After a 37-28-2 regular season, it’s time for our Big 12 bowl picks against the spread!
Russell Athletic Bowl: Baylor vs. North Carolina
This game is not getting the hype is deserves … unfortunately for good reason: Baylor is really banged up. Third string QB Chris Johnson will start, and star wide out Corey Coleman and RB Shock Linwood won’t play.
But, the line hasn’t changed much, remaining fairly steady at Baylor +3. I believe this is more an indictment on UNC and people’s lack of faith in them and their schedule, than it is strong support for Baylor and the Big 12, who has struggled in bowl games.
Combine Briles’ struggles in bowl games (2-6), with Baylor’s injuries, along with UNC being more motivated than a Baylor team that expected to be playing in the CFB Playoff, and I believe the Tar Heels cover.
The Pick: North Carolina -3
Texas Bowl: Texas Tech vs. LSU
So, can the Red Raiders slow down RB Leonard Fournette? The numbers would lead you to not believe so. Fournette leads the country in rushing yards per game (158), while Tech has the 126th ranked rushing defense in the country. Good luck, Red Raiders?
But, there is good news for Texas Tech, going up against an LSU defense is is uncharacteristically poor against the pass, ranking 10th in the SEC. Yes, the QB’s and offense in the SEC are nothing close to the speed and pace of the Big 12 and, specifically TTU offense will bring, but in the end, just too much Fournette for TTU to handle.
The Pick: LSU -7
Orange Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Clemson
Yep, the hype and amount of love going to the Sooners is a bit concerning. That being said, they were the best team I watched the last month and a half of the season. Does the time off mean they lose some of their mojo? I don’t think so. The biggest reason is because there’s no doubt Bob Stoops will have this team fired up by giving a friendly reminder of last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl, won by Clemson 40-6.
Also, Clemson struggled with turnovers, ending -2 in TO margin in six different games. That won’t fly against an OU team that is +12 in TO’s since the Texas loss.
From an experience standpoint, Oklahoma has the edge, having played 3 road games against ranked teams, while Clemson didn’t play a ranked opponent outside of the Carolinas. Clemson just won’t be able to find an answer for OU’s air attack and ground and pound with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Bob Stoops gets back to being ‘Big Game Bob’.
The Pick: Oklahoma -4
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss
Both teams come in scoring more than 40 points per game, but it’s Ole Miss’ secondary that’s had more trouble than the Cowboys. The Rebels were one of the bigger embarrassments of last year’s bowl season losing to TCU 42-3 in the Peach Bowl. So, do the Rebels look for revenge? I don’t think so.
Ole Miss has at least 16 pro prospects that could be heading to the NFL after this game. How many of these guys have spent time in recent weeks and days getting personal and professional things lined up for the draft? I don’t know, but I know it can be a heck of a distraction. We’ve already seen distractions such as the issues surrounding the Nkemdiche brothers, with Robert, a potential top-5 pick, not playing in this game.
Meantime, Oklahoma State returns the core of their team next season, and hopes to use this bowl game as a launching pad into 2016 when they should be considered one of the favorites to win the Big 12.
Ole Miss is the more talented team, but talent is not the biggest factor with the outcome of bowl games.
The Pick: Oklahoma State +7
Liberty Bowl: Kansas State vs. Arkansas
Another Big 12 vs. SEC match up. It’s still amazing to me that K-State is in a bowl game. Now, they take on an Arkansas team that has been playing really well after starting off the year 2-4. But, K-State also closed the season with 3 straight wins.
Still, Arkansas is worthy of being a double-digit favorite. While K-State has a solid run D, Arkansas QB Brandon Allen threw for more than 400 yards in two of their last four games, and the K-State secondary stinks. Meantime, Arkansas’ pass defense has been a major problem. But, that should not matter much against a K-State team led by QB Joe Hubener. Unlike most Big 12 offenses, the Wildcats are not built to sling it around the field.
The Pick: Arkansas -12
Alamo Bowl: TCU vs. Oregon
This has the potential to be one of the best bowl games of the entire season. A pair of teams that began the season with CFB Playoff hopes, but were hurt by inconsistency and injuries, meet up in the Alamodome.
Oregon was on a roll to end their season, finishing 6-0, including wins over USC and Stanford. QB Vernon Adams is healthy and has led the Ducks attack. Meantime, TCU QB Trevone Boykin is as healthy as he’s been in a long time, and goes up against a defense that ranked 126th against the pass. The problem is, the rest of the Horned Frogs are absolutely cooked on the injury front.
Led by RB Royce Freeman, the running game will prove to be the difference, giving the edge to Oregon.
The Pick: Oregon -1
Cactus Bowl: West Virginia vs. Arizona State
West Virginia was the definition of mediocre, finishing 7-5 and going 0-4 against ranked Big 12 opponents. But, with a month to prepare, and Dana Holgorsen knowing he is returning to Morgantown for 2016, will desperately want to win this game to help win over some of the fan base.
The ASU secondary has struggled all season long and they will be missing star safety Jordan Simone, so expect Holgorsen to rely less on RB Wendell Smallwood and more on QB Skyler Howard and the passing game (which Holgorsen prefers anyway). With the ASU defense likely focused on Smallwood, it should open things up for Howard and stud WR Shelton Gibson.
The Pick: WVU -1