WMU rowing to Cotton Bowl to play Big 10 runner-up Wisconsin
Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck is presented the Mid-American Conference championship trophy by Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher after an NCAA college football game against Ohio, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Western Michigan will be rowing from Kalamazoo to the Cotton Bowl.
The 12th-ranked Broncos (13-0, No. 15 CFP), the Mid-American Conference champions and the only FBS team other than top-ranked Alabama still undefeated, will play Big Ten runner-up and eighth-ranked Wisconsin (10-3, No. 8 CFP) on Jan. 2 in the Dallas Cowboys' home stadium.
Coach P.J. Fleck, who has infused the Broncos with that ''Row The Boat'' mantra, said Sunday that he had a large piece of cotton in his pocket during the MAC championship game on Friday night. He showed that cotton to the WMU players and fans gathered for the bowl announcement inside while it was snowing outside.
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''Well, there's a lot of cotton falling from the sky here in Kalamazoo today, a lot accumulating on the ground,'' Fleck said during the ESPN selection show. ''How ironic.''
Wisconsin is also going to the Cotton Bowl for the first time. The Badgers lost the Big Ten championship game and a chance to get back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since going to Pasadena at the end of three consecutive seasons (2010-12).
While the West Division champion Badgers are officially the Big Ten runner-ups, they finished behind three of the conference's East Division teams in the final College Football Playoff rankings and AP Top 25 on Sunday – trailing Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan.
The Badgers' 15 consecutive bowl games is the longest streak in the Big Ten.
Some other things to know about Western Michigan and Wisconsin going to the Cotton Bowl:
SMALL SUCCESSES: This is the third season of the College Football Playoff, which offers a spot for the highest-ranked Group of Five champion in one of the New Year's Six games. The first two have won their games. Boise State beat Arizona 38-30 in the Fiesta Bowl two years ago, and Houston beat Florida State 38-24 in the Peach Bowl last season.
BEATING THE BIG TEN: Western Michigan has played – and beaten – two Big Ten teams this season. The Broncos opened their season with a 22-21 win at Northwestern, and two weeks later won 34-10 at Illinois. Western Michigan has played Wisconsin four times before – all of those early-season games in Madison, Wisconsin, and not in a January bowl game. The Badgers won the last meeting 19-7 in 2000, two years after Western Michigan got its only win in the series.
NOT FIRST VISIT: Wisconsin has played at AT&T Stadium, the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, once before. The Badgers opened last season there with a 35-17 loss to Alabama, which went on to win the national championship. This will be Western Michigan's first trip to the stadium that started hosting the Cotton Bowl in 2009.
BIG TEN IN COTTON: Before Michigan State played in the Cotton Bowl the last two years, including the national semifinal game loss to Alabama last season, the only Big Ten team that had ever played in the Cotton Bowl had been Ohio State. The Buckeyes beat Texas A&M in the 1987 Cotton Bowl.
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.