Former No. 1 Missouri gets Cotton Bowl bid vs. Arkansas

Updated: December 3, 2007, 12:14 AM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- Left out of the BCS after losing the Big 12 championship game and its No. 1 ranking, Missouri is going to the Cotton Bowl for only the second time.

The Tigers (No. 6 BCS, No. 7 AP) will play Arkansas (Unranked BCS, No. 25 AP) in Dallas on New Year's Day. Missouri's only other Cotton Bowl appearance was in 1946, while the Razorbacks will be there for the 11th time.

Missouri (11-2) missed a chance to play for its first national championship after a 38-17 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game Saturday night. That guaranteed the Sooners a spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

While the Tigers play on New Year's Day for the first time since 1970, an accomplishment in itself, Illinois and Kansas -- two teams that Missouri beat this season and finished higher than in the final BCS standings released Sunday -- will play in BCS bowls.

Missouri was sixth in the final BCS standings, two spots ahead of Kansas and seven above Illinois. The Tigers are the only team in the top 10 of the BCS standings not going to one of the five biggest games.

"I don't think this is the time to evaluate the BCS and what went on there," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Sunday night. "We're excited about going to the Cotton Bowl. Our players are excited about it. Certainly, it's an honor for us to be there."

Kansas (11-1), which finished as the Big 12 North runner-up after losing its regular season finale to Missouri, will play Virginia Tech (11-2) in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3. Illinois (9-3) faces Southern California (10-2) in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

Oklahoma (11-2) is playing West Virginia (10-2) in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2.

Pinkel admirably masked his team's disappointment about missing out on the BCS. This is their third straight bowl, and fourth in five years.

"This is a very prestigious bowl with a rich tradition," Pinkel said. "Our players and staff are excited about being a part of it."

Arkansas (8-4, 4-4 SEC) ended its regular season by beating then-No. 1 LSU in triple overtime on Nov. 23.

Three days after the Razorbacks beat LSU, which will play in the BCS national championship game, coach Houston Nutt resigned then accepted a job at Mississippi. Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring will serve as interim coach in the Cotton Bowl.

"At the end of the game, there will be lives changing, different directions," Herring said. "I want to assure the Cotton Bowl that every player, every coach involved at the University of Arkansas will be totally focused on a great Cotton Bowl. That's got to be our focus, and that's what we're going to do."

The Razorbacks haven't been to the Cotton Bowl since 2002, but this is their third in 10 years.

For Cotton Bowl officials, it's an exciting matchup: teams from bordering states and two of the nation's best offensive players. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel will play not far from his home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, the SEC's rushing leader and 2006 Heisman runner-up.

By Sunday night, the Cotton Bowl was already sold out. The only tickets remaining were those allocated to each school, and those won't last long.

Missouri and Arkansas last played in the 2003 Independence Bowl, when the Razorbacks won 27-14. But this will be only their fifth game, a series that dates back to 1906.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press