El Paso, Texas A Sun Bowl matchup between Oregon State and Missouri seemed unlikely in the middle of the season.
The No. 24 Beavers started slowly, with big losses to BCS qualifier Boise State and Pac-10 rivals California and Washington State. The Tigers, meanwhile, were off to one of the best starts in school history, peaking at 6-0.
Things started to turn on the same mid-October weekend, when Missouri started a 2-4 finish with a loss at Texas A&M and Oregon State sparked a 7-1 run with a win at Washington. Two weeks later, the Beavers shocked then-No. 3 USC.
"We all know about Southern Cal," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said at a Sun Bowl news conference Thursday. "If you can beat Southern Cal, you are a good football team."
Oregon State (9-4) has never played in the Sun Bowl, and Missouri (8-4) will make its first appearance since 1973, when it beat Auburn 34-17. As a result, both coaches said Thursday they were excited about the game.
"It's a great topper to the year," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.
Riley, who has been rumored to be a candidate to replace fired Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter, said he and his team are concentrating on playing Missouri and recruiting for next season.
"It's flattering to be involved in (rumors) at this time of year, but I love my job," said Riley, who has led the Beavers to bowl games in three of four seasons since returning as head coach. He also led Oregon State in 1997-98.
Both teams positioned themselves for Sun Bowl berths with late-season victories against rivals. Missouri rolled past Kansas 42-17 in its finale, while Oregon State edged Oregon 30-28 and accepted a Sun Bowl bid before a season-ending victory against Hawaii.