October 12, 2012 11:15:00 AM
STARKVILLE - Game on.
The highly rumored contest between the Mississippi State University and Oklahoma State University football programs to open the 2013 season at Reliant Stadium in Houston is now official.
ESPN announced Thursday afternoon the creation of the Texas Kick Off Classic, an opening weekend college football game between the two schools at Reliant Stadium in Houston, with the contest to be played Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013.
"This is a great opportunity for our team to open the 2013 season in an NFL stadium," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said. "It provides our fans a unique destination for the season opener. We have
a great fan base in Texas, as well, who will be excited to see the Bulldogs play in their home state."
Stricklin was approached months ago by ESPN personnel through Lone Star Sports Entertainment about the possibility of playing a season-opening neutral site game similar to one annual held now at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
"Our organization is committed to growing the game of football at all levels and doing great things for Houston. This game and this Labor Day series concept is another way for us to simultaneously do both," said Jamey Rootes, Houston Texans and Lone Star Sports & Entertainment
president. "Along with our Board and ESPN, we've built the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas into one of the best-attended bowls in America, and hosting these two outstanding football programs at Reliant Stadium will serve as a tremendous bookend for the 2013 college football season in Houston."
MSU, currently ranked No. 19 in this week's Associated Press poll, has last played in Houston on Oct. 9, 2009 at the University of Houston but has never played a game in Reliant Stadium, which is home to the Houston Texans.
The two schools (MSU and OSU) have met four times but not since a 29-11 victory for the Bulldogs in Starkville on Sept. 18, 1999.
"We are excited to work with the Texans and Lone Star Sports and Entertainment to bring a Labor Day weekend football game to the city of Houston," said Pete Derzis, Sr. Vice President and General Manager of ESPN Regional Television. "A game of this caliber serves as a great complement to our postseason college football bowl game played at Reliant Stadium."
In other scheduling news for the 2013 season, Stricklin used his Twitter account, @stricklinmsu, to announce MSU would still have seven home games next season. This obviously means the previously scheduled road date at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has been moved and the leader of the MSU athletic department tweeted details to the Bulldogs 2013 slate would be coming "in the next few weeks".
OSU last played a neutral-site game during the regular season in 1998 when the Cowboys faced Nebraska in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
The Cowboys are currently 2-2 this season with losses at the University of Arizona and a home defeat to the University of Texas despite being fifth in the country in pass offense at 359 pass yards
OSU last regular-season meeting with a member of the Southeastern Conference came in the 2009 season opener when the ninth-ranked Cowboys knocked off No. 13 Georgia, 24-10. OSU last played in Reliant Stadium in 2002 when it defeated Southern Mississippi in the Houston Bowl.
"We're excited to open the season in Houston," said Mike Holder, OSU Director of Athletics. "We have a growing number of Texans attending Oklahoma State and a large alumni base in the area. We will be playing a high-profile season opener in a great stadium. I think our fans will be eager for this matchup all summer."
MSU announced its athletic ticket office has already begun accepting orders to fill its 10,500-seat allotment for the Texas Kick Off Classic game against OSU with prices ranging from $45 to $125. A detailed seating map will be available at HailState.com.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
5. Square Books' Howorth to visit Wednesday's Table Talk ENTERTAINMENT