- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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On Thursday, we linked to a story from the Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi that said the Capital One Bowl wanted to take Northwestern and Texas A&M but bowed to pressure from the Big Ten and SEC to select conference runners-up Nebraska and Georgia instead.
Capital One Bowl executive director Steve Hogan disputed that story on Friday, saying that the Big Ten had "zero input" into the game's selection process.
"I can't be any more clear about that," Hogan told ESPN.com. "There was no mandate from either conference. It's our contractual decision, and our committee had the sole ability and authority to pick what teams we want."
There were several media reports leading up to bowl selection evening that Northwestern was the pick for the Capital One Bowl. Hogan said he doesn't know where those reports came from. The Wildcats seemed to have more momentum, as Nebraska was coming off an embarrassing loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and played in the same game last year. But Hogan said his bowl typically selects higher-ranked teams who have won the head-to-head meetings and have better conference records when picking between two schools. The Huskers held all those advantages over Northwestern.
Hogan said the Capital One Committee had "lots of wide-ranging discussions" about which team to take but ultimately selected Nebraska after a vote from about 150 members.
He said the game's first goal is to match the most deserving teams, not necessarily the most exciting matchups or players. Texas A&M, of course, would have brought Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel to Orlando.
"We could have made purely ticket-driven matchups in the past," he said. "But if you look at our history, that hasn't been the case. ... Nebraska earned the opportunity."