All bowl games are not created equal.
Just about only thing on the table in some of these bowls is who wins and who loses. You always want to be on the right side of that equation, but when that's the lone bait on the hook, it doesn't make for high-stakes football.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have bowls that matter a lot.
The Sooners play Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, while the Cowboys play Missouri in the Cotton Bowl, and about the only way these two teams could have more on the line would be if they were playing in the national championship game.
These are big-time bowls with big-time stakes.
Let's start with conference perception.
The SEC is the king of college football, and that's a crown the league has earned by way of seven consecutive national titles. It could very well make it eight if Auburn bests Florida State, and there's nothing OU and OSU can do about that other than hope and pray.
But they can do plenty to help the Big 12.
Notch victories again Alabama and Missouri, and it will do wonders for the perception of the Big 12, which has fallen like Greek stocks in recent years. And lest you think conference perception isn't a big deal, think about the times the SEC's perceived superiority was a boon for that league.
*2006: The Big Ten wanted an Ohio State-Michigan rematch in the national title game, but the SEC argued that one-loss Florida deserved a shot at the title. Voters went with the Gators, who won the title and started the SEC's current run of championships.
*2011: Oklahoma State had a compelling case for a spot in the national title game, but the SEC lobbied for an Alabama-LSU rematch. Voters again concurred with the SEC.
To think that the perception of your league is for the birds is, well, for the birds.
OU and OSU could help their cause by helping raise the Big 12's stock with a win in these bowls.
Then, there is the perception of the programs individually.
Let's start with OU.
The Sooners have slipped. The evidence is abundant that this isn't the same dominant program of the first decade of Bob Stoops' tenure. Not as many runs at national titles. Not as much NFL talent.
Stand toe to toe with Alabama, and that narrative changes.
Beat the Crimson Tide, and it does a 180.
“It's a great opportunity,” Sooner center Gabe Ikard said of playing Alabama. “It can be really good for the program. Where we're at right now, this could be a victory that could really put some things into motion that could really increase the talent we get here.”