As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order.
HEART OF DALLAS BOWL
Oklahoma State (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)
Where: Cotton Bowl, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas
When: Tuesday, Jan. 1, noon ET
About Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State knew 2012 wasn't going to be easy after running away with an outright Big 12 title in 2011. That's what happens when you lose two of the best offensive talents in school history, receiver Justin Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys suffered a frustrating early-season loss on the road to Arizona, plagued with penalties and turnovers. OSU fixed some of those problems as the season went on, but after winning five of six games in the middle of the season after a loss to Texas that opened conference play, OSU ended its season with a pair of close, painful losses on the road to Baylor and Oklahoma. That sent OSU tumbling from a possible BCS bowl to the Big 12's lowest bowl tie, a game I affectionately refer to as the Zombie Cotton Bowl. The stage is a far cry from last year's primetime matchup against Andrew Luck and Stanford, but the challenge for OSU is staying motivated against an overmatched opponent and a less-than-exotic location.
About Purdue: It's never a good thing when the best accomplishments on your schedule are losses. For Purdue, though, that's definitely the case. The Boilermakers lost an early-season matchup to undefeated Notre Dame by just three points, and in October, lost to 12-0 Ohio State in overtime after giving up a game-tying score in the final seconds. Purdue rescued an 0-5 start in Big 12 play with three consecutive wins to close the season, but those three wins to move from 3-6 to 6-6 came against teams with a combined four Big Ten wins. Not exactly impressive, especially in a down year across the Big Ten. Two of those wins came by just three points, too, including a win over Illinois, who went winless in Big Ten play.
Cowboys to watch: Mike Gundy christened Clint Chelf as his starting quarterback for the bowl game after a few strong performances in the final four games of the season. The junior finished third in the quarterback derby in the spring, but he's performed admirably after injuries to starter Wes Lunt and backup J.W. Walsh, who reemerged with a short-yardage formation in recent weeks. Josh Stewart is the team's leading receiver and an All-Big 12 caliber receiver who'll probably top 100 catches for the season in the bowl game, but the team's best overall player is running back Joseph Randle, the Big 12's leading rusher with 1,351 yards, more than 300 more than any other back in the Big 12. He averaged 5.26 yards a carry and scored 14 times. OSU's defense was disappointing in the secondary this year, but keep an eye on defensive tackle Calvin Barnett to be disruptive up front.
Boilermakers to watch: Quarterback Robert Marve, a Miami transfer, had a big finish to the season with seven touchdowns and just one interception during the three-game winning streak. That included a 348-yard day in the finale against Indiana. We'll see if he can keep it going. Receivers Antavian Edison and O.J. Ross both topped 50 receptions and Gary Bush added 41 more. Defensive lineman Kawann Short will be a handful for a good offensive line at OSU. He finished with 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.
Did you know? I joke about this bowl sometimes, but the former TicketCity Bowl has taken on a whole new sponsor and a truly admirable cause. Heart of Dallas is a non-profit organizaton and a first-time bowl sponsor who will help benefit charities that serve the homeless population in Dallas. If you can, get out and support the game. Another interesting note? The Big Ten is 0-2 all-time in this game.