Selecting bowl match ups isn’t an exact science. Actually, it’s not even a science. That means the results often produce some head scratching.
Sunday was a prime example for the Big 12 Conference. The voters and the computers that make up the Bowl Championship Series formula didn’t look kindly on Oklahoma State and despite having a worthy at-large team in Kansas State, the Conference wound up with just one team in the 10-team BCS field.
In the closest No. 2 vs. No. 3 race in BCS history, Alabama edged Oklahoma State. The final margin was a microscopic .0086. For the first time, the BCS championship game will be a rematch as LSU will face Alabama; the Tigers defeated the Tide, 9-6 in overtime, on Nov. 5.
The Cowboys finished 11-1 overall. Saturday night they clinched the Big 12 championship with a 44-10 blasting of rival Oklahoma. Oklahoma State hoped that victory would convince voters in the human polls that it deserved a shot against LSU.
"There obviously wasn't enough people who wanted to see the Big 12 champion vs. the SEC champion," Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops, who said he voted LSU No. 1 and Oklahoma State No. 2 on his ballot for the coaches’ poll, also thought Oklahoma State had earned a title shot. "I don't think it's right," he said of the all-SEC title game rematch.
Throughout it existence, the BCS has often failed to deliver a satisfactory championship game. Recently there has been talk of major changes. One possibility is the often discussed “Plus One” format which would match the top four teams in the BCS standings with the two winners meeting in the championship game.
Sunday night, Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said that "as a result of this year" there should be "more serious" consideration of the Plus One.
As Big 12 champions, Oklahoma State will play in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cowboys’ opponent will be Stanford (11-1), which finished No. 4 in the BCS standings.
Because Houston was upset in Saturday’s Conference USA championship game, there was an extra at-large spot. Late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, those who predict bowl match ups had 10-2 Kansas State facing 10-2 Michigan in a Sugar Bowl matchup of at-large teams.
Instead, the Sugar invited 10-2 Virginia Tech to face the Wolverines. The Hokies finished No. 11 in the BCS standings and the Wolverines were No. 13. Kansas State, one of the nation’s biggest surprises, was No. 8 in the final BCS standings.
Stewart Mandel of SI.com Tweeted that Virginia Tech’s selection as an at-large team to the Sugar Bowl the “most out-of-nowhere at-large pick I can remember.” Mandel also pointed out that Virginia Tech has not beaten a team that is currently ranked.
Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com Tweeted: “This Virginia Tech thing to the Sugar is turning into a massive controversy. ... This is the biggest heist since Kansas back doored Missouri for 2007 Orange.”
The Cotton Bowl, which has first pick of Big 12 teams not committed to the BCS, selected Kansas State to face Arkansas.
The rest of the Big 12 bowl lineup: Baylor will play Washington in the Alamo, Oklahoma faces Iowa in the Insight, Texas takes on California in the Holiday, Texas A&M plays Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care and Iowa State travels to New York to play Rutgers in the Pinstripe.
The Big 12 had eight bowl-eligible teams for seven bowl slots. When the Conference didn’t place a second team as a BCS at-large, it had one too many teams. Missouri found a place in the Independence Bowl, where it will face North Carolina.
Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
Need to know: 7:30 p.m., Jan. 2, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., ESPN.
Team records: Oklahoma State 11-1, Stanford 11-1.
Oklahoma State update
The Cowboys finished No. 3 in the final BCS standings and just missed a chance at facing LSU in the national championship game. Oklahoma State’s only loss came in double overtime at Iowa State. The Cowboys won their first Big 12 championship with their 44-10 victory over rival Oklahoma. Brandon Weeden is 11th nationally in passing efficiency and receiver Justin Blackmon is second nationally in receptions per game and eighth in receiving yards per game. Oklahoma State leads the nation with 42 forced turnovers.
The Cardinal earned an at-large BCS bid from the Pacific-12 Conference and finished No. 4 in the BCS standings. Stanford’s only loss was against Pac-12 champion Oregon (53-30 on Nov. 12). Quarterback Andrew Luck, who is the son of West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, is fifth nationally in passing efficiency. He has thrown for 35 touchdowns with just nine interceptions. Stanford, under first-year coach David Shaw, averages 207 yards per game rushing and is 11th nationally in total offense, averaging 480 yards per game.
