- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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This will not come as news to those of you who followed the bowl selection machinations leading up the postseason announcements of Dec. 2.
But another report has some more details on how the Capital One Bowl originally wanted to pit Northwestern against Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, until both the SEC and Big Ten intervened.
Mike Bianchi writes in the Orlando Sentinel that two members of the Capital One search committee confirmed that the Wildcats-Aggies matchup is the one they wanted. Instead, they took Nebraska and Georgia after some strong-arming from both leagues to take their championship game runners-up.
"While Georgia and Nebraska were probably the most deserving teams to be in the Cap One Bowl, Texas A&M would have been more exciting for fans and more lucrative for the local economy. Johnny Football is currently college football's greatest show on turf and it's been more than half-a-century since Texas A&M played a bowl game in the State of Florida. Aggie fans would have flocked to Orlando for the bowl game and many local residents would have bought tickets just for the chance to see Johnny Heisman work his magic.
"But with the SEC and Big Ten wielding so much power in college football, the Cap One Bowl bent over backwards to accommodate those super conferences in hopes of keeping its primo spot in the bowl pecking order for years to come."
The bowl's executive director, Steve Hogan, didn't directly confirm that report to Bianchi but didn't really deny it, either.
"Without conference partnerships, you don't have the inventory to play your game," Hogan told Bianchi. "We don't have the groceries, but we have to cook the dinner. ... We are a host destination that wants to continue to be important.
"You have to understand that we've had a 20-year relationship with the SEC and Big Ten where we've had the top BCS selection from those conferences. That's an important place to be and we'd like to continue that relationship."
While Northwestern fans would have loved to be in the Capital One Bowl instead of the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, the matchup for the Wildcats in Jacksonville against Mississippi State is a more favorable one for them as they seek their first bowl win since 1949. Winning a bowl game, any bowl game, is the most important thing for Northwestern's program at this time.
Let's just hope both Nebraska and Georgia act like they want to be in the Capital One Bowl, or else the leagues' strong-arm tactics will come back to bite them.