Bowl picture beginning to clear up

Berry Tramel The Oklahoman

OKLAHOMA CITY (TNS) — The Big 12 bowl picture seems much clearer. And much more promising. It seems likely that the Big 12 will get two teams into the New Year’s Six bowls.

Here’s how. If OU beats Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game, the Sooners seem like a solid bet to make the four-team College Football Playoff, sending OU to either the Orange Bowl or the Cotton Bowl. But the Big 12 is guaranteed a spot in the Sugar Bowl, so either Texas or West Virginia, whichever is ranked higher, would be en route to New Orleans.

If Texas beats OU, the Longhorns are in the Sugar Bowl automatically. But the Sooners likely would stay in the top 11 or 12 and would be sent to another major bowl, likely the Fiesta, which needs some teams in the western part of the U.S.

The only way the Big 12 gets just one New Year’s Six berth is if OU beats Texas and the Sooners don’t make the playoff. That would send OU to the Sugar Bowl and both Texas and West Virginia into one of the Big 12-aligned minor bowls.

Here’s the Big 12 bowl outlook:

Cotton/Orange: If OU beats Texas, the final playoff berth likely comes down to the Sooners or Ohio State. Most projections right now say OU, but you never know.

Sugar: If OU beats Texas and doesn’t make the playoffs, the Sooners are headed to New Orleans. If OU beats Texas and does make the playoff, the next highest-ranked Big 12 team, either West Virginia or Texas, would go to the Sugar. If Texas beats OU, the Longhorns are New Orleans-bound, no questions asked.

Fiesta: If OU loses to Texas, the Sooners likely are headed for Glendale. An interesting team could await. Could be Josh Heupel’s Central Florida or Mike Leach’s Washington State or an SEC team.

Alamo: Texas seems like a shoe-in, if it doesn’t make the Sugar. But otherwise, San Antonio would pick between West Virginia and Iowa State — and might pick the Cyclones, who are going to finish 8-4 (WVU is 8-3), have a loyal fan base and have never played in such a high-profile bowl.

Camping World: Orlando probably would be happy with either West Virginia or Iowa State but will be at the mercy of the Alamo to decide. If Texas falls to the Alamo, the Camping World gets to decide and might go with the Mountaineers and a possible game against Pitt in a Backyard Brawl rivalry renewal.

Texas Bowl: If Texas falls to the Alamo, then Iowa State or WVU would be available, so probably Iowa State. And Houston would be ecstatic, since Cyclone fans would flock to the oil capital. But otherwise, the Texas Bowl would have its pick of 6-6 teams — OSU, TCU, Baylor. Seems likely Houston would choose the Cowboys, but you never know.

Liberty: Memphis probably would prefer OSU over either TCU or Baylor, and TCU over Baylor.

Cheez-It Bowl: The Phoenix game can rest easy — it’s going to get a Big 12 team. It might get the last one standing, perhaps Baylor, but it will get a Big 12 team. It might even get to pick from any two of OSU, TCU and Baylor.

Armed Forces Bowl: They are sweating in Fort Worth. If the Big 12 gets just one New Year’s Six berth, then the Armed Forces gets a Big 12 team. Otherwise, no. The Armed Forces had to be cheering like mad for Kansas State on Saturday night, when the Wildcats threatened to upset Iowa State and get bowl eligible.

Let’s do our final Big 12 rankings:

1. Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1): OU’s conference record the last four years — 33-3.

2. Texas (9-3, 7-2): The Longhorns stand alone in second place, so it’s sort of easy to put the ‘Horns here, even with a home loss to West Virginia. But the ‘Horns might not look so superior if they finish 9-4 to WVU’s 8-3.

3. West Virginia (8-3, 6-3): The Mountaineers were whacked in Ames, but otherwise, two excruciating losses to the Oklahoma schools. Very close to a magical season.

4. Iowa State (7-4, 6-3): The Cyclones finish up with in-state, but non-scholarship, Drake. No matter. Still a good year for the Cyclones.

5. TCU (6-6, 4-5): You want a tough assignment. Try ranking the five teams that finished 4-5 or 3-6. You could go straight with the conference record, since it’s a round-robin, but non-conference games should mean something, too. So I took the conference games and add good non-conference games. TCU finished 4-6 under that system, same as Baylor, but the Frogs played Ohio State while the Bears played Duke.

6. Baylor (6-6, 4-5): The Bears and OSU tied at 4-6 under my model. I used Baylor’s victory over the Cowboys as the tiebreaker.

7. Oklahoma State (6-6, 3-6): The Cowboys must be the craziest team in college football, don’t you think? I mean, I like to compare résumés of teams, but it’s impossible to compare OSU’s résumé with anyone. Who else has three good wins and one good loss? There are five mediocre teams in the Big 12 middle. Five teams better than Kansas but not on the level of OU/Texas/WVU/Iowa State. OSU went 0-4 against that great unwashed middle. Yet the Cowboys beat Boise State, Texas and West Virginia, while dang near beating OU in Norman. It’s crazy.

8. Texas Tech (5-7, 3-6): The Red Raiders collapsed after quarterback health problems, and now Kliff Kingsbury is out of a job. But man, when freshman QB Alan Bowman was slinging, the Red Raiders were a handful. Tech was 4-7 in real games, having lost to Ole Miss but beating Houston.

9. Kansas State (5-7, 3-6): The Wildcats went down fighting. They beat Texas Tech and almost beat Iowa State. But the Wildcats were 3-7 in real games.

10. Kansas (3-9, 1-8): I guess KU had no choice when it came to firing David Beaty, but the Jayhawks are much improved. They beat TCU, and their final three games were a narrow defeat in Manhattan, a respectable showing in Norman and a tight home loss to Texas.