We’re entering an understandably bittersweet time of year for college football fans. Every game, save for the national championship between Clemson and LSU, has been played. All that remains is a long haul of hardwood hoops and dusty diamonds until we can start thinking seriously about gridiron glory again. The time is right to reflect and evaluate bowl season for our beloved conference. The news isn’t good.
Six of our 10 squads achieved what is a pedestrian accomplishment of six wins to achieve bowl eligibility. Oklahoma’s shellacking at the claws of possible national champions LSU was well documented. The Cyclones were outmatched against the stingy Irish defense. Oklahoma State muffed its way out of a multiple possession lead to lose against the Aggies. Kansas State couldn’t produce the offense to overcome the Naval Academy’s run-heavy attack that plays keep-away so well it would make the most ruthless schoolyard bully blush. Finally, Baylor asserted what their conference rivals already knew –– the Bears win games but are far from elite. Coach Matt Rhule’s Waco warriors surrendered 19 points in the first half and laid a fat goose egg for themselves. Green and Gold quarterback Charlie Brewer suffered another game-ending concussion. The vaunted Georgia defense chomped down for three shutout quarters for a final result of 26-14, a misleading box score as the Baptists were outclassed throughout.
All these losses aside, we can remember the Alamo –– bowl, that is. The Big 12 v. Pac 12 match-up has been traditionally positive for Southern dwellers, and any Horned Frog fanatic can conjure fond memories of comebacks and tense wins against the likes of Oregon and Stanford. Luckily for our conference pride, the Texas Longhorns continued to defend San Antonio against Left Coast invaders. Utah arrived and left from this game deflated after an otherwise spectacular season. The Utes were in the driver’s seat for a spot in the college football playoff before drowning against a revived Oregon Duck squad. The letdown of failing in their championship game followed them to Southern Texas. The Longhorns held them scoreless in the first half and allowed only 10 by the final whistle. Coach Tom Herman, starting to feel the heat from the UT-booster pressure cooker, attacked the Utes with his bulldozer quarterback Sam Ehlinger and rascal running back Keaontay Ingram to combine for 181 rushing yards to complement Ehlinger’s 201 yards through the air. The 38-10 runaway represents the only bowl victory for the Big 12 – the worst mark for any power-five or group-of-five conference.
It’s even worse than the independents, who achieved a 2-1 record as a group. Expect the SEC to throw justified shade against the Big 12. The most dominant group in college football won seven of their nine games with the finale still pending.
It’s time to be honest with ourselves. The conference of Texas, Oklahoma, and friends weren’t up to snuff this season. This should be immediately obvious to Frog Followers. Despite TCU’s deficiencies, the Purple could have finished as a 10-win team or better with just a handful of lucky bounces. UT, in theory, is the only squad carrying solid momentum into next season. The Longhorns aren’t back to prominence but are still the most relevant team in the conference. This epiphany arrived thanks in part to a young quarterback prospect from Highland Park High School in Dallas. Four-star quarterback recruit Chandler Morris recently announced his intention to attend the University of Oklahoma after the Under Armour All-America Game. The plucky Morris, in nauseating fashion, brandished a flat-billed crimson cap and flashed what has become the infamous horns-down hand signal popular among haters of that school in Austin. I chuckled to myself in that moment about the publicity this youth had freely bestowed to our conference overlords. Why wasn’t he simply repping the school he’d chosen that has won five consecutive conference titles? Why do I still witness the occasional upside-down Longhorn logo plastered on the rear of a pickup truck? There are still countless white steers with the horns sawn off displayed in tandem with Aggie or OU decals driving around North Texas. The reason is that UT is still the most revered brand in the country. They’ve never been to the playoffs, and only won 10 games once in the last decade, but they are still the kings. Their relevance transcends winning, quite similar to our own Dallas Cowboys. The Longhorns are the richest brand and team in the NCAA. Calm down Aggies, who recently surpassed their former big brothers in Forbes Magazine rankings in what amounts to a dead heat. The Bevos have held the crowning position for longer, and decline seems unlikely. Austin always hopes to stay weird, and in the strangest turn this season, they were the only relevant team with a Big 12 patch this bowl season.