The 1972 Alabama squad finished the regular season with an 10–1 record and as conference champions. Their only loss came against Auburn in the Iron Bowl by a final score of 17–16 in the famous Punt Bama Punt game. Following their victory over Virginia Tech, university officials announced they accepted an invitation to play in the Cotton Bowl. The appearance marked the fourth for Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, their 26th overall bowl game appearance.
The 1972 Texas squad finished the regular season with a 9–1 record. Their only loss came against Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry by a final score of 27–0. Following their victory over TCU, university officials announced they accepted an invitation to play in the Cotton Bowl. The appearance marked the fourteenth for Texas in the Cotton Bowl, their 20th overall bowl game appearance.
Alabama opened the game by going up 10–0 as a result of a pair of Alan Lowryinterceptions. Steve Wade made both interceptions for the Crimson Tide, and the first resulted in a 50-yard Greg Gantt field goal and the second a 31-yard Wilbur Jacksontouchdown. After trading field goals in the second quarter, Alabama took a 13–3 lead at the half. In the second half, the Texas defense shutout the Alabama offense, and a pair of rushing touchdowns from Longhorn quarterback Alan Lowry from three and 34-yards sealed the 17–13 Texas victory.