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The Breakdown: Big 12 Bowl Possibilities & Strength of Potential Opponents

December 2, 2019

After last year’s version of this garnered a great reception I decided to put out another article detailing where Big 12 teams might go, how the selection process works, and who they might face when they get there.

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Where Will They Go?

For the Big 12’s six bowl eligible teams it’s going to depend a little on what happens on title game weekend.   Nothing will be perfectly clear here until the playoff is picked and the New Years six bowls are all settled.   However we can make some projections knowing what we know so far.

College Football Playoff (Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl)

For the bowls in Phoenix and Atlanta here they are semifinals for the College Football Playoff which has the first pick of anyone.  All other bowl scenarios depend on what occurs here.   If Baylor and Oklahoma were to win this week there’s a decent chance they make the playoff.   Sooners and Bears are big fans of #2 LSU, #14 Oregon, and Virginia this week as those games can either open up a path to the playoff or keep a path open.   

With the recent losses by Alabama, Minnesota, and Oregon the field is narrowing.  Assuming things broke right for whoever wins the Big 12 title game they would make the playoff with some combination of these non-Big 12 schools.   The most likely to make it are #2 LSU and #1 Ohio State while the other three need to win their upcoming game to keep bids alive in my opinion.  Below is a look at the offensive and defensive yards per drive breakdowns for each team’s games againt Power 5 teams.   This is then compared against other P5 teams against that schedule.   #3 Clemson, Ohio State, and #6 Utah are all pretty dominant on both sides of the ball.   LSU is more average on defense but elite on offense this year which feels really weird to say.   #4 Georgia is an above average offense in this metric that is paired with a dominant defense.

Other New Years Six Bowls (Sugar & Cotton)

Sugar Bowl

If the Big 12 champion fails to make the playoff they are automatically slotted to the Sugar Bowl against the best available team from the SEC.    Also if the Big 12 champion makes the playoff, the next team in the Big 12 standings goes to the Sugar Bowl.    One way or another this bowl will have one of Baylor or Oklahoma this year.  The SEC teams they might face will likely come from this group depending on how the playoff committee rankings play out and how the SEC title game goes.  Right now LSU is #2, Georgia is #4, Alabama is #5, Florida is #11, and Auburn is #15 but just beat Alabama.   How far Alabama falls, how high Auburn rises, possible blowouts in the title game, and how the subjective playoff committee values all of that could hypothetically lead to different opponents.   I would guess Alabama or Georgia (should LSU win) are the likeliest but I could see Auburn or Florida sneak in here in different playoff and title game scenarios where two teams make it in the playoff and one of them jumps Alabama.  LSU would only be in a situation where they suffered an unexpected blowout loss and missed the playoff which is unlikely on both counts.

Cotton Bowl

If the loser of the Big 12 title game is ranked highly enough they might have an unlikely date in DFW with the Cotton Bowl.   It’s far from a sure bet but it’s possible.   It would be against the best of the non-Power 5 conference champions as that is the only bowl free to take the automatic bid for them this year with the other two hosting semifinals.   With Baylor and Oklahoma likely both in the top seven at this week there is a small chance here for the loser of the title game to keep a high enough ranking for this should the winner miss the playoff.  The four teams that would be potential opponents should they win their title games are #20 Boise State from the Mountain West, #25 Appalachian State from the Sun Belt, or the winner of the AAC’s title game between #18 Memphis and #19 Cincinnati.   All four teams have wins against Power 5 teams and would be a good opponent.  (The comparison figures below are ALL games and not P5 games like the other charts.)

The Big 12’s Tie-Ins After The NY6 Picks

The selection order for the Big 12 is effectively a draft for the bowls to pick teams after the New Years Six has made it’s moves.   The draft order this year is:

  1. Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, Texas)
  2. Camping World Bowl (Orlando, Florida)
  3. Texas Bowl (Houston, Texas)
  4. Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tennessee)
  5. CheezIt Bowl (Phoenix, Arizona)

(The Big 12 also has a tie in with the First Responders Bowl in Dallas this year but won’t have enough bowl eligible teams to fill it)

Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, Texas)

The Alamo Bowl gets the first pick after the NY6 this year.   If the Big 12 gets only one team in that group this year the team that loses the title game probably goes to San Antonio but the bowl doesn’t have to pick them to my knowledge.   The title game runner up or UT would be my expected picks for the Alamo.

Their opponent will be from the Pac 12 but the Alamo is a little more handcuffed on who they pick- they must pick from the teams with the best conference record or teams within one loss of those teams.  That means it’s only choosing between #22 USC or potentially the loser of the PAC 12 title game between #6 Utah & #14 Oregon if the winner misses the playoff.  I have seen some projections with Washington (4-5 in league play) there which isn’t within one game of the other 3 (8-1 or 7-2) but in case I am wrong and it’s overall record and not league record I included them here too.

Camping World Bowl (Orlando, Florida)

The Camping World Bowl has the next pick and has the first pick of either ACC teams or Notre Dame after the playoff picks.   (Notre Dame has to be at worst one game worse in record than the ACC options available to be selected but has a 10-2 record that is better than any ACC team other than Clemson.) 

Based on this it’s pretty likely the Camping World Bowl jumps all over taking #16 Notre Dame in the likely scenario they can’t sneak into a New Years Six bowl.  This is both due to 10-2 Notre Dame’s appeal and the fact that no other ACC teams available will have less than four losses.  With that said I included the three teams I think are the most likely alternate options (better than 7-5) since there is a small chance that due to who fills the opponent slot in the Orange Bowl (SEC or Big Ten) there *might* be a Citrus Bowl invite for ND which would take them off the board.