Kansas State vs. Arkansas
Need to know: 7 p.m. Jan. 6, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas, FOX.
Team records: Kansas State 10-2, Arkansas 10-2.
Kansas State update
The Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 preseason poll but wound up in second with a 7-2 record. Kansas State’s two losses came to Big 12 champion Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, which finished third. Junior quarterback Collin Klein has provided consistent production, particularly with his running. He has 293 rushing attempts, more than any quarterback in FBS, and has scored 26 touchdowns. The defense has been vastly improved thanks to the play of middle linebacker Arthur Brown and defensive back Nigel Malone.
The Razorbacks are sixth in the final BCS standings, the highest-ranked team not playing in a BCS bowl. Arkansas lost two games – to LSU and Alabama, the teams playing in the BCS national championship. One of the Hogs’ victories was a 42-38 decision against Texas A&M in Cowboys Stadium on Oct. 1. Arkansas ranks 13th nationally in passing offense as quarterback Tyler Wilson has had an outstanding season (22 touchdowns, six interceptions). Wilson has a number of productive targets, led by senior Jarius Wright (63 receptions, 11 touchdowns).
Baylor vs. Washington
Need to know: 8 p.m. Dec. 29, Alamodome, San Antonio, ESPN.
Team records: Baylor 9-3, Washington 7-5.
The Bears have had a remarkable season. Their 6-3 Big 12 record was the best in school history. Baylor has won nine games for the first time since 1986. Quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is a serious candidate to win the Heisman Trophy, set the NCAA single-season record for passing efficiency. He is second nationally in total offense and he has thrown for 36 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Running back Terrance Ganaway is 15th nationally in rushing, averaging 112 yards per game. The defense has shown improvement and has forced at least three turnovers in each of the last four games.
In their third season under coach Steve Sarkisian, the Huskies finished 5-4 in the Pac-12’s North Division. Washington lost four of its lasts six and allowed at least 34 points in the four losses. Junior running back Chris Polk was a first team All-Pac-12 selection. He gained 1,341 yards and 11 touchdowns on 263 carries and has rushed for over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Sophomore quarterback Keith Price is 12th nationally in passing efficiency. He has thrown for over 2,600 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Oklahoma vs. Iowa
Need to know: 9 p.m. Dec. 30, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz., ESPN.
Team records: Oklahoma 9-3, Iowa 7-5.
The Sooners allowed 130 points in their three losses – two of those defeats came in the last three games. Oklahoma has lost leading receiver Ryan Broyles and leading rusher Dom Whaley to season-ending injuries. Quarterback Landry Jones hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass over the last three games (since Broyles was injured). The Sooners are fourth nationally in passing offense and 10th in scoring offense but they were limited to just 10 points in the season-ending loss to Oklahoma State. OU coach Bob Stoops, a former Hawkeyes’ defensive back, will be coaching against his alma mater.
The Hawkeyes finished 4-4 in the Big Ten Conference’s Legends Division. Quarterback James Vandenburg has been inconsistent but he has an outstanding target in Marvin McNutt. He finished the regular season with 78 catches, 1,269 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. The Sooners and Hawkeyes both faced Iowa State this season. Iowa lost in Ames 44-41 in triple overtime the second week of the season. OU beat Iowa State 26-6 last weekend
Texas vs. California
Need to know: 7 p.m. Dec. 28, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif., ESPN.
Team records: Texas 7-5, California 7-5.
The Longhorns bounced back from last season’s 5-7 finish to become bowl eligible after staying at home last season. The offense has been a season-long project, but sophomore Case McCoy has emerged as the team’s quarterback. When healthy, freshmen Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergerone are productive running backs. The defense, which allowed 48 points to Baylor in the season finale, has been outstanding all season. UT finished 14th nationally in total defense. Texas, which will be playing in the Holiday Bowl for the fifth time, is 4-0 all-time against Cal with the last meeting coming in 1970.
