The Colorado Buffaloes are heading back to San Antonio.
On Sunday, the Buffs (4-1) officially accepted an invitation to play in the 28th Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 against the Texas Longhorns. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. MST at the Alamodome and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
Texas (6-3) is ranked No. 20 in the College Football Playoff rankings. It is also No. 20 in the Associated Press and No. 24 in the Amway Coaches’ poll. The Longhorns defeated Utah, 38-10, in last year’s Alamo Bowl and will try to join Purdue (1997-98) as the only teams to win this bowl in back-to-back years. Texas is 3-1 at the Alamo Bowl and will be making it fifth appearance at this game — more than any other team.
Led by first-year head coach Karl Dorrell, CU is bowl bound for the first time since a 38-8 loss to Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, 2016. This will be just the second bowl appearance in the last 13 seasons for the Buffs, and it will mark the 30th bowl game in program history.
Projected to finish at or near the bottom of the Pac-12 this season, the Buffs had a surprising 4-0 start to the season. Despite a 38-21 loss to Utah in the regular season finale on Dec. 12, the Buffs posted the second-best record in the conference during a season that was delayed and cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The difficulty of the season caused by the pandemic led to only two Pac-12 teams accepting bowl bids. In addition to the Buffs, Oregon (4-2) will play in the Fiesta Bowl after winning the conference title with a 31-24 victory against Southern California on Friday.
Arizona State, USC, Stanford, Utah and Washington were all eligible, but elected to bypass bowl opportunities. Arizona, California, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington State all fell below the Pac-12 requirement of a .500 record for bowl eligibility.
With several delays, the season being postponed and then started, games canceled nearly every week and players having to get tested for COVID-19 about six to nine times each week, it was a tough season on all the players.
Colorado players, however, elected to accept a rare bowl opportunity before they are able go home and see their families for the first time in several months.
“Obviously with this COVID-19 stuff going around everywhere, it’s very hard on a lot of our players mentally, physically everything,” offensive lineman Casey Roddick said last week, “but, to have the opportunity to play in a bowl game is unlike anything else that we ever could have dreamed of – especially to come here to CU and change this program around, turn it around.”
Linebacker Akil Jones, who was a true freshman in 2016 when the Buffs last played in the postseason said, “Bowl games are special, really. We haven’t been to a bowl game since 2016. I was lucky enough to be a part of that group. I want to get the younger guys the experience of bowl games and knowing that when you make a bowl it’s special because if you’re here for Christmas playing football, it means you’re a good football team. Simple as that, really.”
The Buffs have been a good team this year, to the surprise of many.
After three consecutive 5-7 seasons from 2017-19, the Buffs went through an unexpected change when head coach Mel Tucker spurned the program for a bigger paycheck at Michigan State in February. Dorrell was hired on Feb. 23, which is about two months after most teams hire new coaches.
Less than three weeks after Dorrell was hired — and just a few days before he was going to start spring practices — the COVID-19 pandemic shut down college sports. Dorrell didn’t get to see his team on the field until a few walk-throughs in August and it wasn’t until October that he conducted his first practice with the Buffs.
In addition to a new head coach, the Buffs had to replace three-year starting quarterback Steven Montez and star receiver Laviska Shenault, who are both now in the NFL.
Given all the challenges, it was no surprise when many pundits had the Buffs finishing fifth or sixth in the Pac-12. Oddsmakers set the over/under on their win total at 1.5.
“I think we were predicted to win one or two games, max,” outside linebacker Carson Wells said. “We’ve won four. I feel like we exceeded everybody’s expectations.”
On Dec. 12, the Buffs missed a shot at the Pac-12 South title with a loss to Utah, and then sat idle this past weekend, but still posted their first winning season since 2016.
“We knew what we could do coming in this year and I feel like we’ve done a good job proving it,” Wells said. “We’ve just got to keep the ball rolling.”
Colorado will renew an old Big 12 rivalry against the Longhorns, who have not played since a 69-31 rout of Kansas State on Dec. 5.
CU and Texas were both in the Big 12 from 1996-2010. The Longhorns lead the all-time series 11-7, including five consecutive wins. CU’s last win against Texas was on Dec. 1, 2001, in the Big 12 title game, 39-37. The Buffs and Longhorns have met one other time in a bowl game, the 1975 Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston.
Beginning with the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1938, CU has played in 29 bowl games in its history, going 12-17. The Buffs have lost three consecutive bowl games, dating back to a 33-28 win against UTEP in the Houston Bowl on Dec. 29, 2004.
Overall, this will be CU’s third appearance at the Alamo Bowl, as it also played there in 2002, losing to Wisconsin, 31-28 in overtime. In its history, CU has made more appearances at just two other bowls: Orange (five times) and Bluebonnet (four). It also has three appearances at the Fiesta Bowl.
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