Texas A&M, the 1939 SWC Champion, declined to be in this game, instead playing in the Sugar Bowl. Tennessee of the SEC and Oklahoma of the Big Six also declined this game. Fearing for the longevity of the game, J. Curtis Sanford strove to keep the bowl game alive, extending invites to Clemson and BC, who accepted. This was both teams' first Cotton Bowl Classic and first bowl games for both schools.
Boston College took the lead on a 30 yard field goal by Alex Lukachik early in the 2nd quarter after four failed plays following a punt return to the Clemson 13. After both teams exchanged punts throughout most of the quarter, Clemson got it back at their 43. They drove 57 yards and it culminated with a Charlie Timmons touchdown. The scoring ended from that point on as Clemson won their first bowl game.