NCF Nation: Cotton Bowl
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, moments after his team lost 41-31 to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl, was asked about Jerry Jones' palace hosting the first title game under the new system.
"I just don't know if there's a better facility out there that puts on a show and is accommodating to the game," Gundy said. "It's very impressive. I think that whoever made the decision made a good decision to give these people the opportunity to have that national championship game."
AT&T Stadium beat out Tampa, Fla., to host the title game and will do so on Jan. 12, 2015. The stadium will go into the rotation for semifinal games in future years. The Cotton Bowl will be on Dec. 31, 2014 as part of a triple-header of games.
That other conference, however much it makes folks grumble, gets to be No. 1 until somebody dethrones it. But the debate among Pac-12 and Big 12 fans for second place was a spirited one.
The Big 12 just clipped the Pac-12 in the ESPN.com Stats & Info power rankings by 0.6 points after going 2-1 versus the Pac-12 in bowl game, with Baylor whipping UCLA in the Alamo Bowl and Texas outlasting Oregon State in the Holiday Bowl.
Of course, Oregon, the Pac-12 North runner-up behind Stanford, blew out Kansas State, the Big 12 champion, in the Fiesta Bowl, and Arizona beat Oklahoma State in the regular season -- by 21 points -- to even the conferences' overall mark at 2-2. So even then there was some wiggle room.
The Pac-12 went 4-4 overall in bowl games, winning two BCS bowls, while the Big 12 went 4-5, losing its only BCS bowl. Both conferences finished with three Top 25 teams, but the Pac-12 had two teams in the top-seven compared to no top-10 teams for the Big 12.
Like we said: It was close. And highly subjective to judge.
This is all prelude to the new Pac-12 bowl agreements, which haven't yet been officially announced but we can strongly conjecture upon.
What the Big 12 could always counter in bowl matchups with the Pac-12 is a lower seed. The past three Alamo Bowls matched the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Pac-12 team against the No. 2 non-BCS bowl team from the Big 12. The Holiday Bowl featured the No. 2 Pac-12 team against the No. 4 team from the Big 12.
(There's even a Pac-12 counter to this, with the Pac-12 sending two teams to BCS bowl games the past three years an the Big 12 sending just one during the same span, which thereby evening out the seeds).
Guess what, though? Since the Pac-12 signed on with the Alamo Bowl, the Big 12 is 3-0 against it. Baylor beat Washington in 2012 and Oklahoma State crushed Arizona in 2011.
But the new bowl contracts likely will match the No. 1 non-playoff/non-Rose Bowl Pac-12 team vs. the No. 1 non-playoff/non-Sugar Bowl Big 12 team.
Previously, the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Big 12 team played in the Cotton Bowl, which got the Big 12's No. 1 non-BCS bowl team but is now part of the College Football Playoff. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has already commented on the change for his conference.
What does that upgrade mean for the Pac-12?
Well, if we go by teams that played in the Cotton Bowl that means UCLA would have played No. 11 Oklahoma, Washington would have played No. 11 Kansas State and Arizona would have played No. 18 Texas A&M.
Now, these trades aren't exact and aren't always better because bowls have their own selection politics. For example, No. 16 Oklahoma State was ranked higher than Texas A&M in 2011 but the Cotton Bowl preferred a Texas-based team.
Still, this means the bowl competition for the Pac-12 is moving up. It will be a test worth watching.
And the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Big 12 team might like getting out of the Cotton Bowl rotation. The Big 12 has lost nine of the past 10 Cotton Bowls to the SEC, and the lone victory was No. 7 Missouri over No. 25 Arkansas in 2008. Of course, the Tigers are now in the SEC.
By the way, the Big 12 and Pac-12 also appear headed to a matchup in the Buffalo Wild Wings in Sun Devil Stadium -- the Big 12 likely will be replaced by the Big Ten in the Holiday Bowl -- so the conferences will matchup at the top as well as measure each other's depth.
While both conferences would like to move up to No. 1, neither wants to yield the perception of being at least No. 2. The Alamo Bowl will provide a nice annual measuring stick for the two conferences.
The bowl's intentions were clear, but bowl chairman Tommy Bain made it official before this past season's Cotton Bowl, which served as a dry run for the Super Bowl a month later for Fox television.
"We're really preparing now for year 2012 to position ourselves to make a compelling argument that we should be in the mix at the top of the college football landscape," Bain told The Dallas Morning News.
