NORMAN — There are multiple facets to every bowl game, but the hardest to gauge and predict is whether teams are excited to be playing. It’s a question that doesn’t usually get answered until the game gets going.
Oklahoma, however, answered the question several times since it received its official invite to the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
It had to because the last time this team played it thought the next destination would be the Sugar Bowl. That spot in a BCS bowl game was eliminated when Northern Illinois rose to No. 15 in the final BCS standings and locked up an at-large berth.
Few saw it coming when on Dec. 1, after OU had beaten TCU to finish the regular season at 10-2 and with a share of the Big 12 championship.
“It took us by surprise, but we can’t control what happens with the BCS,” OU defensive end David King said. “The only thing we can control is winning and losing. A lot of people were a little upset that we didn’t get the Sugar Bowl bid. It happens, but we’re over it now. We have a new challenge. We have a better game than if we were going to the Sugar Bowl and playing Florida.”
In terms of raw interest, it’s hard to debate King’s thinking. The matchup between the Sooners and No. 10 Texas A&M (10-2) on Jan. 4 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is one of the most highly anticipated of the bowl season. There’s the element of pitting two former conference rivals against each other in game within an easy drive of both campuses.
It doesn't hurt that OU will be going against the Aggies' Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Fan interest hasn’t been a problem. Tickets flew out of the box office. Last week, Cotton Bowl president Rick Baker said this game would likely break the game’s attendance record.