Six years ago, Missouri walloped Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl as a member of the Big 12.
On Sunday, the ninth-ranked Tigers, who lost to Auburn 59-42 in the SEC championship game a day earlier, learned that they are Dallas-bound again.
Of course, now Missouri, 11-2, represents the SEC and will face former Big 12 brethren Oklahoma State in the 78th Annual Cotton Bowl Classic at 7 p.m. Jan. 3 at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“I think it’s a great matchup,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. “You look at the two teams’ records, the great years we’ve had. There’s going to be a lot of great matchups, but I can’t imagine any better than this one.”
Missouri landed in the Cotton Bowl after the Capital One chose South Carolina, which was the only team to beat the Tigers in the regular season, and the Outback selected LSU despite having the first choice of remaining SEC East teams.
The Cotton Bowl, which had the first choice of SEC West teams, was thrilled to land Missouri, which has a large alumni base.
“Anyone that follows college football knows this year’s Classic is going to be absolutely terrific,” Cotton Bowl team selection chairman Fin Ewing said. “Without question, Oklahoma State and Missouri are two of the nation’s best teams. We got lucky again to have a chance to showcase a matchup like this.”
This will be Missouri’s third appearance in the Cotton Bowl, including the last appearance under similar circumstances.
The Tigers, who went 11-1 in the 2007 regular season before getting roughed by Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game, pounded Arkansas 38-7 in the 2008 Cotton Bowl and finished with a school-record 12 wins.
Missouri also played in the 1946 Cotton Bowl, a 40-27 loss against Texas.
“First off, it’s good to be doing this again,” Pinkel said. “We took a year off, so it’s always great when you’re sitting here talking about going to a bowl game. The AT&T Cotton Bowl has such a great tradition.”
There were, of course, some hard feelings among some Big 12 teams when Missouri jumped ship for the SEC. That will serve as the backdrop for the next month leading up to the game.
“They say we ran from them, so we’re going back to prove a point that we’ve gained their respect just like we’ve gained our respect in the SEC,” junior running back Henry Josey said.
Of course, it’s about more than conference pride.
“Sure we think about all that,” senior left tackle Justin Britt said. “We always want to prove that we belong in the SEC and that we made the right choice. But as far as pride for doing it for the SEC, I don’t feel pride for that. I feel pride for doing it for us.”
Still, Missouri is eager for that chance to strut its stuff in the new conference and hopes its fans will be too.
“We expect a high level of enthusiasm from our fan base,” Missouri executive assistant athletic direct Bryan Maggard said. “We’re allotted 12,500 tickets. We have opened those up to (Tiger Scholarship Fund) and season-ticket holders to date. We’ve had a very solid response thus far.”
Missouri’s allotment of Cotton Bowl tickets, which cost $140, go on sale at noon Monday at MUTigers.com or by calling 800-228-7297