The Big 12 took a monster step forward in 2020.
The conference that fields the least number of teams amongst the Power 5 put an exclamation mark on a season that started in disarray with three losses to Sun Belt teams.
However, the league bullied its way to an impressive 5-0 record vs. a diverse pool of opponents, four of which came into the game ranked, while the only unranked foe was a 9-2 Army team known for giving people trouble with their devastating triple-option attack. The Big 12 also featured a pair of New Year’s 6 bowl winners, who took care of business in emphatic fashion. Iowa State won the Fiesta Bowl over the Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks 34-17. The Cyclones held the Ducks scoreless in the second half, while the Iowa State forced four turnovers in the contest.
Oklahoma beat Florida with a 55-20 drubbing in a game where Florida allowed 435 rushing yards. The Sooners dominated both lines of scrimmage and forced Heisman finalist Kyle Trask into three first quarter interceptions.
Tthe Big 12 went 5-0 in the bowl season, the first time any conference has done so since 2008. They won their games by an average of 18 points per game, and by a total of 90 points overall, the former of which is the fifth-highest margin in the history of bowl season.
Texas was able to find Sam Ehlinger’s successor in Casey Thompson in the Alamo Bowl. After Ehlinger was sidelined with a shoulder injury, Thompson completed only eight passes, but four of those went for touchdowns, and he racked up 170 yards in a modest half of work against Colorado. The Longhorns downed the former Big 12 foe 55-23 behind Bijan Robinson’s 220 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Of course, this all wasn’t enough to save Tom Herman’s job.
In the Cheez-It Bowl, Oklahoma State shot out to a big lead. The Pokes were up 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, but needed a late TD pass from Spencer Sanders to seal the deal and escape with a 37-24 win over 18th ranked Miami.
Last, but not least, West Virginia’s Liberty Bowl win over Army, was anything but simple. The Mountaineers found themselves trailing Army 21-16 late in the 4th quarter, but back up quarterback Austin Kendall came to the rescue. His last pass in gold and blue was a touchdown to T.J. Simmons, a score that put WVU up for good as they won 24-21.
The Big 12 not only performed well in the bowl season, but performed in a historically dominant fashion. While the SEC may have a strong argument themselves this season, the Big 12 is the best conference in college football. 60% of the teams in the league finished with a winning record, and it’s hard to argue the results of a dominant 5-0 bowl season. The big question remains: Can the league run it back next year in 2021? The next step is to break through on the biggest stage, the College Football Playoff.
Plus, the conference needs to perform as well in the non-conference as the bowl season. Oklahoma plays Nebraska, Texas faces Arkansas, Iowa State takes on Iowa, TCU vs. Cal, West Virginia plays Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State against Boise and Kansas State facing Stanford are just some of the match ups the Big 12 must perform well in to keep this momentum going.
Lastly, Oklahoma and Iowa State appear to return two very strong rosters in 2021, along with the dark horse contenders of TCU and Texas. Expect the Big 12 to continue to roll in 2021 and stamp another ticket of respectability.
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