That means BCS. The Cotton Bowl, once among college football's best bowls, slipped out of the elite rotation when the BCS was created in 1998. It needed a landscape change to make it happen, and adding a sixth BCS game could have potentially been a bit much for college football fans, stretching the definition of the "top of the college football landscape."
But on Tuesday, that landscape change came in the form of a jaw-dropping report from the Fiesta Bowl that led to CEO John Junker being fired and the Fiesta Bowl's status suddenly in flux.
"It is expected that all parties contracted with the BCS will live up to the highest standards. We do not wish to be associated with entities that believe otherwise," BCS director Bill Hancock said Tuesday.
Hancock also noted that there will be an investigation into the Fiesta Bowl's future as a member of the BCS, and that bowl officials had been notified to "demonstrate why it should remain a BCS game.”
"We're dead serious," Hancock told CBSSports.com after the comments were originally made.
Publicly, the Cotton Bowl played coy on Tuesday, making no public comments.
But if the Cotton Bowl is really, truly bent on busting into the BCS, the next few months should be filled with as much politicking as possible. It may not get another opportunity.
Though the bowl's status as an elite game on the field changed, its hospitality to players and media off it didn't. The Fiesta Bowl is on par with the Cotton in both areas, but besides its desert locale, doesn't offer much more. A Big 12 tie-in and a Dallas locale -- especially for a BCS game -- can almost guarantee big crowds. Texas A&M sold its allotment of 2,600 student tickets for this past season's game in 90 minutes.
It's perhaps a bit poetic that the stadium that hosts the Fiesta Bowl, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., had its unofficial title as America's best stadium stripped by Jerry World and its gargantuan big screen that stretches between the 20-yard lines and broadcasts 70-foot-tall high-definition images.
There are hurdles, sure. ESPN owns the rights to all five BCS games through 2013 and the national championship through 2014, thanks to a separate deal with the Rose Bowl, which hosts the title game in 2014. The Cotton Bowl is contracted with Fox through 2014 and holds an SEC tie-in already, whereas the Big 12's BCS tie-in would simply hand off from the Fiesta to the Cotton.
But every TV network and conference has its price, and the bowl could earn that money back quickly if buying out of both meant a sure spot in the BCS National Championship Game rotation. Plus, that's three years. Usurping the Fiesta Bowl's spot would likely be for the foreseeable future. There's no doubt it's worth it, if only for the prestige, money aside.
Should the Fiesta Bowl lose its status, those two factors could push another bowl into the BCS slot and keep the Cotton Bowl where it is. But no bowl can match the current stage and history of the Cotton, which has been played annually since 1937.
The Cotton Bowl talked a big game this winter before hosting its second game and first ever in prime time, a game that moved from its usual Jan. 1 slot all the way to Jan. 7 this year. The innuendo and flirting reached a fever pitch.
But if the Cotton Bowl is truly serious about gunning for a BCS bid, now isn't the time for silence and diplomacy.
Now is the time for aggressive action.
But you haven’t seen anything yet.
I dusted off my crystal ball and looked ahead to see some of the major events that we could see during the upcoming decade.
- We’ll see some realignment in the league as Missouri leaves for the Big Ten and TCU is added to fill the Tigers' place. That move will give Big 12 leaders an excuse for realignment, which will be decided by a blind draw of plans desk. The Osborne Division will have Nebraska, Colorado, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. The Royal Division will give a home to TCU, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State. After four years of play, that grouping will prove so unpopular that the old divisional format will be adapted with TCU joining the South Division and Oklahoma State moving to the North.
- Mike Leach eventually will return to the Big 12 -- but this time as a television analyst. His quirky conversational style will be panned by the critics but embraced by fans. And he’ll also appear on television in good friend Donald Trump’s series, “The Apprentice.”
- After being rebuffed by the major television networks, the Big 12 and Pac-10 will strike out on their own with a television network jointly owned by both. It will give us a late game every Thursday night from the Pac-10, along with an early Big 12 game every Saturday at noon. The two conferences will share the prime Saturday afternoon programming window and games on Saturday night, building national awareness for both conferences.
- The most intriguing part of the Pac-10/Big 12 programming association will be the “Kickoff Classic,” a week-long start of the season where the Big 12 teams will meet their counterparts from the Pac-10 in a series of eight games each year. The series starts off with a bang when USC beats Texas in 2015 at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, earning a measure of revenge for losing to the Longhorns in the national championship game in 2006.
