Given that present discussion that's dominating among MSU football fans - that being where MSU will be going bowling - I thought we'd talk with someone who could shed some light on that. So I called up the good folks at the Valero Alamo Bowl, whose pick is likely to decide the matter. Should they pick us, we'll go there. If they don't, we're headed to Phoenix.
The Alamo Bowl is preparing to pick between Michigan State and Minnesota, assuming two Big Ten teams make a BCS bowl, Alamo officials confirmed today. Rick Hill, vice president of marketing for the Valero Alamo Bowl, declined in an interview today to say who the favorite was between the two, but said MSU was an attractive candidate.
Key among the factors is the ability to quickly mobilize fans to buy tickets and book their flights. "We’ve learned that within 48 hours of the announcement, if your fan base hasn’t decided, they're probably not going."
Several factors are working in MSU's favor. For one, MSU has a higher average home attendance, though Minnesota sold out every game in the new TCF Bank Stadium. Secondly, MSU has a strong history of traveling well to bowls - both the last two years in Orlando and in 2003 to the Alamo Bowl. Officials in San Antonio haven't forgotten the sea of green that descended on the town then, and that works in our favor now. Lastly, MSU has a massive alumni base in Texas, which could just drive to the game.
Given that MSU and Minnesota are both a disappointing 6-6, and the options from the Big 12 are largely between nearby Texas Tech and Oklahoma, Hill said they're expecting the Big 12 to carry the day in terms of ticket sales. While Alamo Bowl officials want both teams to sell out their allocations, the large base of fans from the Big 12 will allow them tilt further in favor of the team that will give the best game.
Bowl selections based on competitiveness don't hinge on who necessarily beat whom during the regular season - though that does matter. Instead, Hill said, it's who will give you the best game on January 2.
It's a little tougher there - especially given that Minnesota beat MSU in Minneapolis on Halloween. However, the Gophers have fallen precipitously since then and continue to be without their star wide receiver, Adam Decker. MSU, on the other hand, has come to play against two heavily-favored squads the last two years that both featured legit NFL prospects (Boston College, led by Matt Ryan, and Georgia, led by Knowshon Moreno and Matt Stafford).
I asked Hill again who he thought might be there - if he'd put a percentage on MSU's likelihood of being involved. He, quite politically correctly, declined so to do.
It's worth noting that if only one Big Ten team makes the BCS, MSU is all-but certain to miss the Alamo Bowl. Hill said they'd have to add in either Wisconsin or Northwestern to the mix and, while he wouldn't say it, I'd put money down that we won't jump either of those squads.