BCS Snub, Kansas Getting Picked For Orange Bowl Riles Missouri Fans

A Big 12 title game loss to Oklahoma was bad enough

Dec. 3, 2007

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -Talk about misery in Missouri.

For Tigers fans, a Big 12 title game loss to Oklahoma was bad enough. No more No. 1 ranking, no trip to New Orleans for the BCS national championship.

At least Missouri (11-2), could still boast supremacy over archrival Kansas, a team the Tigers knocked from the unbeaten ranks with a late-season victory at Arrowhead Stadium. The win gave Missouri the Big 12 North division crown.

Not so fast. When it comes to Missouri-Kansas, two schools that can't even agree on their all-time series record, nothing is ever quite so easy.

Kansas, not Missouri, earned the coveted Bowl Championship Series at-large berth and a Jan. 3 trip to the Orange Bowl to face ACC champion Virginia Tech. Missouri, shut out of the BCS, heads to the Cotton Bowl and a New Year's Day battle against No. 25 Arkansas (8-4), its southern neighbor.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and his players had nothing but good things to say about the Cotton Bowl selection, from the opportunity to play in the program's first Jan. 1 bowl game in nearly four decades to the chance to make a better impression on recruits in Texas after the lopsided Alamodome loss to the Sooners.

But knowing that the dreaded Jayhawks were headed to a more prestigious bowl, despite the loss to Missouri and lower rankings in both the AP and final BCS polls?

The BCS selection process, like making sausage, is a process not easily understood from the outside. All-American tight end Martin Rucker agreed.

"I don't know how it happens, I don't know why it happens, but it happens," he said. "We just have to be thankful for the bowl we got in there and give it our best shot."

BCS coordinator Mike Slive said that once the at-large teams are determined, the matchup choices are up to individual bowls.

Regular-season winners from the six power conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern) earned automatic berths in the BCS, joined by undefeated WAC champion Hawaii.



The at-large berths went to Kansas, Georgia and Illinois - a team that also lost to Missouri this season. The Illini face Southern California in the Rose Bowl.

"Kansas is very deserving of the BCS," said Slive, who also is the Southeastern Conference commissioner.

He later added, "I certainly would understand that (Missouri) could be very, very disappointed."

Across the Missouri-Kansas border in Lawrence, athletic director Lew Perkins said the Jayhawks earned their spot in the Orange Bowl.

"We don't have to be apologetic for anything," he said. Kansas finished the regular season 11-1.

Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing agreed.

"We're very deserving," he said. "If anyone wants to doubt us, we've proven them wrong all year and we're going to continue to do that because we've earned the spot we got."

Orange Bowl officials cited Kansas's status as a one-loss team as well as the team's historic connection to the old Big Eight Conference.

Of course, Missouri was also a member of the Big Eight.

"Kansas and Missouri were back to back next to each other," Orange Bowl chief executive officer Eric Poms said. "Having a one-loss team compared to a two-loss team was the most pressing thing we looked at. At the end of the day, that was our thought process."

At Booche's restaurant in downtown Columbia, a popular hangout known for its greasy burgers served on wax paper, Missouri fans weren't buying that explanation.

"It just doesn't make any sense. It's not fair," said Tiger fan Chris Huston. "Kansas had only one loss because they didn't have a chance to play in the title game after Missouri beat them."

Missouri now has four weeks to prepare for its next game. The Tigers plan to quickly cleanse themselves of the disappointing loss to Oklahoma, which won its fifth Big 12 title in seven appearances since 2000.

The Tigers hope to avoid a repeat of similar events in 1998, when Kansas State's run at No. 1 ended with a Big 12 title game loss followed by a monumental collapse to Purdue in the Alamo Bowl.

"You've got to flush it out of your system pretty soon," said Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. "We feel like we still have a lot to prove."