The Golden Bears went 4-5 in the Pac-12 North Division, losing to Washington, Oregon, USC, UCLA and Stanford. Cal lost four of five games in the middle of the season but recovered to win three of its last four. Quarterback Zach Maynard has been solid – 234 yards passing per game, 17 touchdowns – the offense is at its best when running back Isi Sofele is productive. The junior has gained 1,270 yards rushing with nine touchdowns while averaging an outstanding 5.5 yards per carry. Cal is 26th nationally in defense allowing just 339 yards per game.
Meineke Car Care
Texas A&M vs. Northwestern
Need to know: 11 a.m. Dec. 31, Reliant Stadium, Houston, ESPN.
Team records: Texas A&M 6-6, Northwestern 6-6.
Texas A&M update
The Aggies lost four of their last five and finished 4-5 in the Big 12. Five of the six losses came by seven or fewer points. Texas A&M is playing a bowl game in Houston for the third time. The Aggies lost the 1977 Bluebonnet Bowl and won the 2001 GalleryFurniture.com Bowl; that was the school’s last victory in a bowl game. Texas A&M hopes that senior running back Cyrus Gray, who missed the season finale against Texas with a stress fracture in his shoulder, will be healthy for the bowl game. Wide receiver Ryan Swope set a school record with 79 receptions and 11 of those produced touchdowns.
The Wildcats finished 3-5 in the Big Ten Legends division. Last year, Northwestern lost to Texas Tech, 45-38, in the inaugural Ticket City Bowl. The Wildcats lost five consecutive games and were 2-5 before winning four of their last five to reach bowl eligibility. Coach Pat Fitzgerald, a former Wildcat who is a college football hall of famer, is in his sixth season as coach. Northwestern runs a spread offense that averages 176 yards rushing and 256 yards passing per game. Quarterback Dan Persa was injured to start the season but he played in nine games and is 10th nationally in passing efficiency. Senior wide receiver Jeremy Ebert is the top receiving threat and he has 11 touchdown catches.
New Era Pinstripe
Iowa State vs. Rutgers
Need to know: 2:20 p.m. Dec. 30, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y., ESPN.
Team records: Iowa State 6-6, Rutgers 8-4.
Iowa State update:
The Cyclones are bowling for the second time in three seasons under coach Paul Rhoads. Iowa State recorded one of the season’s most significant victories when it shocked Oklahoma State in double overtime on Nov. 18. The Cyclones closed their nonconference schedule with a victory over Connecticut – a team that defeated Rutgers in the Scarlet Knights’ last game. Iowa State’s offense got a mid-season boost when redshirt freshman Jared Barnett took over at quarterback. Powerful Jeff Woody also has come on strong at running back. Junior’s Jake Knott and A.J. Klein form one of the nation’s best linebacking duos.
The Scarlet Knights, picked to finish last in the Big East, finished 4-3 in the league and in fourth place, just one game out of first. Rutgers has three victories by three or fewer points and two of its losses came by two points. Freshman Gary Nova and sophomore Chas Dodd share the quarterback duties for coach Greg Schiano’s team. Junior wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is a big-play threat. He has 109 receptions with seven touchdown catches and averages 95.3 yards per game. Rutgers is strong on special teams play and is tied for fifth nationally in turnovers forced with 31.
Missouri vs North Carolina
Need to know: 4 p.m., Dec. 26, Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La., ESPN2.
Team records: Missouri 7-5, North Carolina 7-5.
The Tigers won three of their last four to become bowl eligible for the seventh consecutive season. Missouri played one of the nation’s toughest schedules and four of their five losses came by 10 or fewer points. Sophomore quarterback James Franklin had an outstanding season. He finished fourth in the Big 12 in passing efficiency and sixth in total offense. The Tigers are second in the Big 12 in total defense and third in scoring defense.
North Carolina update
The Tar Heels finished 3-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division. North Carolina, under first-year coach Everett Withers, lost four of its last six but qualified for a bowl for the fourth consecutive season. Giovani Bernard rushed for a freshman record 1,222 yards while sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner has thrown for 23 touchdowns – matching the school record. The Tar Heels are No. 16 nationally in rushing defense.