One of those probably won’t be available as the Orange Bowl is supposed to take the ACC champion but if the playoff takes them they then the next highest ranked ACC team- but there may not be another ranked ACC team after next week.  That leaves the selection process for the rest of the ACC team somewhat unclear.   It’s possible that 7-5 Louisville, 7-5 Pittsburgh, or one of the 6-6 ACC teams would be picked but it’s very unlikely.

Texas Bowl (Houston, Texas) & Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tennessee)

The Texas Bowl picks next and then the Liberty Bowl.   Why did I group them together?   Their opponents follow the same selection method.   The tie-in is with the SEC and they have a unique bowl selection.  After the New Years Six has filled their bowl slots the Citrus Bowl picks first out of the remaining bowl eligible teams.   Then it all gets somewhat unpredictable.  There is a pool of six bowls where the SEC "in consultation with the institutions and the bowls" will make the assignments for all six games out of the eligible teams.   Both the Texas Bowl and Liberty Bowl fall into this group.  Basically the SEC hand picks their group of matchups and as a result it could be any number of teams as they are also filling four other bowls.

Based on this I mostly expect the teams I projected as Sugar Bowl opponents to be off the board either to the playoff, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, or Citrus Bowls.  Assuming at least three make those bowls that would leave only six remaining teams which would fill all of those bowls.  Here’s the six SEC teams I would expect to fit those bowls if they only get two New Years six teams.  I think Alabama, UGA, and LSU will be off the board by now at minimum.   (Note- Missouri is ineligible due to a bowl ban)

If another team (or two) makes it to the New Year’s six (SEC can potentially be an at-large to the Cotton, get another team in the playoff, or get a bid to the Orange Bowl against the ACC) there is a chance that one or both of the two bowls the Big 12 would face them in might have a no SEC opponent available to play.  The replacement would most likely come from the AAC.   Any of the top AAC teams would hypothetically be in play although regional fits like SMU, Memphis, Cincinnati, or Tulane would likely have an inside track for either Houston or Memphis but I could also see UCF depending on if they have other matchups that would pair them against P5 teams.

CheezIt Bowl (Phoenix, Arizona)

With TCU’s loss to West Virginia and final week losses by Oregon State & Colorado this bowl might not get a Big 12 or Pac 12 team if that league places two teams in the New Year’s Six.  If the league only gets one team in the playoff the CheezIt will get the final team for either.

Based on the Pac 12’s rule about being within one game in the league standings to pick a lesser record team we can guess that the following teams are the only possible options for teams being the final pick.  I obviously think UW will be off the board before the CheezIt picks but technically there’s a path for them to end up here.  Washington State is the most likely and would make for an exciting shootout.

If the Big 12 doesn’t get to face a Pac 12 team they will likely draw a Mountain West team.   Their champion will be slotted to the Las Vegas Bowl but one of their better teams would likely go to Phoenix.  San Diego State, Air Force, and the loser of the MWC title game between Boise State and Hawaii would probably be the picks here before they’d go for one of the three 7-5 teams.  Hawaii would probably go to their home bowl game against BYU so I would assume AFA or San Diego State is the likeliest options if needed.


Baylor and OU sit in a pretty good spot.   Win on Saturday and the options are Fiesta, Peach, or Sugar.    Finishing as the runner up likely means the Alamo, Sugar, and maybe a small shot at the Cotton.  It’s highly unlikely either lasts past the Alamo.

Texas is likely the first of the next four teams that all went 5-4 in league play to come off the board.   Biggest brand and fanbase paired with either a San Antonio game or a game that likely draws Notre Dame is too big to pass up.   Worst case for them is Houston but I don’t see it getting that far.

As for the other three they all travel well and it really depends on whether the Big 12 gets two in the New Years Six as to where I think each goes as I think the different bowls would probably have a different order for which teams they would want more.  Their matchup quality will be pretty variable based on how many Big 12, SEC, and PAC 12 teams make the New Year’s Six and get slotted against a MWC or AAC team instead of the power conference teams these bowls usually give you.

The Big 12 has another chance at earning significant respect regardless of playoff placement.   Their top bowl options after a potential playoff bid carry a game against a top ten SEC opponent, possibly a highly ranked Pac 12 opponent, and likely facing a 10-2 Notre Dame team who will likely be top 15 after championship week.  It should be an exciting bowl season with plenty of opportunity to get some big wins.

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Discussion from...

The Breakdown: Big 12 Bowl Possibilities & Strength of Potential Opponents

6,399 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 1 day ago by Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Thank you. Its amazing how complicated this has become, but you did a great job of simplifying it. At least you narrowed it down to two or three possibilities.
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Just beat OU and worry about the other shyte later.
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BUGWBBear said:

Just beat OU and worry about the other shyte later.

Philosophically I completely agree but for the fans who want a head start on hotels and flights it pays to narrow things down.
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PaulW74 said:

Thank you. Its amazing how complicated this has become, but you did a great job of simplifying it. At least you narrowed it down to two or three possibilities.

How long do you want to ignore this user?
BUGWBBear said:

Just beat OU and worry about the other shyte later.
Why should we worry later about Gary Patterson?
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
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