Missouri finishes an outstanding 10-win regular season, and now talk has moved on to bowl selection. Like any Mizzou fan my hope is for the most prestigious bowl available--an at-large berth in the Orange Bowl. That berth seems like it will go to Stanford at this point. Next in line are the Cotton, Alamo, Insight, and Holiday Bowls in that order. Although it's no given, Missouri could find itself the slotted into the "last" Bowl--the Holiday Bowl--despite a superior record (including a head-to-head win over Texas A&M) to other teams in consideration. That's kind of what I expect to happen, and I won't be the least bit disappointed if it does. Well, maybe a little--because "last" always stings a bit even if it's meaningless--but it won't last long and I hope all fans will feel the same way.
As others have noted, the Texas-based bowls will likely favor local tie-ins with Texas A&M and the Oklahoma schools to ensure that fannies get into the seats. But in truth, a selection to the Holiday Bowl is no slight. It's among the last to select on a list of very good bowls. You can't blame the bowls for going with known quantities to the extent the rules allow. That's just the way it goes sometimes. Hey, we could be Boise State. No matter where you stood on their national title aspirations, the fact is they have one loss--to a top 25 opponent. They're probably going to play in the Humanitarian Bowl while Virgina Tech--who has an FCS loss on its resume--can play its way into a BCS berth. That's enough to make me say, "I have nothing to gripe about on the issue of Bowl tie-ins--nothing." In fact, I can see a number of advantages that are specific to the Holiday Bowl.
There's gold in them thar hills!
One thing we always talk about here on Rock-M-Nation is the role bowl games play in getting the Missouri brand in front of potential recruits. I would say the brand is reasonably well-established in Texas. A bowl in Texas can't hurt, but we don't need a bowl to get into the consideration set for any Texas recruits. On the other hand, we have zero presence in Southern California while Nebraska--Nebraska!--was still getting SoCal recruits under Solich and Callahan. Establishing even just a minor presence there could pay big dividends now that USC's stranglehold on the region has loosened a bit. Missouri will not be a player for 4- and 5-star recruits from Orange County, but we may be able to get in on the 2- and 3-star diamond in the rough kids we have so successfully found in Texas. Those kinds of SoCal kids aren't just going to Pac-10 schools. They're going to San Diego State, Utah, Boise State, Nevada, and Fresno State--especially at the skill positions. Getting to a bowl, starting some relationships there, and just planting a small flag could pay big dividends down the line.
San Diego is cool as hell
Missouri fans might actually travel to San Diego.
An Intriguing Matchup Helps Position Us for 2011
A matchup with Arizona or Washington could be really intriguing TV. Arizona might be headed to the Alamo Bowl having played in the Holiday last season. I wouldn't rule them out entirely though. Arizona is a very similar team, and a matchup pitting Gabbert against Nick Foles could catapult the winner into next season inside the top 10. Mizzou would also have a shot at an unprecedented Stoops double play, beating both coaches in one season. A potential matchup with a 6-6 Washington team would favor us, but may still be intriguing TV because of the Jake Locker factor. (I don't see the Holiday taking a 6 win Oregon State team.)
If we end up in a "better" bowl, fine. But, when we look at what a particular bowl can do for the program I think the Holiday Bowl can get us in front of fans in one of the biggest football factories in America.