OU football: Alamo Bowl may not be top tier, but matchup on par with season's best

Oklahoma's only previous appearance in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio was in 2021 when the Sooners defeated Oregon 47-32. No. 12 OU will meet No. 14 Arizona in this year's Alamo Bowl game on Dec. 28.
Oklahoma's only previous appearance in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio was in 2021 when the Sooners defeated Oregon 47-32. No. 12 OU will meet No. 14 Arizona in this year's Alamo Bowl game on Dec. 28. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With 41 bowl games scheduled between this weekend and the second week in January, including the Oklahoma football matchup with Arizona in the Alamo Bowl, the whole idea of rewarding the best teams with an extra game after the regular season ends has been totally diluted and devalued.

The best teams in the college football landscape are deservedly rewarded with the most prestigious bowl games. That will always be the case, but what we have now is teams with no better than a .500 record being gifted with postseason bowl selections. Generally speaking, the more attractive bowl games and matchups are staged the week after Christmas and the best of the best from New Year's Eve into the first week of the New Year.

The Sooners have been more fortunate than most in their long history to have made more bowl appearances than all but three other teams (Alabama, Georgia and Texas), including a number of games at the highest level of the postseason bowl hierarchy.

Since 2000 alone, Oklahoma has played in nine BCS bowl games (what is now referred to as a New Year's Six bowl) and four College Football national semifinal games.

Thirty-nine of OU's 57 overall bowl appearances have come in bowls that are currently part of the New Year's Six bowl rotation.

This will be the 31st year for the Alamo Bowl, which started in 1993. As currently contracted, the matchup features best teams from the Big 12 and Pac-12 after the College Football Playoff and New Year's Six selections have been made. With Washington and Texas both making the CFP field and No. 8 Oregon headed to the Fiesta Bowl, that leaves No, 14 Arizona as the highest-ranked team remaining from the Pac-12 and Oklahoma, the No. 2 team in the Big 12.

While the Pac-12 has been represented in the Alamo Bowl since the 2010 season, a Big 12 team has played in the game since 1996, the first season for the Big 12.

This year will be just the second time Oklahoma has appeared in the Alamo Bowl. The Sooners only other appearance was in 2021 against Oregon. The Sooners won that game 47-32 with freshman quarterback Caleb Williams directing the offense and throwing three touchdown passes.

The Alamo Bowl is not one of the more prized bowl destinations, especially for a college football blue blood like Oklahoma, whose singular goal every season is to make it into the College Football playoff and win the national championship.

This will be the ninth time in the past 10 seasons, however, in which both teams in the Alamo Bowl game are ranked in the nation's top 25. In 2021, it was No. 14 Oklahoma against No. 15 Oregon. The matchup for the Sooners this time around is very similar, with OU (10-2) coming in as the No. 12 team in the final College Football Playoff rankings and Arizona (9-3), which finished the regular season with six consecutive wins and as one of the hottest teams in college football, coming in at No. 14.

The Alamo Bowl may not be considered one of the most sought-after bowl assignments this year or any year, but according to The Athletic (subscription required), this year's Oklahoma-Arizona matchup could be one of the best bowl games of the holiday season.

All season long, The Athletic has ranked the top 10 college games every weekend. They have carried that into the postseason by ranking all 41 bowl games. The Alamo Bowl is ranked No. 5, calling it "an appointment-viewing clash between young quarterbacks: Oklahoma five-star true freshman Jackson Arnold and Arizona redshirt-freshman Noah Fifita."

That's higher than the Cotton Bowl Classic between No. 9 Missouri and No. 7 Ohio State, ranked as the 8th best bowl matchup of 2023-24 by The Athletic, and the Fiesta Bowl, matching No. 8 Oregon against No, 23 Liberty, which is ranked 15th.

The top-four bowl games this season, according to The Athletic, are: No. 1 the CFP semifinal at the Rose Bowl (No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama), No. 2 CFP semifinal at the Sugar Bowl (No. 2 Washington vs, No. 3 Texas), No. 3 Orange Bowl (No. 5 Florida State vs. No. 6 Oregon), and No. 4 Peach Bowl (No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 11 Ole Miss).

The must-watch-TV 2023 Alamo Bowl game between the Sooners and Arizona Wildcats is set for Thursday, Dec. 28 at 8:15 p,m. CT and can be viewed on ESPN.