NORMAN —Oklahoma, squeezed out of a BCS at-large bid by upstart Northern Illinois, will instead play in the Cotton Bowl on January 4, 2013 inside Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, an OU athletic department source told The Oklahoman.
The Sooners' opponent in the Cotton Bowl will be Big 12 expat Texas A&M — with Heisman Trophy frontrunner Johnny Manziel as its quarterback — the source said.
The Sooners (10-2, 8-1 Big 12) finished tied atop their conference standings with Kansas State, resulting in a shared championship. But the Wildcats earned the Big 12's automatic BCS berth because of their 24-19 win in Norman on Sept. 22.
MAC champion Northern Illinois will finish with a top-16 ranking in the final BCS Standings, thereby ensuring its berth in — and Oklahoma's exclusion from — a major bowl game, according to a Sports Illustrated report Sunday afternoon.
The Sooners' exclusion comes from rules designed to provide worthy mid-major FBS programs with opportunities to compete in the biggest bowl games.
Automatic qualifying conference champions — winners of the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — are ensured spots in one of the BCS bowl games: the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls.
If one of the other conference champions is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings — or in the top 16 while also being ranked above an AQ conference champion — that program is ensured an automatic berth.
On Friday, BCS-No. 21 Northern Illinois beat then-No. 17 Kent State in Friday's Mid-American Conference championship game. The same night, Stanford beat No. 16 UCLA.
Saturday, unranked Wisconsin upset No. 12 Nebraska to win the Big 10 championship and a Rose Bowl berth.
Louisville, Cincinnati, Rutgers and Syracuse all tied for the Big East title.
The UCLA, Nebraska and Kent State losses were all enough to lift Northern Illinois into the top-16, according to the SI report, and because they'll be ranked above the Big East and Big 10 champions, the Huskies get an automatic BCS berth.
Despite not winning their respective conferences, Florida and Oregon are both ensured BCS berths because of their top-5 BCS rankings.
Northern Illinois and Florida State (ACC champion) will meet in the Orange Bowl; the Big East representative — likely Louisville — and Florida will play in the Sugar Bowl; Stanford (Pac-12 champion) and Wisconsin (Big 10 champion) will play in the Rose Bowl; and Kansas State (Big 12 co-champion) and Oregon will head to the Fiesta Bowl.
With No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama meeting for the national championship, no at-large BCS spots are available for the Sooners.
Against Texas A&M, the Sooners will face Johnny Manziel, a freshman quarterback whose eye-popping statistics and valliant performance in an upset win at then-No. 1 Alabama made him a national fan favorite.
Texas A&M is in its first year as a Southeastern Conference school; the Aggies bolted the Big 12 after last season.