Memories of Atlanta...and looking ahead to Dallas

Just when you thought we were out, they pull us back in.

Oklahoma State, really? If we were going to go there, couldn't it be, I don't know, Kansas? Then again ...

Kansas in a bowl game ... chuckle, chuckle, chuckle. And did you hear that Kansas recently lost to Colorado in a game of basketball? ... Belly laugh, belly laugh, belly laugh!

Ah, you guys are gone, but not forgotten. We miss you.

Anyway, the Missouri Tigers will play in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas against long-time Big 12-rival Oklahoma State on Jan. 3 in Dallas, it was announced Sunday.

"We are honored and excited to accept a bid to play in the Cotton Bowl," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who will be making his ninth bowl appearance in 13 years with the Tigers. "We know first-hand just how great of a trip this is (the Tigers were there in 2008), and how first class of an operation the Cotton Bowl runs."

A few basic details. The No. 8 Tigers are 11-2 overall and finished 7-2 against SEC teams after Saturday's loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. The No. 13 Cowboys are 10-2 and 7-2 in the Big 12 after Saturday's loss --- at home --- to Oklahoma.

The dream of playing in a BCS bowl ended for both teams with those losses.

For Missouri, the dream of playing for a national championship also ended --- and that dream probably would have become a reality if Missouri had won, since Michigan State beat Ohio State later Saturday evening.

None of that matters now.

There will be much more on the Cotton Bowl in the days and weeks ahead, as these teams will will have nearly a four-week break between games.

A bye-week is one thing, a bye-month is another.

For now, let's take a look back at Saturday's game between Missouri and Auburn.

Missouri showed up in Atlanta with uniforms, helmets, eye black, tape, coaches, the band, the cheerleaders, the Golden Girls, Truman the Tiger, a bunch of really important guys in suits, and 20,000 fans sporting flags, Tiger Tails and facepaint.

They forgot one thing.


In case you missed it, here's a recap of what happened:

An Auburn guy got the ball, and he ran until an official raised his hands and told him to stop running. He couldn't really run any farther, anyway, unless he went up in the stands.

Tre Mason rushed for 304 yards and four touchdowns and the Auburn Tigers piled up 545 yards on the ground and 677 yards of total offense as they leveled the Missouri Tigers --- who had 534 total yards of their own --- by a video-game score of 59-42 at the Georgia Dome.

That's all you really need to know, remember, or forget, about this game.

Auburn now gets a chance to play Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif., while Missouri will pack its bags and head to Dallas.

But games like the SEC Championship are more than a game, they are an event, a collection of experiences.

As I was making the 11-hour drive to Atlanta with my good friends Rod Smith and T.J. Fenske, (and if you're not good friends when you're cooped in a car on an 11-hour road trip, especially in lousy weather, well, you know how much fun that can be ...) we realized something.

The further south we went, the worse the bathrooms got at gas stations and fast-food joints. From dirty, to dirty and smelly, to dirty and smelly with graffiti on the walls, to dirty and smelly with graffiti on the walls and a smelly guy with a patch over his eye hanging around outside the bathroom.

Then again, maybe it was just me.

The Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta is fabulous. Just over 20 years old with everything you could want.

The Dome has more TVs than a Sears warehouse. They're everywhere. Not just in the concourses (which have banks of TVs like Buffalo Wild Wings), not just at concession stands, but also in the bathrooms. And we're talking 40-inch flat screens in the bathrooms.

They even have TVs in the elevators.


The only place they didn't have them were inside the bathroom stalls, so I did miss a few plays.

Bummer. Stupid chili.

They plan to tear this place down in a few years and build another one, because the current Georgia Dome doesn't have a retractable roof. This decision must have been made by some folks with retractable brains. Just stupid, because the place is great.

The government isn't the only one to waste a lot money.

A few minutes before Saturday's game, Rod and I decided we wanted a picture taken of us from press row with the field and full stadium behind us.

We asked a fellow press guy, a TV anchor, apparently (because he had great hair and works at a TV station and smelled expensive), if he could take a picture.

"Sure," our new friend said.

He took a few steps with a smooth swagger, then put his arm around me and waited for Rod to take the picture.

"Uh, no," I said to him. "This really wasn't what we had in mind."

He was truly deflated and --- after taking a lousy picture of Rod and me --- walked away in disappointment with his head held not quite as high. But his hair still looked great.

Rod and I laughed when he left. Rod had some questioning words about what the guy was thinking. I had a few more choice words about what he was thinking, words that Rod would never say.

If you weren't sure, Rod Smith is a lot nicer than I am.

We got someone else to take the picture.

Then, Rod and I settled in with 75,000 folks at the Georgia Dome and watched the Auburn guys run over, around and past our Missouri guys. Time after time after time. Too bad.

Next time, Missouri, please double-check what you've packed and make sure you have everything.

Just think, if Missouri had played a little defense --- just a LITTLE defense --- they'd be facing Florida State instead of Oklahoma State. Indians instead of Cowboys. What could have been ...

Oh well, there's still one game left. Bring on Oklahoma State.

It's just too bad it isn't Kansas.