Texas Bowl Matches Up the Nation's Two Best Conferences Today

Dave DeBlasioCorrespondent IDecember 29, 2010

Today’s Texas Bowl game between the Fighing Illini of the University of Illinois and the Bears of Baylor University shows how successful a partnership between the NFL and local sponsorships can be.

The game today is also the 11th straight year a bowl game has been played in Space City.

Houston is an old city in the bowl game business beginning in 1959 with the Bluebonnet Bowl and continuing through the 1987 season. 

After a 13-year lapse Houston entrepreneur, Jim McIngvale, put together the galleryfurniture.com bowl. It evolved into the EV1.net bowl and continued under that moniker from 2001-05.

Lacking the necessary cash and a sponsor in 2005, the Houston Texas decided to take over the bowl, renaming it the Texas Bowl.

Since then, the Texas Bowl has become one of the premier sports events of the year in Houston, America’s fourth largest city.

This year’s game is the pinnacle of success for the bowl organizers who were able to lure the Big 12 and the Big 10 conferences to participate in the game. A sellout crowd of close to 69,000 attests to the bowl game’s success.

The Texas Bowl has been eclectic in its choice of participants. Inviting local favorites Houston in 2007 and Rice in 2008, the bowl established a core of local supporters. Matchups have always been the key to a bowls success and, this year, with Baylor making its first bowl appearance in twenty years, the Texas Bowl sponsors hit a home run.

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Baylor’s contingency of fans is not all that large by BCS standards, but the fans are extremely loyal. After agonizing through the tense moments of conference realignment this summer when it appeared Baylor would be tossed out of the Big 12, Bears’ fans are supporting their 7-5 team in enthusiastic large numbers.

Illinois hopes to avoid the kind of close encounters it had in its last three loses. A 67-65 three overtime loss to Michigan, a 38-34 home loss to Minnesota and a 25-23 loss in the season finale at Fresno State.

The highlight of the Fighting Illini’s season was the 33-13 wipeout of Penn State at University Park on Oct. 9. The Illini were unable to duplicate that effort as they finished out the year 3-4.

Baylor has the more explosive offense today under third year coach Art Briles. Today could have been Briles’ second Texas Bowl appearance. In 2007, he coached the Houston Cougars to an 8-4 record, but left for Baylor before the Cougars’ Texas Bowl game with TCU. Without Briles and his secret offensive schemes, the Cougars went on to lose to the Horned Frogs, 20-13.

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