In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we break down the bowls, not including Oklahoma's trip to the College Football Playoff.
Which is the most intriguing Big 12 bowl matchup?
Jake Trotter: Hands down, it's TCU-Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl. When at full strength, these are two of the better teams in the country. This has the look of a Big 12-Pac-12 shootout, and it's also a prime opportunity for the Big 12 to land a perception-enhancing bowl victory.
Max Olson: If I knew Jarrett Stidham would be back for the Florida Citrus Bowl, I'd definitely be tempted to pick Baylor-North Carolina. But with Stidham's status still very up in the air, I'm siding with Jake. I'm excited to see what TCU has cooking for the Ducks after a month of preparation. You just hope Oregon steps its game up this time after a relatively average showing in San Antonio two years ago.
Brandon Chatmon: While I can’t wait for the Valero Alamo Bowl and the chance to watch Trevone Boykin against Oregon, I think the Russell Athletic Bowl between Baylor and North Carolina is the most intriguing matchup. That looks like a New Year’s Six matchup. I’m not concerned with Baylor’s quarterback situation; I just want to see if the Bears can find a way to get it done, regardless of the circumstances, against a quality Tar Heels squad. It’s also a critical game when it comes to the Big 12’s national reputation.
Who is the Big 12 player to watch this bowl?
Trotter: Assuming that he's cleared to play from the foot injury, I'm interested to see what Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph will be able to do against a big and fast Ole Miss defense in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Cowboys' running game is probably going to be nonexistent considering the advantage Ole Miss will bring to the trenches. That means Oklahoma State's only chance of springing an upset over the Rebels will be Rudolph firing away downfield to James Washington & Co.
Olson: If he's good to go, I can't wait to watch Josh Doctson 's last hurrah at TCU. Let's hope his wrist is healthy enough to let Doctson go on one last ride with Boykin, because they've got a chance to torch an Oregon secondary that tried out eight different starting lineups in the secondary this season. Doctson was insanely good through nine games, and you just know he badly wants one more.
Chatmon: I’m looking forward to seeing Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes go against LSU’s defense. The Tigers will have athletes all over the field and Mahomes is one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. The sophomore finished among the top 10 nationally in several categories, including No. 9 with a 81.5 Adjusted QBR. LSU’s Leonard Fournette will get most of the attention, but the Red Raiders have an elite sophomore of their own.
Which team has the most to gain from a bowl win?
Trotter: The last time Baylor defeated a Power 5 conference opponent from outside the Big 12 was UCLA in the 2012 Holiday Bowl. After a whimper of a finish to the regular season, the Bears have plenty to prove in the Russell Athletic Bowl against North Carolina. Baylor could use a victory over the Tar Heels to reaffirm its credibility nationally as a top-notch program following back-to-back losses in the Fiesta and Cotton bowls.
Olson: Yep, it's definitely Baylor. I never would've pegged these Bears for a four-loss season -- this really did look early on like Art Briles' best team -- and they really can't afford to no-show against a UNC team that won 11 straight games this year. I'd also keep an eye on Texas Tech, because a victory over No. 20 LSU would be huge for morale heading into an important offseason for Kliff Kingsbury.
Chatmon: I’d agree, it’s Baylor. The Bears national reputation has taken a hit during the past two postseasons with bowl losses after conference championships. This year, Baylor’s regular season ended in disaster with a home loss to Texas, but not only can the Bears spark some momentum heading into the offseason but they can get Briles, who is 2-3 in bowl games, back to .500 in the postseason.