- By that time, Will Muschamp will have taken over at Texas. Mack Brown will remain at Texas through the 2012 season, celebrating as Garrett Gilbert leads the Longhorns to the national championship with a victory over Ohio State in the BCS title game. After that game, Brown announces his resignation, with Muschamp taking over and naming Major Applewhite as his offensive coordinator and Kirby Smart as his defensive coordinator in his first series of personnel moves.
- Bob Stoops’ association with Oklahoma will end in the middle of the decade when he accepts an offer to become the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. It will end the longest association of any Big 12 coach with his school. He’ll be replaced at Oklahoma by Houston coach Kevin Sumlin.
- After Bo Pelini leaves for the vacant LSU job after the 2014 season, former Cornhusker Turner Gill takes over the Nebraska program after developing his Kansas program into a solid bowl contender. His hiring is one of the last acts that Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne orchestrates before his retirement.
- Much to the chagrin of football fans, the BCS will endure. We’ll see one alteration, however. A “plus-one” model will be added with one game added for the national championship. Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma all will win national championships during the upcoming decade. With Boone Pickens' influence lessening, Oklahoma State will fall back into a lesser position in the South. And Colorado will go through two head coaches in the decade before hiring Kyle Shanahan in 2018.
- Thanks to huge seasons from Robert Griffin and national interception leader Ahmad Dixon, Baylor will end its bowl drought with an appearance in the 2011 Texas Bowl. To celebrate, the Dr Pepper bottlers in Waco will release a commemorative bottle that becomes a prized collectors’ item.
- One change in the BCS will affect the Big 12. The Cotton Bowl eventually will become the fifth bowl in the national title rotation. To fill that hole, the Alamo Bowl will move to New Year’s Day as the destination for the top Big 12 team that doesn’t make the BCS.
Jan. 2, 2 p.m. (FOX)
Oklahoma State take by Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin: Mike Gundy’s team had hopes of making its first BCS at-large appearance before a stunning 27-0 loss to Oklahoma to finish the season. They could be facing more of the same against a talented Mississippi defense that ranked in the top 25 in pass efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense, sacks and tackles for loss. The Rebels whipped Texas Tech at the point of attack last season in the Cotton Bowl and will be looking for more of the same against the Cowboys. But they will be facing a different challenge from a run-heavy Oklahoma State offense keyed by All-American offensive tackle Russell Okung, bullish running back Keith Toston (1,177 rushing yards) and 2008 Big 12 rushing leader Kendall Hunter, who will have another month to get over his early-season injuries.
Bill Young has done a nice job retooling Oklahoma State's defense, which ranked sixth nationally in rush defense and will be tested by leading Mississippi running back Dexter McCluster (985 yards). The key for the game could well be which team gets the best play from quarterbacks who struggled late in the season. Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson was hobbled with injuries and Mississippi's Jevan Snead threw three interceptions in a season-ending loss at Mississippi State. These teams have met once before when Mississippi escaped with a 31-28 victory over the Cowboys in the 2004 Cotton Bowl.
Mississippi take by SEC blogger Chris Low:Ole Miss gets a return trip to Dallas, this time getting to play in the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium. The Rebels can only hope the whole Cotton Bowl experience is as much fun as last season when they shredded Texas Tech.
The end of this regular season wasn’t much fun for anybody in Oxford. Ole Miss was whipped 41-27 by rival Mississippi State, solidifying the Rebels as the toughest team to figure this season in the SEC. They didn’t live up to their top-10 billing early, but then hit a stretch in October and November where they did look like the real deal, only to bow meekly to the Bulldogs in the Egg Bowl.
After a brilliant debut season in the SEC, junior quarterback Jevan Snead threw 17 interceptions and was one of the more disappointing players in the league. He never found a rhythm and didn’t play with a lot of confidence at times.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt didn’t put Dexter McCluster at running back full time until midway through the season, and boy, did he take off. Always a threat to go the distance, McCluster rushed for 821 yards in his last five SEC games.
Nutt and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy go back a ways. Nutt was an assistant coach on Oklahoma State’s staff when Gundy was the Cowboys’ quarterback in the 1980s.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Trying to earn more television money while maximizing exposure for his schools is taking much of Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe's attention these days.
Beebe called working on settling that television question as the "major issue" that currently is facing him in his role as the conference's chief executive officer.
