Ryan Wood's Big 12 bowl projections

Monday, November 20, 2006

This time of year, the more college football bowl projections, the better.

Everyone has an idea about who''s heading where in the Big 12 Conference. Nine eligible teams, eight guaranteed openings, one school guaranteed to look elsewhere for one more game.

If I were Kansas or Oklahoma State, I'd be a little nervous right now. Six victories may not cut it, and each school''s last game is anything but a gimme.

But all still could be happy in Big 12 land. Having sliced and diced records, history, appealing matchups and predicting one more week of games, here''s how the Big 12 bowl season could shake out. And sadly, KU fans, it doesn''t look like the Jayhawks have a prayer at getting to the Las Vegas Bowl or Hawaii Bowl. Find another excuse to blow the nest egg.

Fiesta Bowl (BCS vs. BCS) -- Texas vs. Boise State

The Longhorns have business to tend to first, but they are the Big 12''s most talented team. Victories against Texas A&M on Friday and Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game will send Texas to a cha-ching BCS game for the third straight season. Boise State will be 12-0 if it can get past Nevada this week. Personally, this matchup doesn''t scream must-see. But it does look likely to happen. (Game played Jan. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Phoenix, televised by FOX)

Cotton Bowl (Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC) -- Oklahoma vs. Auburn

Could be a doozy of a New Year's Day game. It's still believed that OU running back Adrian Peterson will return from a collarbone injury for one last game before heading to the NFL, and this matchup between potential 10-2 teams is one Cotton Bowl officials would be foolish to pass up if available. (Game played Jan. 1 at 11:30 a.m. in Dallas, televised by FOX)

Holiday Bowl (Big 12 No. 3 vs. Pac-10 No. 2) -- Cal vs. Nebraska

Cal had legitimate BCS aspirations, but this game in San Diego is a worthy substitute. This bowl always seems to put a good matchup on the table, and if Cal and Nebraska are indeed selected, it shouldn't be any different this year. (Game played Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. in San Diego, televised by ESPN)

Alamo Bowl (Big 12 No. 4 vs. Big Ten No. 4 or 5) - Texas A&M vs. Purdue

The Alamo Bowl would love to have the Aggies, who geographically are a puddle-jumper flight away from San Antonio and sure to bring a good amount of fans. Purdue, meanwhile, won eight games when most thought it might not win six. Thanks to taking a road trip to Hawaii, the Boilermakers will play 14 games this season. (Game played Dec. 30 at 4:30 p.m. in San Antonio, televised by ESPN)

Sun Bowl (Big 12 No. 5 vs. Pac-10 No. 3) -- Kansas State vs. Oregon State

The Gator Bowl won''t pass up on either Louisville or West Virginia out of the Big East, which means the Sun Bowl gets a Big 12 team this year. Really, the last four bowls in the Big 12''s pecking order could be jumbled if either Kansas or Oklahoma State gets another win. But Kansas State's will-travel fan base- eager to see a bowl game after two years off - will be a good reason for the El Paso bowl to take the Wildcats over Missouri or Texas Tech. (Game played Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. in El Paso, Texas, televised by CBS)

Insight Bowl (Big 12 No. 6 vs. Big Ten No. 7) -- Missouri vs. Iowa

Again, a bowl made possible by an intriguing matchup. How does two teams representing neighboring states that laid continuous eggs in the last few weeks sound? Call it the What-Could've-Been Bowl. Kansas versus Minnesota is another wonderful possibility here, but we probably won't be lucky enough to see Glen Mason against his old team. (Game played Dec. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Phoenix, televised by NFL Network)

Independence Bowl (Big 12 No. 7 vs. SEC No. 8) -- Texas Tech vs. Alabama

A rematch of last year''s Cotton Bowl, won by Alabama, 13-10, in front of 74,222 fans. Both teams have slipped down to six- and seven-victory land, though the Shreveport, La., bowl would love to get its paws on this potential encore. South Carolina is another option here, though the Gamecocks played in this bowl last year. (Game played Dec. 28 at 4:30 p.m. in Shreveport, La., televised by ESPN)

Texas Bowl (Big 12 No. 8 vs. Big East) -- Kansas vs. Rutgers

Kansas over Oklahoma State? If the surging Jayhawks keep the three-year pattern up and dismantle the struggling Tigers, you bet. At 7-5, Kansas would move ahead of the Cowboys, who are underdogged at home against a more powerful Oklahoma team this week. Unless they upset the Sooners, the Cowboys would finish 6-6.

Meanwhile, Rutgers may dip down to Houston, in the Big East's usual No. 4 bowl game. The reason is that the Meineke Car Care Bowl gave an invitation to Navy instead of a Big East team, pushing the Texas Bowl up to third.

That said, this potential matchup should be just what Kansas wants. The Scarlet Knights are the darlings of college football this year, and if Kansas gets a chance to topple them on national television, it'd be another big step that coach Mark Mangino always shoots for.

Besides, chopping wood versus sawing wood? Who wouldn''t want that? (Game played Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. in Houston, televised by NFL Network)

Poinsettia Bowl (At-large vs. Mountain West) -- Oklahoma State vs. Utah

Not so sure the Poinsettia Bowl wouldn''t look closer to home, but this bowl probably is the best chance for the BIg 12''s ninth team. The problem for Oklahoma State or Kansas or whoever is the ninth Big 12 team is the middle-of-the-road Pac-10 teams. Arizona shockingly became bowl eligible, and UCLA got win number six last weekend, too. The Pac-10 will have two teams looking for an at-large berth. Coupled with the Big 12''s one, the Big East's one, and the possibility of non-BCS schools with seven victories and no conference-affiliated bowl available (there might be one or two), and it's going to be an anxious auction for what may amount to no more than four at-large berths. Frankly, the Big 12''s odd-team out shouldn't have a ton of confidence. (Game played Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. in San Diego, televised by ESPN2)

Other bowls that may offer at-large invitations include the Motor City Bowl in Detroit, the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, N.M., and the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho. But considering the BIg 12 already is close to the Poinsettia officials, who also run the Holiday Bowl, this could be the league's way to satisfy all the six-win teams.