By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The Oklahoma State football team will be playing in a January bowl for the second straight year, though it may not be the way the Cowboys would have preferred.
OSU saw its bowl position drop on Sunday all the way to the last Big 12 affiliated bowl — the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which is held Jan. 1 at the Cotton Bowl, against Purdue out of the Big Ten.
"The bowl is a surprise to us," OSU coach Mike Gundy said in a teleconference Sunday night. "The good thing is we play on January 1st, so it gives our players a chance to have a number of practices before we let them go home for the break and spend Christmas at home before bringing them back a couple of days afterward."
Despite finishing fourth in the conference standings, the Cowboys — which share the same overall record as Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia — slid to the eighth selection among Big 12 bowls. The Cowboys lost to just one of the four teams that landed in a better bowl than the Pokes.
"If you're referring to a numbering system based on your finish in the league, obviously it doesn't matter where you finish in the league," Gundy said. "... The only thing that I don't understand is why if we have a numbering system in our conference but our conference doesn't follow it."
The dominoes started to fall when a one-loss Northern Illinois secured a non-automatic qualifier berth into the BCS, taking the at-large bid that many projected would go to Oklahoma. The Sooners then became the selection of the Cotton Bowl — the first to pick among Big 12 bowls.
Earlier on Sunday many were projecting the Pokes to land in the Alamo Bowl — before Oklahoma slid down to the Cotton. Because of the shift, the University of Texas got pushed down to the Alamao Bowl and the mayhem began for OSU.
TCU got the bid for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and the Baylor Bears — fresh off three-straight wins — landed in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
Not too surprising, the Pinstripe Bowl picked West Virginia to play in the Dec. 29 bowl played at Yankee Stadium in New York City — making it easier for the Mountaineer faithful to travel to a bowl. That set OSU up for either the Meineke Car Care Bowl at Reliant Stadium in Houston — the same site the Cowboys will open the 2013 schedule against Mississippi State — or the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Ultimately, Texas Tech landed the trip to Houston and the Pokes found themselves at the bottom of the Big 12 bowl order.
"I don't follow it very closely. With what transpired on some sort of a bowl numbering system, that's why I never follow because the speculation that's been going on for weeks essentially didn't hold to be true," Gundy said. "That's why I never really worry about it. Wherever the conference sends us is where we go and obviously the conference sent us to this bowl."
The Heart of Dallas Bowl, which was renamed from the TicketCity Bowl this year, went on a media blitz on Twitter when it appeared OSU would land in the bowl — which brought a lot of grumbling from fans — promoting that the bowl is sponsored by a non-profit organization with game proceeds going toward "ending chronic homelessness in Dallas."
OSU junior cornerback Yves Batoba also got in on the social media site, tweeting "All I know is the Heart of Dallas better give us some great bowl gifts... Like a 50 inch iPad!"
Though there was a stink about the bowl on social media, Gundy said he feels it is a positive for the OSU fan base to be playing in thei bowl game in Dallas, which will kickoff at 11 a.m. and be televised on ESPNU.
"It's a benefit for our fans, easy for our people to get there," Gundy said. "I can't imagine we won't have a big crowd there."
The Boilermakers (6-6) were selected as the seventh Big Ten team and will head into the bowl game on a three-game winning streak which allowed them to clinch a bowl berth — though none of their victories this season came over bowl-bound teams. Purdue, which fired its coach, also gave a fight to the last two remaining undefeated teams in the nation on the road — a 20-17 loss to Notre Dame (12-0) and a 29-22 overtime loss to Ohio State (12-0).
The two programs have met just once in the 1997 Alamo Bowl, where Purdue rolled to a 33-20 victory over Oklahoma State, which finished 8-4 that season in Bob Simmons' best season as the coach of the Cowboys.
This is the just the third year of the current bowl hosted at the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day. It was instituted after the Cotton Bowl game was moved to Cowboy Stadium. Ticket prices for the bowl are available for purchase on the bowl website, theheartofdallas.org. The Oklahoma State University Alumni Association website indicated game tickets can be purchased for as little as $25.