Texas A&M and Auburn meet Wednesday in the 50th Cotton Bowl, a game the organizers had hoped would be a fitting tribute to a special anniversary but one that will be played under the shadow of a potential scandal.
Although the Aggies and Tigers have a chance of putting on a good game, the Cotton Bowl has again come up with a matchup that has no national overtones.
Texas A&M (9-2 and winner of the Southwest Conference) is ranked 11th. Auburn (8-3 and coming off a loss to Alabama) is 16th.
"We look upon ourselves as one of the best teams in the country," said Auburn Coach Pat Dye. "And I know Texas A&M does, too. That means we should have a great game that will make the Cotton Bowl proud." Ideal weather was forecast for the game, plagued in recent years by harsh conditions.
For the second straight year the Cotton Bowl will feature the Heisman Trophy winner, this time Auburn's Bo Jackson.
He will be the fifth player to take part in the Cotton Bowl after winning the Heisman -- joining SMU's Doak Walker, Navy's Roger Staubach, Texas' Earl Campbell and Boston College's Doug Flutie. On each previous occasion the team with the Heisman winner won the game.
Jackson, Auburn's all-time leading rusher who gained 1,786 yards and scored 17 touchdowns this season, is expected to be at full strength despite an early-week bout with strep throat that caused him to miss one practice. Auburn fullback Tommie Agee and backup tailback Brent Fullwood also missed workouts with throat ailments.
"But I think all three will be fine," Dye said.
Texas A&M will be trying to put a solid conclusion to its best season in a decade, having improved through the year with an excellent defensive unit that should provide a good test for Jackson's running skills. Jackson has rushed for 100 yards or more in 21 contests.
Between the end of the regular season and the start of Cotton Bowl preparations, the Aggies became the subject of a newspaper series alleging slush funds in both Houston and Dallas for the purpose of making payments to A&M players.
A&M Coach Jackie Sherrill's initial news conference of Cotton Bowl week dealt far more with his feelings toward the media than with the game.
Dye is 4-0 in bowl games, and Sherrill is 4-1.
Texas A&M's offense, led by quarterback Kevin Murray (one of the keynotes of the recruiting stories), features a balanced attack that produced a Southwest Conference-leading 4,612 yards (just 18 more than Auburn gained). But the Aggies also led the SWC in defense.