By: Kelsie VanderWijst Staff writer for BlueGoldSports.com
The Big 12 is getting a lot of media attention after TCU and Baylor were left out of the top four, to play in the College Football Playoff. Questions are in the air whether the conference will expand to allow for a conference championship game, or ask for the current rule to be terminated (must have 12 teams to have an in conference championship). With that in the background, the Big 12 finds themselves in seven bowl games for the 2014 season.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
West Virginia (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (7-5) December 29th 2 p.m. on ESPN
At Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Memphis, TN
Game Preview: With Skyler Howard being announced as the starting QB expect WVU to continue to rely on the running game. With Texas A&M’s weak spot being stopping the run game, WVU will be looking towards their two 600 yard plus runners Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood. Kevin White for the Mountaineers has been quiet down the stretch, but is considered to be one of the most explosive receivers with eight games with over 100 yards receiving. Another potential weapon for the Mountaineers is kicker Josh Lambert, who had an impressive sophomore season finishing as a Lou Groza finalist.
The Texas A&M defense will be the center of their show at the Liberty Bowl. Defensive end Myles Garrett is one of the highest-rated recruits in the 2014 class and has set the record for sacks by a freshman with 11 in 11 games. Their freshman defensive end Myles Garrett set an SEC record with 11 sacks in 2014, which can be a huge impact with the quarterback questions for WVU.
Russel Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma (8-4) vs. Clemson No. 18 (9-3) December 29th 5:30 p.m. on ESPN
At Florida Citrus Bowl Orlando, FL
Game Preview: This game is expected to be Oklahoma and their offense against Clemson and their defense. The Clemson (Tigers) have the number 7 rush defense, they will have to contend with Oklahoma’s (Sooners) Samaje Perine who had more than 200 yards against the Mountaineers during the regular season, the freshman gets 46% of his teams carries. Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight can run the ball as well, with 146 yards and 3 rushing TDs against Iowa State. Quarterback Cole Stoudt for the Tigers leads them in passing (1,573 yards), with his pass completion at 62%. Then there is defensive end Vic Beasley who leads Clemson in all-time sacks. The Sooners will rely on Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson, o-linemen to keep Beasley from getting to their ball handlers.
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas (6-6) vs. Texas (6-6) December 29th 9 p.m. on ESPN
At NRG Stadium Houston, TX
Game Preview: The Arkansas (Razorbacks’) offensive line has been talked about during the 2014 season. While the defense for the Texas (Longhorns) has some NFL quality talent, the Razorbacks’ offensive line does a great job opening up room to run for running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. The Longhorns Malcom Brown leads the team with 12.5 tackles for a loss this season. Cedric Reed and Hassan Ridgeway are ones to be looking out for as well on this defense.
Chic-fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 9 Ole Miss (9-3) vs. No. 6 TCU (11-1) December 31st 12:30 p.m. on ESPN
At Georgia Dome Atlanta, GA
Game Preview: After falling short from the first college football playoffs, TCU (Horned Frogs) will be facing Ole Miss (Rebels). The Rebels gave Alabama their only loss of the season and knocked off Mississippi State. With talented players on both teams, the true test here will be offense versus defense. TCU is the nation’s 2nd highest scoring offense averaging 46.8 points a game. Ole Miss is a top-rated defense allowing just 13.8 points. TCU is led by Trevone Boykin who finished 4th in the Heisman race. He is the top in the BIG 12 and 3rd nationally. A force on their defense is linebacker Paul Dawson who is ranked 2nd nationally in turnovers forced with 36. He is also the only player in the nation with at least 100 tackles, 5 sacks and 4 interceptions. Three players are the known to be the standouts for the Rebels defense: safety Cody Prewitt, cornerback Senquez Golson, and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. They have helped Ole Miss become the nation’s number one scoring defense.
GoodYear Cotton Bowl Classic
No. 8 Michigan State (10-2) vs. No. 5 Baylor (11-1) January 1st 12:30 p.m. on ESPN
At AT&T Stadium Arlington, TX
Game Preview: This bowl is the first game played on New Year’s Day, leading into the two national finals. Baylor (Bears) head coach Art Briles will be coaching in a game in which he once played. The Bears are in their first Cotton Bowl since 1980. Michigan State (Trojans) is only the 2nd Big Ten team in the Cotton Bowl. Their only two losses are to two teams in the College Football Playoff. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is one to watch out for. He put up huge numbers in their bowl game loss last year, throwing for 356 yards and 5 touchdowns. Will he put up these numbers and get the victory? Michigan State’s defense will have something to say about that being the number 7 defense in the country. They have only allowed 13 passing touchdowns and intercepted 17 passes. Petty however, has only been sacked 19 times.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Kansas State (9-3) No. 11 vs. UCLA No. 14 (9-3) January 2nd 6:45 p.m. on ESPN
At the Alamo Dome San Antonio, TX
Game Preview: This game will be the first top 15 matchup in the Alamo Bowl history. Two of the best quarterbacks in the country will be facing off, Jake Waters for Kansas State (Wild Cats) and Brett Hundley for UCLA (Bruins). A key to this game for the Wild Cats is to establish the connection between Waters and Tyler Lockett. Lockett is K-States all-time leader in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. UCLA is known for their ability to score in the red zone.
The Bruins are ranked 4th in the nation in red zone efficiency. They score on 93% of their red zone possessions. A key to this game for UCLA is to protect their quarterback Hundley who has been sacked a total of 36 times.
TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Washington (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6) January 2nd 10:15 p.m. on ESPN
At Sun Devil Stadium Tempe, AZ
Game Preview: Oklahoma State (Cowboys) needed to win their last game to become eligible after losing five straight. They did this by beating their rival Oklahoma 38-35 in overtime. Washington (Huskies) won eight games in its first season under new head coach Chris Petersen, most in school history as a first year coach. A key to victory for the Cowboys is to not turn the ball over. The team in minus-eight in turnover margin, with 12 interceptions for starting quarterback Daxx Garman. Back-up Mason Rudolph finished the year with his strong performance against the Sooners, hoping to carry that success to the bowl.
A key to victory for the Huskies is their run game. During the season, they averaged 195 yards on the grounds, which ranks 3rd in the Pac-12. Two key guys are Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman who have rushed for over 560 yards.