NEW ORLEANS — Bowl games began because schools with large fan bases were attractive to tourism-driven cities. Television got involved later and getting popular college football teams on the same field in early January became highly attractive.
Consider tonight’s Sugar Bowl meeting between No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2) and No. 3 Alabama (11-1) a throwback to what bowl games once where and likely will be again with the BCS era coming to a close next week.
These are classic programs with iconic coaches, legendary players and, above all else, championship histories spread through generations.
“I’ll cherish this moment for the rest of my life,” OU defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue said.
Just look back on the Sooners’ last four bowl opponents — Texas A&M, Iowa, Connecticut and Stanford. Any of the those teams scream college football tradition?
Compare them with the Crimson Tide and their 10 national championships since 1961, 62 bowl appearances and their recent status as the dominant power in college football and you see where the excitement comes from.
In the Sooners’ case playing in a BCS bowl against anyone would be a thrill. They seemed to be left for dead following an early November loss to Baylor that dropped them to 7-2. They closed by beating Iowa State, then Kansas State and Oklahoma State — as road underdogs — to get here.
This game is viewed as the opportunity to show OU still is one of the elite programs in college football and as a way to build momentum for the 2014 season.
“I embrace it. I appreciate it,” OU linebacker Eric Striker said. “I know we’re all happy to be here and we should take advantage of this opportunity. When I actually heard, I knew there was no other team I’d rather play than Alabama.”
The Crimson Tide’s motivation is the one in question. After all, it was hoping this would be the year it became college football’s first threepeat national champion.