Ten Is Good

The Cotton Bowl this season is being called one of the most intriguing bowl games. With the advent of the Bowl Championship Series, most bowl games are relegated to forgettable status. But this year a few games catch the attention of the college football public.

Naturally, the Rose Bowl with undefeated and number one USC going for a third straight national championship against undefeated and number two Texas is the game of most interest. This will approach Super Bowl status in terms of interest when that game is played January 4.

The Fiesta Bowl has Notre Dame, and that makes the Fiesta of interest to many. The Fighting Irish are playing Ohio State, another traditional powerhouse.

The battle of the old men in the Orange Bowl has attention squarely on the coaches, Penn State's Joe Paterno against Florida State's Bobby Bowden.

And then there is the Cotton Bowl with Alabama and one of the nation's top defensive squads against Texas Tech, one of the nation's most potent offenses.

The average college football fan would be hard-pressed to name both competitors in any other bowl game not involving his or her own favorite team.

Any bowl that has Alabama has built in interest because of Bama's great bowl tradition. The success of the Crimson Tide in bowl games is unequaled.

When the kickoff comes at 10 a.m. CST January 2 in Dallas, it will mark Alabama's 53rd bowl appearance, the most of any college football team. Texas will play in its 45th bowl game, which will tie Tennessee for second place in number of bowl appearances. Tennessee, of course, will not be in a bowl game this year.

A win is always better than a loss, but for Alabama it is important. While the Crimson Tide has had a number of recent seasons with either no bowl or no bowl victory, USC (which will be playing in its 44th bowl game), has been creeping up on the Tide's record for bowl victories.

Alabama is currently number one with 29 wins and Southern Cal has 28.

Another important reason for a victory is to have a 10-win season. Alabama has 27 ten-victory seasons. Oklahoma is currently second, and the Sooners can't improve on their mark of 25 this year. Nor can Michigan improve on its record of 24 or Nebraska on its record of 23.

A 10-win season is a huge accomplishment. Consider that Alabama has more 10-win seasons than Auburn (10), Florida (9), and LSU (6) combined. As for the rest of the Southeastern Conference, Tennessee has 19, Georgia 14, Arkansas 9, Ole Miss 6, Mississippi State 2, Kentucky 2, and South Carolina 1. Vanderbilt is looking for number one.

Mike Shula could become the 10th Alabama head football coach to lead Bama to a 10-win season.

Alabama may need a victory to stay in the top five all-time in wins. The Crimson Tide had to forfeit eight victories in 1993 and as a result fell back with Ohio State. The teams are tied with 773 wins for fifth place all-time in college football history.

Alabama has played in one out of every 10 Cotton Bowl games. This will be the 70th Cotton Bowl and Bama's seventh appearance. Bama has a 2-4 record in previous Cotton Bowl games with wins over Texas A&M and Baylor and losses to Rice, Texas A&M, and Texas twice.

The Crimson Tide has played in 16 different bowl games.

Bama has played in Sugar Bowls more than any other with a dozen Alabama appearances in New Orleans. The Tide has played in eight Orange Bowls and six Rose Bowls. That means that 33 of Alabama's bowl appearances will have been in the traditional Big Four.

Bama safety Charlie Peprah, who is from Plano, a suburb of Dallas, will close out his Alabama career in the Cotton Bowl. He is one of five Alabama players, all defensive starters, who will be playing in their 50th Bama game. The others are end Mark Anderson, cornerback Anthony Madison, and linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Freddie Roach.

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