"I think that's fair to say because it was such a strong proponent of what put us together in the conference in the first place," Beebe said. "The origins of this conference was to get together to find a more valuable spot in the marketplace. We need all the platforms we can get for the quality of play that all of our student-athletes provide."
The Big 12 was formed in a marriage between the old Big Eight Conference and four schools from the old Southwest Conference because of vanishing spots in the market for those conferences in the mid-1990s.
A similar concern could be facing the Big 12 in the immediate future as it lags behind the megabuck contracts recently earned by the Southeastern and the Big Ten conferences that have helped propel those conferences to preeminent spots in college athletics.
"We can't deny it," Beebe said. "I give them a lot of credit for what they have been able to achieve. It's up to us to try to compete with that. It certainly concerns me there's going to be so much exposure of SEC product and Big Ten Network in this part of the country. And part of my charge will be how we will be able to compete with that in the future."
Several reports indicate there has been discussion among the Big 12, Pac-10 and Atlantic Coast conferences to provide a new television network with programming from two or perhaps three of the conferences in a consortium. Beebe said that the Big 12 must be creative in looking for ways to remain viable in the changing economic marketplace.
"I think we have to look at strategic partnerships with whomever, whether it's on the media side or the content owners (conferences) to find out what would be best for us," Beebe said. "I don't discount any scenario in that regard. Looking at a partnership with other conferences is something we'll have to take a close look at. Maybe there's something there that would work out for all of us."
Beebe conducted his press conference late Tuesday at the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington. The facility will serve as the home of the next two Big 12 championship game and the site for three regular-season games involving Big 12 teams this season.
Big 12 officials like many things about the new stadium. The facility's location, its ability to accommodate more than 80,000 fans and the ability to stage games in climate-controlled conditions are particularly attractive. The conference already has forged a working relationship with the Cowboys as the Big 12 will serve as the sponsoring entity for the NCAA men's basketball Final Four in 2014 when it comes to facility.
The new stadium also will serve as the home of the Cotton Bowl beginning in January. The bowl hopes that moving to the new facility will boost its chances of elbowing its way into the rotation of BCS bowl locations -- although the BCS likely will not expand before its current contract expires in 2014.
"If there's going to be an expansion of games in the BCS, we're certainly going to be adamant about that including a bowl in our region," Beebe said. "This would be highly attractive with the kind of facility we have here. The Cotton Bowl is our Tier I partner and we would try to accommodate that."
Beebe said he hopes the conference will have agreements with its bowl partners by the start of the football season with plans to take them for approval to the conference's board of directors at its October meeting.
"Our bowl partners have been tremendous," Beebe said. "The addition of the Gator Bowl has been very great for us. I wish I was this desired when I was a single man. There are a lot of bowls interested in coming after us and we're very fortunate in that regard."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It would seem that being relegated to a pay-per-view telecast would be college football's version of playing in Siberia. Less attention compared to national games on the major networks seemingly would make this an unattractive solution.
But excitement about the arrival of new Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is helping to disprove that line of thinking. The Omaha World-Herald reported that Nebraska notched impressive pay-per-view numbers in their first three telecasts, helping the school make more money than if those games had been carried by a national television network.
School officials estimate that Nebraska's first three games have generated more than $1 million in their telecasts produced in cooperation with Fox Sports Network.
"FSN has also done games with Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, and the Nebraska games we have done have performed well in comparison with those schools," Geoff Goldman, FSN Midwest's media relations manager, told the Lincoln Journal Star.
So maybe there is a method there. Hire a vibrant new coach and play a bunch of nobodies from schools outside BCS conferences. And then sit back and rake in the cash.
I wish my budgeting was that simple.
Here are some of the other stories around the conference generating some hot sports opinion this morning.
- Kansas State fell victim to some of its old problems in a 38-29 loss to Louisville Wednesday night. The Kansas City Star's Jason Whitlock said that QB Josh Freeman didn't live up to being one of the Big 12's best quarterbacks. Freeman wasn't ready -- literally and figuratively -- for his prime-time opportunity.
- Colorado is girding for a tough challenge when West Virignia visits tonight, a game that could be a watershed moment for Coach Dan Hawkins' program. It will be the start of a brutal six-game swing for the Buffaloes that includes games against five ranked foes.
- Massachusetts players defended only nine passes in their entire game last week against James Madison. They may face that many in the first series Saturday against Texas Tech. And poor route-running was blamed by Texas Tech assistant coach Lincoln Riley as the major reason the Red Raiders dropped eight passes against SMU.
