas State lost to Navy in this bowl game just a year prior.
The game was a perfect up and down encapsulation of the entire West Virginia season, but like as was the case more often than not during the regular season, the Mountaineers were the victors.
No. 3: Alamo Bowl
No. 20 Texas 55, Colorado 23
I honestly contemplated putting this win lower, but a 32-point win over a one-loss team is a 32-point win over a one-loss team.
The problem I have with this game is it feels a bit like fools gold, mostly because I still don’t think Colorado was all that good. But they we’re 4-1 coming into the Alamo Bowl and Texas absolutely smoked them.
I also put this up for a couple of reasons. Partially, because it ended up being both Sam Ehlinger and Tom Herman’s swan song. The bigger reason though, is that it felt like the welcome party for Longhorn quarterback Casey Thompson, who came into the game after Ehlinger suffered a shoulder injury. Thompson completed 8-of-10 passes for 170 yards and four touchdowns. It was a glimmer of hope for the future for Texas fans, and something incoming head coach Steve Sarkisian has to like.
Also, it’s never not fun beating a former Big 12 foe. Colorado bolted the Big 12 for the Pac-12 back 2010. Since then the Buffaloes have made it to a bowl game just twice, and both times they got curb-stomped by a Big 12 team in the Alamo Bowl.
So while, again, I may not have believed in Colorado, throttling a Power-5 opponent is better than slim victories over Power 5s and military academies.
No. 2: Fiesta Bowl
No. 10 ISU 34, No. 25 Oregon 17
I know Iowa State fans might not like this, but yes, this was the Big 12’s second best bowl victory.
That’s not to take anything away from the Cyclones’ 34-17 win over the Pac-12 Champions Oregon. It was the biggest night and one of the biggest wins in Iowa State history. It’s a night that Cyclone fans will remember forever. And they should.
Whether Oregon got into the Pac-12 championship game only because of COVID or not, they were still the champions of a Power-5 conference, and Iowa State beat them soundly. It was an all-around solid performance by Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, and the Iowa State defense who forced four turnovers in the game.
It certainly didn’t hurt that the game was all on it’s own, giving the college football world the opportunity to watch Iowa State win a big game on a massive stage.
And it certainly helps set them up for a likely top-10 preseason ranking heading into 2021 that will be bolstered by the return of a number of marquee players, none bigger than Purdy. But we’ll have plenty of chances to discuss all of that during the offseason.
For now, let’s bask in the glow of Iowa State going and beating a marquee non-conference opponent by double digits and helping the Big 12 look good in the process.
No. 1: Cotton Bowl
No. 6 OU 55, No. 7 Florida 20
I don’t care who opted out for Florida, what nonsense Dan Mullen says, and whoever tries to use the “tHeY dIdN’t WaNt To Be ThErE.” argument, the Sooners absolutely dismantled a “supposed” top-10, SEC squad by 35 points.
This one takes the cake for those two reasons; it was a blood bath and it happened against an SEC team. Not to mention, it allowed Dan Mullen to make an ass of himself. What more could you ask for?
Yes, Florida made it interesting briefly in the second quarter (negating the “they didn’t care arguement”) when they got within four points of the Sooners. But Lincoln Riley and OU turned on the jets and scored 38 unanswered points to “put the game away” as they say.
The Sooners were simply better on this night, and it helps to set them up for a BIG 2021 season. But again, there’s plenty time for that talk in the offseason. For now, let’s just enjoy a perfect 5-0 Big 12 bowl record and an absolute shellacking of an sEc power.