On a wild bowl selection Sunday that featured no shortage of twists and turns, Texas Tech accepted a bid to play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
The Red Raiders will face Minnesota at 8 p.m. Dec. 28 inside Reliant Stadium, home venue of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
“We’re looking forward to coming to Houston,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said, “and I think it will be a great game between Texas Tech and Minnesota.”
With five Big 12 teams finishing the regular season with matching 7-5 records, Tech began the day with the possibility of heading to a number of different bowl games. The picture became even more crowded when Northern Illinois finished No. 15 in the final Bowl Championship Series standings and earned a bid to the Orange Bowl, pushing Oklahoma to the Cotton Bowl against former Big 12 foe and current Southeastern Conference member Texas A&M.
That development pushed a number of teams down in the league’s bowl pecking order.
The Alamo Bowl then scooped up Texas, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl took TCU and the Holiday Bowl nabbed Baylor. That left the Meineke Car Care Bowl to decide between Tech, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Iowa State. The Red Raiders being an in-state school certainly didn’t hurt its case, and Tech has a large alumni base in the Houston area.
That fan potential, as well as Tech’s fast-speed passing attack, made it an attractive candidate, said Heather Houston, the bowl’s executive director.
“We were so hopeful the Red Raiders were going to be on the board when we chose today,” Houston said. “We’ve been crossing our fingers to get Tech for a couple of years now. When you look at it, it’s just such a fun team to watch, so I know all our local fans in Houston will be really thrilled to host them here.”
Playing in Houston has obvious benefits for Tech. In addition to a number of local fans attending the game, it will also expose the Red Raiders to fertile recruiting ground the program is always trying to cultivate.
“The lifeblood of a program is recruiting,” Tuberville said. “Players win games. For our program right now, for what we need to do and where we need to go, I think this is good for us. I know we’re recruiting a lot of players from that area, trying to get more players on the team from the Houston area. We were kind of lacking the last few years, but our coaches have gone into Houston and selling our program, selling Texas Tech, and it’s worked pretty good.”
The bowl will be a chance to end on a high note for a pair of teams that finished their season on rough slides. Tech (7-5) lost four of its last five games after starting 6-1, including a bitter overtime defeat against Baylor on Nov. 24.
Minnesota (6-6) won its first four games, then finished 2-6, including losses in three of its last four games. The Golden Gophers didn’t win a single game within the Big Ten’s Legends Division. But Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, whose team went 3-9 in 2011, said this bowl berth is a big step in a positive direction for the program.
“We’re a young program that we’re trying to turn around,” Kill said, “and this is a big boost for us. We’re looking forward to the opportunity of playing a great football team. I respect Coach Tuberville very much. We know we have a tremendous challenge on our hands.”
The two teams have the shared history of playing in one of the most exciting games in bowl history, a 44-41 overtime win by the Red Raiders in the 2006 Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. Tech trailed by 31 points in the third quarter before rolling back on the arm of Graham Harrell, who threw for 445 yards.
Tech’s comeback in that game was the largest in FBS bowl history.
The Red Raiders last played the Houston-based bowl in 2003, when it defeated Navy, 38-14. Tech quarterback B.J. Symons threw for 497 yards. Wes Welker and Nehemiah Glover both had more than 100 yards receiving in the game.
“This is an exciting day for Texas Tech University, our football program and Red Raider fans,” Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt said in a statement. “The Meineke Car Care Bowl is an outstanding game and we are thrilled at the opportunity to play in our home state of Texas against a quality opponent like Minnesota.”
Tuberville said he is still unsure whether injured tight end Jace Amaro, who hasn’t played since Oct. 13 due to injury, will be able to play in the bowl game.
Rounding out the Big 12 bowl picture, West Virginia accepted a bid to the Pinstripe Bowl, Oklahoma State slipped to the Heart of Dallas Bowl and Iowa State, missing out on one of the league’s contracted bowls, was selected to play in the Liberty Bowl.
Tickets to the Bowl of Texas can be purchased through the Texas Tech ticket office by calling 806-742-8324. Fans can also order tickets online at TexasTech.com.
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