Teams from Texas--all former members of the Southwest Conference, yup--went 5-1 in the pre-New Year's college football bowls. Only TCU, playing last and latest in Saturday's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, marred the state's perfect record.
The best and biggest game is yet to come, when Texas A&M plays Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on Friday. But for now, here's how we ranked the other bowls.
Beat Fresno State, 43-10, in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
The Mustangs were 12.5-point underdogs in Vegas, and likely four-touchdown losers according to such soothsayers as SB Nation's Bill Connelly and Sports Illustrated 's Stewart Mandel (though Mandel's callback to the 2009 Hawaii Bowl proved prescient). Not only did the 6-6 Mustangs deliver the bowl season's most dominant performance against 9-3 Fresno State, but the fans who saw it spent their Christmas on Oahu. Win-win.
Beat UCLA, 49-26, in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.
This year, Art Briles transitioned from Heisman-winning quarterback RG3 (who is now with the Redskins) to senior Nick Florence with only a slight drop-off (from 10-3 to 8-5), earning himself a contract extension at the beginning of December that should also help scare off other, richer schools from poaching him.
"Got to show some love for the Baylor Bears, who drilled UCLA and have now gone 11-1 in November-December the past two years," wrote Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman . "Art Briles is the man, and Lache Seastrunk is a stud whether he wins the 2013 Heisman or not."
Beat Oregon State, 31-27, in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
It started ugly, both off and on the field, but in the end, the era of Major Applewhite, offensive coordinator, began well, while defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's group finished a tough year on a high. The most exciting game of the the Top 3, it sits below the others because the University of Texas should never, ever, ever lose in front of what's essentially a home crowd at the Alamo Bowl (whereas Baylor had to win a virtual road game in San Diego).
4. Texas Tech
Beat Minnesota, 34-31, in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
Not ranked higher because Minnesota isn't, but this was as entertaining a bowl as any of them, Texas teams or otherwise. The Red Raiders (whose mascot would go on to win the Capitol One Mascot Challenge) kept trying to give the game away (13 penalties, two fourth-quarter interceptions), then scored 10 points in the final 70 seconds thanks to an 82-yard drive, a D.J. Johnson interception, and a Ryan Bustin field goal as time expired. All in all, a pretty good recruiting video for new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who seemed to get almost as much screen time as Seth Doege.
Beat Air Force, 33-14, in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
You might not usually grade Rice football on a curve, but having started the season 1-5 (and then 2-6), the Owls get a "B" just for being bowl-eligible at 6-6, and an "A-" for this convincing win over our nation's future flyboys. Good thing future scientists and engineers are probably just as crucial to the nation's military might.
Lost to Michigan State, 17-16, in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Can't rank 'em any higher with a loss, but their bowl participation allowed the youngest team in the Big 12 to have another month of practice before heading into what will surely be a better 2013 season--one that should also see the return of quarterback Casey Pachall , or so Gil LeBreton of the Star-Telegram reported.
6-7 Georgia Tech beat 7-5 USC in the Sun Bowl, 21-7--a victory for El Paso, as Southern Cal, the pre-season #1 and therefore one of the most disappointing teams in college football history , acted like they didn't want to be there (snarky tweets, a late arrival to bowl events), then played like it.