Here’s what we learned in the Big 12 during the bowl season:
1. TCU should have been in. What more could have Gary Patterson’s team have done? Patterson said it best with the words, “I don’t think I have to say anything” after TCU’s 42-3 domination of Ole Miss in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. TCU dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 in the final ranking of the College Football Playoff and that’s looking like a mistake after the Horned Frogs looked like one of the nation’s top four teams and finished 12-1. Patterson’s team got the short end of the stick and instead of dwelling on it, they took out their frustration on Ole Miss.
2. A rough couple of weeks could hurt the Big 12 in the future. A 2-5 bowl record looks awful for the Big 12, now and beyond. The conference’s national reputation took a hit and when conflicts about the strength of each conference arise during College Football Playoff debates in 2015, the Big 12 could be a step behind the pack after stumbling through the bowl season. Oklahoma and Texas essentially decided not to show up for their bowl games while Baylor didn’t finish in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic against Michigan State.
3. Baylor misses another opportunity. There were moments during the Cotton Bowl when Baylor looked every bit as worthy as TCU. The Bears looked to be too much for Michigan State, piling up 603 passing yards before a mistake-filled final 10 minutes opened the door for a Spartans comeback. Baylor's unnecessary penalties and clutch playmaking from Michigan State sent Art Briles' team into the offseason with a whimper and erased any questions about the Bears’ exclusion from the playoff. That came on the heels of a disappointing end to the 2013 season with a Fiesta Bowl loss to Central Florida. The Bears head into the offseason with back-to-back Big 12 titles left hazy by losses in prominent bowl games.
4. Change is on the way in Austin and Norman. Oklahoma looked like it didn't want to be there during a 40-6 thumping by Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl and Texas managed 59 total yards in a 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl. A few days later, the Sooners and Longhorns each got rid of members of their coaching staffs. The two programs that dominated the Big 12 for almost a decade were the unquestioned embarrassments of the Big 12 bowl season, but both programs look to be taking steps to reverse that performance in 2015.
5. Brighter times are on the way in Stillwater. Oklahoma State joins TCU as the only Big 12 teams heading into the offseason off a bowl win. Freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph further cemented himself as the future under center with the best game of his career in the 30-22 win over Washington in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl. Only Baylor’s Bryce Petty (92) and TCU’s Trevone Boykin (88.8) had better Adjusted QBRs than Rudolph’s 85.2 during the bowl season. Rudolph changed Oklahoma State's destiny in three games; imagine what he could do in 2015.