The Texas Bowl Grows Up, Bit By Bit

Well, Houstonians, our bowl game has grown up. That's right, the Texas Bowl is going big time and this year will be joining ESPN's Capital One Bowl Week lineup. The game will be played on New Year's Eve this year, and kick-off will be at 2:30 pm.

Did I mention the game is on ESPN this year?

That means that most of the nation might actually be able to see the game, seeing as for the past three years the game has been shown on the NFL Network. Of course, I'm not sure what a television audience will look like at 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon, but the numbers will still be better than what the NFL Network could attract.

This is the game's third year of existence, and all of its games have been played at Reliant Stadium. The first game featured Rutgers versus Kansas State, and attendance was only so-so. Game number two attracted 62,097 fans for a Texas match-up between the Cougars and TCU. And last year's game featured hometown favorite Rice defeating Western Michigan before a crowd of 58,830.

Seeking to keep high attendance, the bowl has again changed its conference affiliations. This year's game will feature Navy -- if bowl-eligible -- against the seventh-best team from the Big 12 -- once again, if there is a seventh team in the Big 12 that is bowl-eligible.

On the surface, this probably doesn't look like an attractive match-up, but I can see the thinking here because about the only way the Aggies are going to make a bowl game is as the seventh-best team in the conference -- though the team's going to struggle to reach the six-win bowl-eligibility threshold. And if there's one way to guarantee a big crowd, it's to have the Aggies involved (I'm not much of a Texas A&M fan, but I'll give them this: Those fans are supportive and turn out for the games).

Along with being the first time the Texas Bowl will be aired on ESPN, this will be the first time that it will be played on a New Year's Eve, and none of the six Houston Bowl games -- the bowl game that became the Texas Bowl -- were ever played on New Year's Eve. This will be the first New Year's Eve bowl game played in Houston since Texas defeated Pittsburgh 32-27 in the Bluebonnet Bowl on December 31, 1987.

The Texas Bowl claims to have over 20,000 season ticket holders for the game, so if you're interested in the game, and don't want to be worried about alumni and students from the selected schools grabbing the seats, you might consider buying the tickets now. And if by some type of miracle the Aggies should actually make the game, you can probably scalp them on StubHub for a lot of money.

And if Navy doesn't qualify for a game, or if the Big 12 doesn't have seven bowl-eligible teams, then Conference USA will send a team. The Cougars probably wouldn't be the C-USA representative, however, as they should be competing for the C-USA title and a guaranteed bowl spot, not a conditional bowl spot.

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