By Ralph D. Russo/The Associated Press
A new era for the Cotton Bowl begins Jan. 2 when Ole Miss plays Oklahoma State at the $1.2 billion Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
The Cotton Bowl game ditched the antiquated Cotton Bowl Stadium after last season. Not only will the game be played in Jerry Jones’ palatial new home for his NFL team but Cotton Bowl officials also have offices in the stadium.
The Cotton Bowl, once one of the jewels of college football’s postseason, is ready to rise again.
“We are very proud of our game and are very excited about our new home,” Cotton Bowl president Rick Baker said during the season. “We want to participate at the highest possible level that we are allowed to participate in college football.”
Baker shies away from talking directly about the Cotton Bowl making a bid to become a BCS game down the line. With the BCS about to start a new television contract with ESPN next season, the soonest a change to the lineup could happen would be the 2014 season.
But when the time comes for the conference commissioners to open discussions about the future sites of the BCS, it would be shocking if the Cotton Bowl did not make a push to be included — again.
Baker and his team made a pitch to become a BCS bowl earlier in the decade, when Bowl Championship Series officials determined it wanted to expand from four games to five.
Instead, bowl officials from the Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta, wanting to ensure they would host the lucrative championship game once every four years instead of once every five, came up with the idea of double-hosting.
The Cotton Bowl’s new home in Arlington, Texas, has already landed some of the biggest sporting events out there: the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the Super Bowl.
But getting into the BCS might be tougher.
Double-hosting is hard work, but the bowls have proved capable of pulling it off. While a decision to work a fifth site into the BCS or possibly replace one with the Cotton Bowl would ultimately be the hands of the conference commissioners, the bowls are not without influence.
The Big Ten and Pac-10 have made it clear that they believe whatever is in the best interest of the Rose Bowl is in their best interest.
The Southeastern Conference has had a long relationship with the Sugar Bowl.
The Atlantic Coast Conference’s relationship with the Orange Bowl is relatively new, but it works well geographically. Would the ACC want to send its champion to Texas?
Then there is the Big 12 and the Fiesta Bowl. The ties between to the two are also relatively new, but both have benefited from the relationship. Big 12 fans like heading to the desert in the winter and with teams such as Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska, the league often provides the bowl one of college football’s signature programs.
The Big 12 played its championship game at Dallas Cowboys Stadium earlier this month and commissioner Dan Beebe has said the idea of making it a permanent destination is up for discussion.
But that would probably hurt the Cotton Bowl’s chances of getting into the BCS. It’s unlikely the Big 12 would want to send its champion to a bowl at the same site as its championship game.
Few bowls can match the history and tradition of the Cotton Bowl. It dates to 1936 and Baker and his crew like to boast that it has hosted seven games that decided national championships.
Even when it was being played in a second-rate facility, the Cotton Bowl has always been praised by participants as a first-rate operation. And now it’s being played in the Taj Mahal of football stadiums.
With all that and Jones in the background ready to provide influence (at the least), the Cotton Bowl’s chances of breaking into the BCS down the road are still murky at best.
Friday, Jan. 1
Northwestern (plus 7) vs. Auburn
Wildcats’ spread could be tricky for shaky Tigers’ D … NORTHWESTERN 31-24.
Capital One Bowl
Penn State (minus 2½) vs. LSU
Tigers coach Les Miles is 4-0 in bowl games … LSU 24-17.
Florida State (plus 2½) vs. West Virginia
Can Seminoles send Bobby Bowden out with a victory? … FLORIDA STATE 41-35.
Ohio State (plus 3½) vs. Oregon
Buckeyes have finished last three seasons with BCS losses … OHIO STATE 38-33.
Florida (minus 11) vs. Cincinnati
Tim Tebow’s farewell … FLORIDA 50-35.
Saturday, Jan. 2
South Florida (minus 7) vs. Northern Illinois
Based on talent, should be a Bulls blowout. Based on motivation, maybe not … USF 24-13.
Oklahoma State (plus 3) vs. Mississippi
Both of these teams started season in top 10 … MISSISSIPPI 27-17.
Connecticut (minus 4½) vs. South Carolina
Huskies’ season has been an emotional roller coaster … SOUTH CAROLINA 21-14.
East Carolina (plus 7½) vs. Arkansas
Razorbacks fans hoping it won’t be QB Ryan Mallett’s last college game … ARKANSAS 37-24.
Michigan State (plus 8) vs. Texas Tech
Red Raiders juggled QBs, still finished second in nation in passing …. TEXAS TECH 28-21.
Monday, Jan. 4
Boise State (plus 7) vs. TCU
Winner could finish ranked No. 2 in the country … TCU 35-21.
Tuesday, Jan. 5
Iowa (plus 4) vs. Georgia Tech
Hawkeyes had month to prepare for Yellow Jackets’ triple-option … GEORGIA TECH 35-28.
Wednesday, Jan. 6
Central Michigan (minus 3½) vs. Troy
Trojans are third in nation in total offense … TROY 45-38.
Thursday, Jan. 7
BCS National Championship
Alabama (minus 4) vs. Texas
Fourth straight title for SEC or second in five seasons for ‘Horns? … ALABAMA 24-17.