As we reach December, the bowl picture has become more clear. The Bedlam winner almost surely is headed for the Fiesta Bowl, and the Bedlam loser is likely headed for something outside the BCS.
The four at-large berths to the BCS seem set: Houston, Alabama, Michigan and Stanford. All but Houston have concluded their seasons. Houston could drop out of BCS contention with a loss in the Conference USA championship game against Southern Miss. But even if the Cougars lose, TCU or Houston could get a BCS berth if either is ranked in the top 16, which is likely, and ahead of the Big East champion, which is likelier.
With a Bedlam loss, OSU would be 10-2 and probably still ranked in the top 10, but the Cowboys appear to be on the outside of a BCS at-large berth. Stanford, with quarterback Andrew Luck, seems certain to be Fiesta Bowl bound to play the Bedlam winner. Stanford is 11-1 and has the Heisman Trophy front-runner. Houston and/or TCU is automatic. Alabama is automatic. That leaves OSU against Michigan. Both would be 10-2, but the Wolverines have the bigger name, bigger fan base and the hungriness of not having been to a BCS bowl in five years. Yes, OSU hasn’t been to a major bowl since the World War II days. But I don’t think that will help the Cowboys. I think Michigan will get the call.
So what does that mean for the Bedlam rivals’ bowl destinations? For OSU, it could mean a drop.
I think the Cotton Bowl could take OSU, but it might also opt for 10-2 Kansas State. The Wildcats have a fan base that turns out en masse for drivable games. K-State would color JerryWorld purple. OSU has turned out great for its two Cotton Bowls in recent years (2003 and 2009 seasons), but the Cotton hasn’t had KSU since the 2000 season. The Cotton could figure that OSU will be a lot more available in the coming seasons than will K-State.
If the Cotton passes on OSU, the Cowboys could fall all the way to the Insight Bowl. The Alamo picks behind the Cotton, but OSU was in San Antonio last year. Plus, the Alamo could have a shot at a sizzling Baylor team with a marquee quarterback in Robert Griffin. Baylor is 8-3 going into its season finale against Texas.
The Insight most assuredly would not pass on OSU, but that would be a massive comedown for the Cowboys, who nine days ago seemed on track for New Orleans and the Big Bowl.
Of course, OSU can take care of all such politics by winning Bedlam. That would give the Cowboys their first Big 12 title, their first outright conference championship since the Missouri Valley days of the 1930s, their first major bowl berth since the 1945 season and their best season ever. As a bonus, the Cowboys would send OU into the arena of bowl uncertainty.
The Cotton might pick the Sooners. OU hasn’t been in the Cotton Bowl in 10 years, and the Cotton is always fired up at the chance to grab the Sooners or Longhorns. After OU went following the 2001 season and Texas the year after, the Cotton has had OSU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Missouri, Tech, OSU and A&M. Plus, South Carolina could be in line to be the SEC’s Cotton Bowl representative. Hard to imagine the Cotton passing on a Bob Stoops-Steve Spurrier matchup.
But if the Cotton did take Kansas State over OU, would the Sooners drop past the Alamo Bowl? Baylor would still be there as a plum attraction for San Antonio, but OU never has played in the Alamo Bowl. So that would be awfully tempting for San Antonio.
My best guess for Big 12 bowl matchups, if OSU wins Bedlam:
Fiesta Bowl: OSU vs. Stanford
Cotton Bowl: OU vs. South Carolina
Alamo Bowl: Baylor vs. Washington
Insight Bowl: Kansas State vs. Penn State
Holiday Bowl: Texas vs. California
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Texas A&M vs. Iowa
Pinstripe Bowl: Missouri vs. Rutgers
TicketCity Bowl: Iowa State vs. Purdue
If OU wins Bedlam, it’s OU-Stanford in the Fiesta, Kansas State-South Carolina in the Cotton and OSU-Penn State in the Insight.