Bowl games will now come at us fast and furious over the next week or so, all leading up to the Big 12's return to the four-team College Football Playoff.
With eight of the 10 Big 12 teams playing in bowl games – starting with Texas Tech on Saturday – there’s plenty of compelling story lines and on-field matchups.
If you can’t tune in for all eight, here’s a handy viewer’s guide for the bowl games featuring Big 12 teams. The games are ranked in order of entertainment value:
1) Oklahoma vs. Georgia, College Football Playoff in Rose Bowl, Jan. 1
With a berth in college football’s national championship on the line, Oklahoma will match the nation’s best overall offense against a Georgia defense that ranks as one of the nation’s best. Georgia will need to control the tempo of the game with its ground game and limit possessions by Oklahoma’s Heisman-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield.
This matchup also pits two of the sport’s finest young coaches, Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, against each other. And the backdrop of the Rose Bowl is unmatched.
2) Iowa State vs. Memphis, Liberty Bowl, Dec. 30
The stakes are not as high as in a CFP game, clearly, but it's tough to rival this one in pure entertainment. Both programs were two of the most exciting in the country at various times this season. Both have secured two of the best young coaches in the country. Iowa State, of course, upset Oklahoma and TCU. Memphis can score as well as any team in the nation and engaged in a thrilling double-overtime loss to Central Florida. Two of the nation’s better wide receivers will also be on display in Memphis’ Anthony Miller and Iowa State’s Allen Lazard.
3) TCU vs. Stanford, Alamo Bowl, Dec. 28
This one is worth checking out primarily to see how TCU coach Gary Patterson devises a plan to contain Stanford’s dynamic Bryce Love, who averaged 8.3 yards per carry this season. Let’s see if he can pull that off against TCU’s vaunted defense. TCU failed in two attempts to contain Oklahoma’s high-powered offense. This is another tall task for a Horned Frogs team that has already redeemed itself after a subpar 2016 campaign.
4) Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech, Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28
If you haven’t heard, the Cowboys can score in bunches. It’s certainly worth watching Mason Rudolph, James Washington and Co. But Oklahoma State can be as erratic as it can be potent. Virginia Tech may not wow general fans as the most electrifying team, but the Hokies are well-coached and know how to win. This is an intriguing matchup that will pit Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s schemes against the nation’s second-best offense.
5) Texas Tech vs. South Florida, Birmingham Bowl, Dec. 23
Former Texas coach Charlie Strong gets reacquainted with Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury, who saved his job when Tech became bowl eligible in its regular season finale. Got to keep this game on television in the background, for sure. Lots of points will be scored, lots of yards will be gained. The game will take a while, but it will not be boring.
6) Texas vs. Missouri, Texas Bowl, Dec. 27
Texas has a good amount riding on this, with a chance at a winning season on the line to cap coach Tom Herman’s so-so first season. The problem is that several key Texas players, especially on defense, will not be playing in this game. Missouri is a fascinating team that salvaged its season after a disastrous 1-5 start. Its defense has emerged as one of the country’s better units, creating a fine matchup against Texas’ impressive but undermanned defense.
7) Kansas State vs. UCLA, Cactus Bowl, Dec. 26
With the venerable 78-year-old Bill Snyder non-committal about his coaching future, it’s worth tuning in for this one. Check out UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen one final time before he heads to the NFL. Kansas State’s offense turned potent during the second half of the season, which could make for strong entertainment value the day after Christmas. Jedd Fisch will be coaching this game for the Bruins, who recently hired Chip Kelly.
8) West Virginia vs. Utah, Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dec. 26
Don’t be fooled by Utah’s middling 6-6 record. The Utes played all the top teams in the Pac-12 tough. West Virginia was undervalued all year in the Big 12. Even without QB Will Grier, the Mountaineers have enough offensive firepower to light up the scoreboard.