- Baylor has repeatedly benefitted from field-position advantage during their recent two-game winning streak.
- Cotton Bowl officials showed off their $57 million package of renovations, which will result in at least 16,000 more fans attending the Texas-Oklahoma game next month.
- Oklahoman columnist John Rohde spins forward to a potential Oklahoma-USC national championship game at the Orange Bowl. The Sooners will have to play at least the next four weeks without injured DT DeMarcus Granger, and perhaps much more.
- An underrated element in Oklahoma State's early success has been its strong punting. The Cowboys lead the nation in net punting and six of their eight kicks have been downed inside the opposing team's 20-yard line. They haven't needed much punting with the emergence of WR Dez Bryant into one of the nation's most productive players.
- Texas has already blocked three kicks in its first two games after producing none last season. Freshman DB Aaron Williams has been a key ingredient, blocking two against UTEP.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Jimmy Burch details the Big 12's biggest early surprises this season. Hurricane Ike has resulted in some unique challenges for Rice this week. Coach David Bailiff has been sleeping with his family in his office after the storm ripped through his home.
- Texas A&M DE Michael Bennett is emerging out of the ample shadow of his older brother, former A&M standout TE Martellus Bennett.
- Kansas City Star beat writer Mike DeArmond's scientific experiment in his weekly vlog might be the best comparison to Missouri's prolific offense. And the Columbia Tribune's Dave Matter says the Tigers should be in good shape Saturday as long as Dick Jauron's Buffalo Bills don't show up in the place of Turner Gill's team.
- Nebraska's defense has struggled during its bye week with a mental hangover after facing so many spread passing offenses, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Here's a look at 10 players who earned the title of "Captain Clutch" during their Big Ten careers:
Anthony Carter, WR, Michigan [1979-82] -- Carter was only a freshman when he played a part in one of the greatest plays in Michigan history, hauling in a 45-yard touchdown pass as time expired to beat Indiana in 1979. The wideout/return man had 37 touchdown receptions in three seasons.
Kerry Collins, QB, Penn State [1991-94] -- Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, and Collins made his mark the next year. He led the Nittany Lions to a 12-0 record, which included three road victories (Michigan, Indiana, Illinois) by seven points or fewer.
Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin [1996-99] -- The NCAA's all-time rushing leader made his mark in big games, winning back-to-back Rose Bowl MVP awards after rushing for 246 yards and 200 yards in Badger victories. Dayne also had a 246-yard effort in his first bowl appearance, a Cotton Bowl win against Utah.
Bob Griese, QB, Purdue [1964-66] -- Griese's near-flawless performance in Purdue's upset of No. 1 Notre Dame in 1965 stands as one of the greatest in team history. The next year he led the Boilermakers to their first Rose Bowl appearance and a 14-13 win against USC.
Brian Griese, QB, Michigan [1994-97] -- After coming off the bench to rally the Wolverines past Ohio State in 1996, Griese cemented himself as a clutch quarterback the next season. He led Michigan to a 12-0 record and a national championship, winning five games by 10 points or fewer, including a 21-16 triumph over Washington State in the Rose Bowl.
Jim Harbaugh, QB, Michigan [1983-86] -- Considered by many to be the best quarterback in school history, Harbaugh led Michigan to a 27-23 win against Nebraska in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl. He won four games by three points or fewer as a senior.
Nile Kinnick, RB, Iowa [1937-39] -- The stadium is named after him for a reason. Kinnick did it all for Iowa, including a 63-yard punt that pinned No. 1 Notre Dame at the 6-yard line in a 7-6 Hawkeyes win in 1939.
Craig Krenzel, QB, Ohio State [2000-03] -- He took heat for his arm strength, but no one could question his late-game toughness. The two-time Fiesta Bowl MVP led Ohio State to a national title in 2002 with his arm and his legs.
Chuck Long, QB, Iowa [1981-85] -- A dramatic fourth-down touchdown run against Michigan State kicked off a memorable 1985 season for the Hawkeyes and Long, who many believe should have won the Heisman Trophy. Two weeks later, Long rallied Iowa past Michigan.
Mike Nugent, PK, Ohio State [2001-04] -- Record-setting kicker was nearly unshakable under pressure. He kicked game-tying and game-winning field goals to beat Purdue in overtime in 2003, and his game-winning 55-yard kick against Marshall stands out in an otherwise forgettable 2004 season.