ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cotton Bowl? This feels more like the Forgotten Bowl.
In the midst of the almighty College Football Playoff on Saturday, No. 8-ranked Wisconsin and No. 15 Western Michigan went through final preparations inside Jerry Jones’ cavernous AT&T Stadium.
Believe it or not, there is a football game happening here. It kicks off at 1 p.m. ET on Monday.
Not that anyone in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex — or anywhere, really — has taken notice. As of Friday afternoon, tickets for the game were being sold by secondary market ticket website VividSeats.com for as low as $3. That number had risen to a whopping $13 by Saturday evening. Meanwhile, the cheapest ticket to the Rose Bowl on the same site was $334.
The Wisconsin players have heard over and over again that the Cotton Bowl is a consolation game — the type of game that losers of emotional conference championship games rarely win.
The Badgers aren’t having any of it.
“I’m tired of it. … One game toward the end didn’t go our way. That doesn’t change our mindset,” Wisconsin sophomore C Michael Deiter said.
“Some people have told me this isn’t as good of a bowl game as we could have been in. I don’t see how that’s possible. This bowl game has been fantastic.”
As for the stat involving conference championship losers in bowl games — reportedly 7-13 going back five years?
“I think that’s just something that people make up,” Wisconsin CB Sojourn Shelton said. “People make things so much bigger than it is. At the end of the day, you lost a conference championship game. Wherever your bowl game is, you’re either going to bounce back or you’re not.
“Here, we pride ourselves on winning. You let that (loss) hurt or sink in for a little bit, but once that time rolls around for the next game you focus on that.”
If any team in the country recognizes a big game, it’s the Badgers.
They played six teams ranked in the top-10 at the time — the most of anyone of in the country. Now they face the Broncos (13-0), who are one of only two remaining unbeaten FBS teams.
“I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a premier game,” Shelton said. “You’ve got a team that’s 13-0. And also, I think the last couple years every time the (Group of Five) has played in these big games they’ve won.
“I don’t understand why it wouldn’t be a big game. We’ve faced a lot of really good teams, and the preparation has been the same (for this one).”
Meanwhile, Western Michigan represents college football’s version of a bracket buster. Teams from outside the power conferences and not named Notre Dame are 2-0 in New Year’s Six bowl games since the start of the College Football Playoff — Boise State beat Arizona 38-30 in the Fiesta Bowl two seasons ago, and Houston beat Florida State 38-24 in the Peach Bowl last season. And those schools are closer than ever to having a seat at the CFP table.
In the eyes of Broncos coach P.J. Fleck, this Cotton Bowl may be a chance to launch a legitimate national championship contender from the Mid-American Conference in 2017.
“If you’re in the Group of Five, if you can go undefeated two years in a row you deserve to be in the national championship, and you’ll find your way into the national championship,” he said Saturday to emphasize his point.
No, this year’s Cotton Bowl Classic is not a classic Cotton Bowl.
Empty seats are likely, and TV ratings will dangle far below those of the College Football Playoff. On the field, however, the stakes are real. Maybe, just maybe, Wisconsin and Western Michigan will provide something truly worth remembering.