SAN ANTONIO – With conference championship games in the books, college football turns its attention Sunday to one of the most highly anticipated days of the season: the selection for the four-team playoff that determines the sport’s national champion.
Selection Sunday, as it is called, is also the day matchups are officially announced for the New Year’s Day bowls and every other college bowl on the schedule. The College Football Playoff semifinals are scheduled for Jan. 1, and the title game is Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The Alamo Bowl, which matches teams from the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences, is scheduled for 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 28, at the Alamodome. The Alamo Bowl will announce the matchup for its silver anniversary game at a news conference Sunday at 4 p.m.
For the fourth year, the Valero Alamo Bowl has the first pick in both the Big 12 and Pac 12 after the six CFP bowls.
The mostly likely matchup this year is No. 13 Stanford (9-4) going against No. 15 TCU (10-3). TCU was No. 11 in the CFP rankings before losing to Oklahoma 41-17 in the Big 12 title game Saturday. Stanford dropped one spot from No. 12 after falling to USC in the Pac-12 championship game.
No. 19 Oklahoma State (9-3) would be the fall-back pick for the Alamo Bowl if TCU doesn't come to San Antonio.
A TCU-Washington matchup had been mentioned in media projections, but the Huskies (10-2) jumped from No. 13 to No. 11 after TCU lost. Washington will now play in a New Year's Day bowl.
For Rick Hill, vice president for marketing and communications for the Alamo Bowl, Selection Sunday has become a rite of late fall. He started working for the Alamo Bowl as a volunteer in the months before the first game in 1993, and is in his 19h year as a full-time employee.
“We’re in an interesting position because with the advent of the CFP, we really have less insight than ever on who we’re going to get,” Hill said. “In the old days, I would call my buddies with the Cotton Bowl and be able to figure out which way they were leaning and kind of get an idea. And now, it really comes down to which teams are in that top 12.
“Our goal is always to keep advancing with the help of Valero, ESPN and our partners to be the No. 1 bowl outside the CFP. The last three years in that new arrangements, we’ve gotten three top 15 matchups.”
Chances are good the Alamo Bowl could wind up with another clash of top 15 teams of Stanford and TCU opt to come to San Antonio.
TCU played in the Alamo Bowl for the first time in January 2016, rallying for a 47-41 victory over Oregon in a three-overtime thriller after trailing 31-0 at halftime. The Horned Frogs were ranked No. 11 and Oregon No. 15.
Going into the weekend, No. 10 USC, No. 11 TCU, No. 12 Stanford, No. 13 Washington, No. 18 Washington State and No. 19 Oklahoma State were in the mix for the Valero Alamo Bowl.
USC beat Stanford for the Pac-12 title Friday night and Oklahoma defeated TCU in the Big 12 title game Saturday to earn a berth in the CFP semifinals. Two of TCU’s three losses this season were to OU. USC (11-2) is projected to play Wisconsin in the Fiesta Bowl.
Stanford never has played in the Alamo Bowl. The Cardinal has been led this season by junior running back Bryce Love, a candidate for Heisman Trophy. Love has rushed for 1,973 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.
Oklahoma State has played in the Alamo Bowl four times, tying it with Iowa for the most appearances in the game. The Cowboys beat Colorado 38-8 in last year’s Alamo Bowl.
Washington (2011) and Washington State (1994) have each played in the Alamo Bowl once.
Alamo Bowl chairman Mike Chapman, Valero executive vice president/CFO Mike Ciskowski and Valero Alamo Bowl president/CEO Derrick Fox will personally invite the head coaches from both teams Sunday via teleconference.
The coaches of the two teams selected will appear together at a news conference Thursday in San Antonio.
This year’s Alamo Bowl will be the first since the Alamodome underwent a $60 million renovation that includes new video boards and other technology enhancements. The concession areas also have been enhanced.
The Alamo Bowl is broadcast by ESPN annually and ranks as one of the most watched bowl games outside of the New Year’s Day bowls.
This season, the Alamo Bowl is projecting an economic impact of more than $40 million on San Antonio, according to a news release. Bowl officials will announce details of its scholarship program at an awards luncheon on Dec. 13.
A St. Louis native, Hill started his career with the Spurs after graduating from Trinity in 1991and helped sell tickets for the first Alamo Bowl.
“It’s been great,” said Hill, 48. “We have a great staff and support from a lot of people in the city. There’s a lot of pride in the city that comes out when you work to put together something like this.”