Rebels retain Cotton Bowl crown

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cotton Bowl didn't exactly have a memorable housewarming party in its fancy new home.

The first bowl game in the $1.2 billion football palace featured 16 penalties, 13 punts and 12 turnovers. Hey, at least the crowd of 77,928 didn't have to deal with the elements while watching Mississippi and Oklahoma State stumble and fumble.

I don't think there is any doubt that this move to Cowboys Stadium makes us relevant once again.

-- Cotton Bowl president Rick Baker

"It was ugly. I hate that," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said with a pained grin. "I hate that people in the country had to see that."

And those words came out of the mouth of the winning coach, whose postgame news conference perked up a bit when one of his adult daughters grabbed a microphone and pointed out that Ole Miss' blue-and-gray uniforms were pretty.

The Rebels' 21-7 win at Cowboys Stadium was about as attractive as the Cotton Bowl staffers' tropical shirts, which showcased the not-so-popular color combination of black, brown, army green, red-orange and yellow.

The shirts weren't much of a fashion statement, but they served their purpose. Cotton Bowl officials wanted to emphasize the point that they now host a warm-weather bowl.

In other words, there's no reason the Cotton Bowl should be left out of the Bowl Championship Series mix if it expands as expected in a few years.

The Cotton Bowl, which has been around for 74 years, boasts BCS-quality tradition. It has always earned high marks for hospitality. The only thing holding it back has been that darn unpredictable Dallas winter weather.

And that's why they packed up and left the Cotton Bowl stadium in Fair Park when Jerry Jones offered some office space in Arlington.

Who cares that the temperatures Saturday were in the 40s? It was 72 degrees with no wind throughout the game in Cowboys Stadium, as it will be for every Cotton Bowl, as long as the retractable roof and giant glass doors work.

There weren't a lot of highlights from a game that could be kindly described as a defensive struggle between a pair of teams that were disappointments after top-10 preseason rankings. But when there was a play worth watching again, such as Ole Miss scatback Dexter McCluster's 86-yard sprint for the first of his two touchdowns, folks got to see it on a 60-yard high-definition television.

"I don't think there is any doubt that this move to Cowboys Stadium makes us relevant once again," Cotton Bowl president Rick Baker told reporters at halftime. "This is the biggest game we've had in a very, very long time.

"There was no doubt that our Achilles heel as one of the top bowls was our weather. With this move, we've taken the weather out of the equation. In addition, we will be playing in the best football stadium in the world. Everyone at this game will be in the best stadium with perfect weather to watch a football game. This is what we've been working toward."

The slop on the field was secondary Saturday. The Cotton Bowl took a big step toward accomplishing its goal.

Tim MacMahon covers football for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.