Sooners miss out on BCS bowl, get Texas A&M in Cotton Bowl
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Monday, December 03, 2012
12/03/12 at 4:23 AM
Related Story: Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M
NORMAN - There was no live reaction from Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops to losing a BCS bowl berth to Northern Illinois Sunday night. Just a carefully worded statement in an OU release announcing the Sooners' Cotton Bowl matchup against Texas A&M:
"Our players are enthusiastic about winning another Big 12 championship and look forward to competing against Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic. The Cotton Bowl has long been a marquee postseason destination, and we're excited about being selected to play there a second time."
The Sooners are there for the first time since 2002 because Northern Illinois beat Kent State for the MAC championship Friday night, then jumped from No. 21 to No. 15 in the final BCS standings Sunday. The Huskies had to get into the top 16 and finish ahead of the champion of a BCS automatically-qualifying conference.
Accomplishing both - they topped the Big Ten's Wisconsin and the Big East's Louisville in the final standings - the Huskies accepted an Orange Bowl invitation to play ACC champion Florida State.
After the Sooners defeated TCU Saturday to finish as Big 12 co-champions with Kansas State, they figured they would be Sugar Bowl-bound as an at-large. Northern Illinois had beaten Kent State, thought to be a more serious threat to OU's BCS bid at No. 17. The Sooners figured their path to New Orleans was clear, and even reveled in a postgame "B-C-S!" chant with their fans in Fort Worth.
Twenty-nine hours later, their mood soured. Contrary to Stoops' statement, players weren't very enthusiastic at all. Not on Twitter, at least.
Cornerback Demontre Hurst: "Wow Bcs sucks big time!!!!"
Running back Brennan Clay: "This is a joke!!!"
Safety Tony Jefferson: "We would beat the brakes off NIU.. Makes me sick."
The Sooners found a champion in ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit. He seemed to feel worse about Northern Illinois' inclusion than Jefferson.
"The fact that Northern Illinois is in the BCS in 2012 is really a sad state for college football, and where we are with the current system," Herbstreit said on his network's Sunday night BCS show. "They don't deserve to be in the BCS this year ...
"You're gonna leave Oklahoma out to put Northern Illinois into a BCS game? Are you kidding me? Of all the years we've had these BCS discussions, putting Northern Illinois or a Kent State in the BCS this year would really be an injustice."
Well, all the Huskies did was play by the rules, same as everyone else. It's not that they drew poll/computer strength by beating Kent State. It's that teams ranked ahead of them didn't do much to hold off their charge up the standings.
The Huskies passed Boise State, who won at Nevada. They passed idle Michigan. They passed Texas, a loser at Kansas State. They passed Kent State. They passed UCLA, who lost the Pac-12 championship to Stanford. And they passed Nebraska after the Huskers were obliterated by Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship.
Ultimately, the Sooners' only BCS fail-safe was Texas upsetting K-State Saturday night in Manhattan. That would have given OU an outright Big 12 title and the league's automatic berth in the Fiesta Bowl. (There was scuttlebutt the Fiesta would have traded desert-weary OU to the Sugar.)
As it happened, the Sooners scrambled to put a positive spin on an unforeseen development. That shouldn't be as big a problem in the coming days.
OU will see an old Big 12 friend in the Cotton Bowl. Texas A&M's coach is former Stoops assistant Kevin Sumlin. Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel might just win the Heisman Trophy Saturday.
It will be a more convenient, more affordable trip for fans, and a return home for several OU players. The game is at Cowboys Stadium, not the Cotton Bowl, where they had to paint the grass green for OU's 2002 snooze-fest against Arkansas. It kicks off at 7 p.m. Jan. 4, not 10 a.m. New Year's morning like it once did.
The Sooners will be treated like royalty, if the Cotton Bowl's press release is any indication.
"We hit a home run today," Cotton Bowl chairman Tommy Bain said. "When our Team Selection Committee met for the first time a few weeks ago, we circled this matchup as the one we most wanted, and the cards fell in our favor today."
Players will likely come to appreciate the matchup. It's just that was a little too much to expect in light of Sunday's jolt.
The best the Sooners could do on BCS selection night was a tweet from guard Adam Shead: "Could be worse... we could be playing in the Insight Bowl again."
Vs. Texas A&M
At Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
7 p.m. Jan. 4
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Going bowling
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and the Sooners will face Texas A&M Jan. 4 in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World