The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic always seems to be one of the better bowl games each season, and it was a surprise to few people when it was included in the new College Football Playoff. While the Cotton Bowl won't host one of the national semifinals in the playoff's debut season, we should be in for a terrific game once again at AT&T Stadium.
This year's Cotton Bowl will pit two at-large teams, as it's one of the three major New Year's Day bowls that no longer has conference ties. It's a bit of a change from the Big 12-SEC matchup the bowl has had for a few years now, but we're living in a changing college football world.
Date and time, ET: Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV channel: ESPN
Location: Arlington, Texas
Stadium: AT&T Stadium, 80,000
Last year's score: Missouri 41, Oklahoma State 31
Last year's attendance: 72,690
Last year's TV rating: 7.5
Last year's payout for each school: $3,625,000
Team with the most all-time appearances: Texas, 22
Team with the most all-time wins: Texas; 11-10-1
Baylor Bears (11-1, 8-1 Big 12)
Prior to 2013, Baylor had never won a Big 12 title. Now the Bears are fresh off their second in a row, but the season is not without regrets. A two-touchdown loss to West Virginia in Morgantown is all that kept Baylor from a perfect regular season, and they’ll have to try to redeem themselves with their postseason opportunity.
Baylor has perhaps the most explosive offense in the nation, led by a quartet of dangerous playmakers. Quarterback Bryce Petty is a dual-threat option, with receivers Corey Coleman and KD Cannon are both elite targets. Running back Shock Linwood often burns defenses up the middle that attempt to adjust to the Bears’ vertical passing game, making them a tough matchup for any defensive coordinator.
Last bowl game: 2014 Fiesta Bowl vs. UCF, 52-42 loss
All-time bowl record: 10-10
Head coach's bowl record: Art Briles, 2-5
Michigan State Spartans (10-2, 7-1)
If there’s a "best of the rest" competition in college football this year, Michigan State is a strong contender; the Spartans were beaten soundly by CFP contenders Oregon and Ohio State, but beat everyone else -- usually by double digits. The Big Ten opener against Nebraska ended up close at 27-22, but it was never in question who was winning that game.
MSU used a balanced offensive attack to average nearly 500 yards of offense per game, and the defense led by coordinator Pat Narduzzi (who is still somehow not a head coach) was its usual punishing self. DE Shilique Calhoun is a two-time first team All-Big Ten defensive lineman, and talented safety Kurtis Drummond received his second first-team All-Big Ten nod from the coaches as well (he was second-team in the media last year).
Last bowl game: 2014 Rose Bowl vs. Stanford, 24-20 win
All-time bowl record: 9-14
Head coach's bowl record: Mark Dantonio, 4-4