Texas secured its first conference championship since 2009 as Quinn Ewers and the Longhorns thoroughly dominated the Oklahoma State Cowboys with a 49-21 win in the 2023 Big 12 Championship.
It was a statement victory for Texas (12-1), who has staked their claim to a College Football Playoff spot as a one-loss Big 12 Champion. With four undefeated teams still in their way though, the Longhorns needed some help on Saturday to feel good about their chances.
Then, No. 8 Alabama upset No. 1 Georgia 27-24, giving the Bulldogs their first loss in 29 games. With a win over the Crimson Tide earlier in the year, Texas holds the head-to-head over the 12-1 SEC champ, but will the selection committee honor that?
We will have to wait until Sunday to find out for sure, but here’s how we see the Big 12 bowl slate looking post-Championship Saturday.
Rose Bowl (CFP Semifinal)
Washington (13-0) vs. Texas (12-1)
Florida State’s win over Louisville in the ACC Championship made this the most difficult decision in the 10-year history of the College Football Playoff. With only one spot available, the committee must decide whether Alabama, the 12-1 SEC Champion, or Texas, the 12-1 Big 12 Champion, is the correct team to put in the playoff. After an incredible debate that likely stretches through the early morning hours on Sunday, I believe the Longhorns’ 34-24 win over the Crimson Tide back in September will win the day, sending them to the Rose Bowl against an undefeated and second-ranked Washington team led by Heisman contender Michael Penix.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Arizona (9-3)
After SMU upset Tulane in the AAC Championship Game, Oklahoma holds wins over both the Big 12 Champ and the AAC Champion, both of which will be in NY6 bowls. However, the Sooners are unable to overcome weeks of being behind a trio of other 10-2 teams: Missouri, Penn State, and Ole Miss, and get left out of the group. As the second-highest-ranked team in the Big 12, the Sooners land in the top Big 12 non-NY6 bowl, the Alamo Bowl where they’ll face a red-hot Arizona team.
Oklahoma State (9-4) vs. NC State (9-3)
The Big 12 runner-up lands in Orlando (Fla.) for the Pop-Tarts Bowl, where they draw an interesting matchup against the NC State Wolf Pack. While these teams have never played, the programs are surprisingly similar when compared side-by-side. This should be a terrific matchup between nine wins teams in Orlando (Fla.)
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Iowa State (7-5) vs. Memphis (9-3)
Iowa State ended the regular season with a huge win over Kansas State, guaranteeing a winning season for Matt Campbell and the Cyclones. Now, they draw the fourth-place team out of the AAC, the Memphis Tigers, in the Liberty Bowl. This is literally a home game for the Tigers, considering the game is played in Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, where Memphis plays on Saturdays throughout the season.
TaxAct Texas Bowl
Kansas State (8-4) vs. Texas A&M (7-5)
In an old-school Big 12 showdown in Houston (Tex.), the Kansas State Wildcats and Texas A&M Aggies provide one of the most underrated bowl matchups of the season. While this game might not have the juice it once did thanks to portal exits from both offers, seeing A&M and K-State on the same field just feels right. Both teams ended their regular seasons with disappointing losses and will hope to turn things around with a win over a once-familiar foe. These teams have played a total of 16 times, with eight wins on either side.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
West Virginia (8-4) vs. Air Force (8-4)
Neal Brown got his team to 8-4 after being picked to finish dead last in the Big 12, and now he’ll have a chance to finish 9-4 on the year, which would be massive. The Mountaineers draw Air Force in my latest projections, which will put two of the best rushing teams in the nation against one another in Fort Worth.
Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Kansas (8-4) vs. Northwestern (7-5)
Kansas moved to 8-4 on the year with a big win over Cincinnati in Week 13, and now they’ll have a chance to make it a nine-win season. They land in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl against a Big Ten foe, which I project will be Northwestern, who turned things around in a big way to get to 7-5.
Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl
Texas Tech (6-6) vs. California (6-6)
Texas Tech went to Austin and got demolished, but at 6-6 they can still get to a winning season with a win in their bowl game. However, it’ll be a tough ask as they’ll draw a Cal team that just beat UCLA 33-7 to get to bowl eligibility. Landing in the Independence Bowl should help though, being in Shreveport, Louisiana, where Red Raider fans can travel well.
UCF (6-6) vs. USF (6-6)
The bowl game has changed, but the matchup hasn’t, as I think we’ll get a bowl edition of “War on I-4” between UCF and USF. The Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa Bay is a perfect place to host this game, and both teams will be able to travel extremely well to fill up this stadium in a big way.