Take a walk down the hallway of the Tom Taylor Building and you will see pictures of Missouri’s past bowl teams adorning the wall. Each photo has the year, the team’s record and to which bowl it went.
Hanging next to the picture of the 1998 Insight.com bowl team is a sign that says “Next Bowl Team.” The photo of this year’s Tigers squad is ready to take its place.
With the Tigers’ 62-31 demolition of Texas Tech on Saturday, MU became bowl eligible for the first time since 1998 when it played West Virginia in the Insight.com Bowl.
Wide receiver Darius Outlaw said knowing that he will play in a bowl is a dream come true.
“Wooo, five years,” Outlaw said. “I have been waiting five years for this. We have to keep fighting and try to get to a big one.”
Missouri’s destination is unknown, but the possibilities are almost endless. With a wide-open Big 12 Conference North Division, the Tigers have a chance at a New Year’s Day bowl.
The Big 12 has eight bowl associations, four of which had representatives at Saturday’s game. The Cotton, Alamo, Independence and Houston Bowls attended.
In addition to those four, the Big 12 has a spot in one of the four Bowl Championship Series games (Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Rose Bowls) for the conference champion. If the conference champion is No. 1 or 2 in the BCS rankings, that team will play for the national championship at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The Big 12 could also receive an at-large bid to another BCS bowl if a team is ranked in the top 12 of the BCS poll and the committee chooses it.
For now, Missouri can dream of a BCS bowl and Big 12 championship.
Senior center A.J. Ricker said it would take awhile for him to realize how good it feels to be bowl eligible, but bigger things could be in store for the Tigers.
“When I wake up tomorrow it will probably hit me,” Ricker said. “We are going to a bowl, that’s great, but why not go to one of the bigger ones?
“I think the North is still wide open so why not win there.”
More likely possibilities include the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, the Holiday Bowl in San Diego and the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
The Cotton Bowl, played in Dallas, gets the first selection of Big 12 teams after the BCS makes its selections. The loser of the Big 12 championship game is normally first in line for the Cotton Bowl, but it doesn’t need to choose the runner-up.
The Holiday Bowl is next in line. The Tigers could land in this game if they finish third or fourth.
The Alamo Bowl, with the fourth choice, is another likely destination for MU.
Jack Rogers, the chairman of the Alamo Bowl selection committee, said it is difficult to discern who will go where this early in the season, but the Tigers impressed him.
“Missouri has got a very good football team,” Rogers said. “I think they have a very good team and a very favorable schedule the rest of the way.”
Rogers said the Alamo Bowl has about 20 representatives it can send to scout teams on a given weekend. He said his group watched about eight teams Saturday. When a committee member visits a school, he or she will talk to athletic directors, fans and alumni to gauge the fan interest in the particular bowl game.
“We like to go out and walk the parking lot and judge the fan support,” Rogers said. “Then we can see if they are going to travel and see how they feel about a postseason bowl game.”
Each week is a sort of audition for the teams to prove not only that they can play football, but also send a large contingent of fans to bowl games that are hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away.
Because the Big 12 has a conference championship game, the teams will not know their fate until after that game is played.
The Big 12 could have up to eight teams eligible for bowls by the end of the regular season, including schools that have been off the bowl radar for the past several years, such as Missouri and Kansas.
Rogers said it is nice to have some new blood to consider, but there is a disadvantage.
“It makes for a very, very interesting team selection meeting on Monday mornings to see who is up and who is down,” Rogers said.