Time to Go Bowling in DFW
by BO CARTER
It literally is the “most wonderful (bowl) time of the year…”
Roses are blooming, oranges are budding, and cotton is flowering as 35 postseason clashes begin with Saturday’s three bowls to begin a 23-day binge challenging even to the most fanatical football follower.
While the original three tilts of 2011-12 arouse curiosity this weekend, Metroplex fans have a trio of blockbusters plus the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Division I title outing on Saturday, Jan. 7, at Frisco’s Pizza Hut Park to lead into the Allstate BCS championship on Jan. 10 in New Orleans.
not just the cotton bowl anymore
The “granddaddy” of Metroplex postseason games occurs on Friday, Jan. 6, in primetime (7 p.m. airtime) as No. 6 Arkansas (10-2 overall) of the Southeastern Conference tangles with surprising No. 8 nationally Kansas State (10-2) in the highest-ranked encounter at the 76th annual AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in Irving.
Before that the Armed Forces Bell Helicopter Bowl completes its two-year visit to SMU’s Ford Stadium on Friday, Dec. 30, in a 11 a.m. (CST) ESPN telecast between BYU (9-3) and Tulsa (8-4). Three days later on Jan. 2, the second TicketCity Bowl continues a 76-year tradition of games at historic Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas when Houston (12-1) and Penn State (9-3) at 11 a.m. (CST) on ESPN.
That’s a combined record of 58-15 among six NCAA Football Subdivision teams, which have been ranked as high as second nationally and were in contention for conference titles virtually all season.
Toss in the four semifinalists playing for the coveted berth in the 35th annual NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game (formerly NCAA I-AA) in Frisco, and you have the possibilities of No. 1 nationally and area favorite Sam Houston State (13-0), Montana (11-2), Georgia Southern (11-2), and North Dakota State (11-2), and fans cannot wait for a veritable Metroplex football feast on Jan. 6-7.
The AT&T Cotton Bowl has a pair of Top 10 opponents for the first time since the 1994 contest between Texas A&M and Notre Dame and matches two teams, which have not met in football since Arkansas topped the Wildcats 28-7 at Little Rock.
LOOK FOR FIREWORKS
These are entirely different, high-octane teams from their 1960s’ counterparts as the Razorbacks, making their 12th Classic appearance and seeking their first win in the 76-year-old standby since a 27-6 verdict over Texas in 2000 (the first game played in the Millennium on the morning of Jan. 1), rely on the passing of junior QB Tyler Wilson (257-of-407 for 3,422 yards, 63.1 percent completion rate, and 22 TD tosses), running of Dennis Johnson (101 carries for 637 yards, three TDs) and ace receiving of Jarius Wright (63 catches for 1,029 yards, 16.3 yards per reception, and 11 TDs).
The Wildcats counter with All-Big 12 quarterback and do-it-all Collin Klein (145-of-251 passing for 1,745 yards, 12 TDs along with 293 rushes for 1,099 net yards and Big 12-most 26 TD carries) and diminutive RB John Hubert (5-7, 185 pounds) with 188 carries for 933 yards and three TDs.
Earlier in the week, BYU and Tulsa open the area college bowl season on Dec. 30 with more anticipated fireworks on offense. In the previous seven meetings of these traditional powers (the Cougars lead the series 6-1), the schools have combined for 81 points and 934 total offense yards’ averages with freewheeling skill players.
BYU looks to QB combo Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps with total passing stats of 243 attempts, 414 completions, 2,919 yards, and 19 scores while Tulsa counters with Gilmer, Texas, three-year starting QB G.J. Kinne (a former Texas QB and three-year starter for the Golden Hurricane) with staggering career passing totals of 715-of-1,164, 9,258 yards and 78 TDs since 2009.
FIRST GAME WITHOUT JOPA SINCE 1965
In the TicketCity Bowl, entering just its second game but with a marquee intersectional matchup, Penn State plays its first bowl game without College Hall of Fame head coach Joe Paterno at the helm since 1965 while the Cougars seek a fulltime replacement for former head coach Kevin Sumlin, who accepted a post with Texas A&M on Dec. 10. Texas Tech edged Northwestern 45-38 in the inaugural TicketCity slugfest at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Jan. 1, 2011.
The rest of the bowl season stacks up with just one key rematch – and this one is for the national title. No. 1 LSU (13-0) has the unenviable and mostly monumental task of downing No. 2 Alabama (11-1) in the Allstate BCS championship at the Mercedes-Benz Dome in New Orleans on Jan. 9. Interestingly, in 19 rematches of regular-season games over 142 seasons of college football, the team that lost the opening game came to win 15 times. That may not be a good omen for coach Les Miles’ Fighting Tigers.
BOTH LOCAL SCHOOLS BOWLING
In other bowl activity, Metroplex favorites TCU (10-2) overall returns to lovely San Diego for a Dec. 21 tussle with Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year Sonny Dykes’ (son of popular retired Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes) Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium, 7 p.m. (CST) on ESPN.
SMU (7-5) makes its first postseason trek to Birmingham, Ala., to face Pittsburgh (6-6) of the Big East Conference (which has accepted the Mustangs as a member in 2013 football) in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 7 at noon (CST) in another ESPN national telecast.