Big 12-SEC bowl rivalry resumes tonight

You'll never get the folks in the Big 12 office to admit to it.

But be assured they'll be watching the action tonight from Fair Park Stadium in Shreveport, La., a little more closely than some of the conference's other bowl games.

Maybe it's the SEC's megabuck television contract. Or it might be their recent dominance of Big 12 teams in bowls (a 9-3 edge in those games since 2003) -- especially in BCS title games in which LSU whipsawed Oklahoma in the 2003 title game and Florida defeated the Sooners in the BCS title game last year.

But the Big 12 will have three shots to knock off the Southeastern Conference in head-to-head bowl games this year. It starts tonight when Texas A&M and Georgia meet in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.

The old stadium has been the home for many of these SEC/Big 12 matchups over the years. And tonight's game will be the last one between them in Shreveport as both conferences opted for higher payouts in other bowls beginning next season.

The conferences in many cases battle for the best players, particularly in the western part of the SEC and the eastern part of the Big 12.

We don't see the two conferences matched very often in the regular season as teams in both conferences have made a practice in recent years to steer away from the toughest nonconference opponents.

Since the Big 12 began play as a conference in 1996, teams from the conference are 19-23 against SEC teams, including a 9-15 record in bowl games. The Big 12 has not posted a record of above .500 in bowl games against the SEC since 1997.

The SEC and Big 12 squared off twice this season with Oklahoma State beating Georgia in the season opener and Arkansas beating Texas A&M at Arlington, Texas, later in the season.

The two conferences offer an intriguing comparison in athletes as the SEC always seems to have the better defensive athletes, particularly the pass-rushers and defensive backs that have made life miserable for Big 12 passing offenses in recent seasons.

Just ask Graham Harrell and Sam Bradford from last season.

The Big 12 will be an underdog in all three matchups as Alabama is favored to beat Texas in the Citi BCS National Championship Game, Mississippi is favored over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl and Georgia is picked to beat A&M tonight.

The Big 12 desperately needs to win a couple of these games to restore some lost glory from the disappointments of an injury-filled season across the conference.

Obviously, the national championship game will be watched most closely across the country.

But the other games against the SEC will be just as important for Big 12 supporters over the next several days.

Here's a look at how Big 12 teams have fared against SEC teams since the Big 12 began play in 1996.