The 82nd Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic’s excitement began building from the moment the No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 8 USC matchup was announced on the first Sunday in December. Fans from both of the powerhouse programs descended upon DFW for what was the consensus pick as the best bowl matchup outside of the College Football Playoff semi-final games.
The game wound up being a one-sided affair with Ohio State winning in dominating fashion, with the 24-7 final score not being indicative of the beating the Buckeyes put on the Trojans.
Of note, Ohio State will return to AT&T Stadium on Sept. 15 to do battle with TCU, who beat Stanford 39-37 in Thursday night’s Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
However, the Cotton Bowl is such a big event that the game is only part of the fun.
CletusFest tops the tailgate party scene
The best tailgate party we came across was undoubtedly the group of Ohio State Buckeyes fans that are known as the CletusFest.
The Buckeyes fan group began in the mid-’80s when a group of students wanted to take their tailgate to the next level and decided they needed a name and a logo.
They took the name CletusFest from the Ohio State University student newspaper’s comic strip Lantern, which was drawn by student Scot Zellman from 1985-89. Cletus Buckeye was Brutus Buckeye’s younger brother, who is essentially a maladjusted sociopath embittered by his older brother’s success at OSU.
“We decided that CletusFest would be a great name for our tailgate because we are a bunch of Buckeyes who never quite matured,” said Lanton Lee, the “Self Proclaimed Leader of the Buckeye Nation,” according to his business card. “We always have a tailgate in Columbus, on the corner of Coffey Road and Woody Hayes Drive, and select road games and we have a good time.”
One of the signatures of the CletusFest tailgate party is a doll dressed as a Michigan Wolverine player that is hanging alongside a huge red Ohio State flag.
“It has been the signature of our tailgate since 1995,” Lee said. “Normally it’s how people find us; ... we tell them to look for the Michigan dummy hanging from the flagpole.”
This is not the first time that the CletusFest tailgate party has made its way to AT&T Stadium.
“We were here for the National Championship game a few years ago,” Lee said. “We had a great tailgate over in the Silver Lot 13, it was fantastic. We had so much fun that we decided to come down here again.”
Famous faces at the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium
The celebrity factor was in full effect as current and former NFL stars were on hand for the Cotton Bowl game.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (who attended Ohio State) was on the Buckeyes sideline along with Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith (who attended USC) was also at the game as he was spotted in a suite.
Other familiar faces spotted around the stadium during the game included Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway; former NFL and USC players Marcus Allen, Rodney Peete, Ronnie Lott and Willie McGinest; former SMU Mustangs and NFL running back Eric Dickerson; and former Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett.