How do the Colorado Buffaloes want this unexpected yet much-deserved Alamo Bowl appearance to be remembered?
It could be a blip, an anomaly along the lines of the Buffs' previous postseason appearance in the Independence Bowl following the 2007 season. Or it could be a harbinger of things to come, the launching point of a new era of greatness for Colorado Buffaloes football.
If Thursday night's showdown in San Antonio against Oklahoma State ultimately proves to be more akin to the former than the latter, then CU's much-ballyhooed rise to prominence will be remembered like a one-hit wonder. Memorable, certainly, but not the sort of template that elevates great programs over and beyond the merely good.
Sorry, Buffs fans, but the result of Thursday night's battle at the Alamodome will be somewhat meaningless. That's not a knock against CU. It's a comment on the validity of the games throughout the bowl season outside the three involved in the College Football Playoff. Fun for the fans. Sometimes entertaining but often not. And, in the end, an exercise that basically is little more than an intriguing exhibition.
However, barring a complete collapse and an Oklahoma State rout (the guess here is that won't happen), the Alamo Bowl appearance does indeed provide a platform unlike any ever witnessed by a long-starved Colorado Buffaloes football program. Even since 2007, when the Buffs made their last bowl appearance, the proliferation of social media has changed the way schools and programs connect with potential recruits. While cavorting in the rich recruiting grounds of Texas, recruits could watch all the fun unfolding for the Buffs along San Antonio's River Walk. They could engage in the silly debate about which brand of fast-food burger the team ultimately decided to gorge upon. And, come Thursday night, they can watch a team trying to take their return to prominence to the next level.
And therein lies the greatest potential benefit to the Buffs with this Alamo Bowl trip, win or lose. CU coach Mike MacIntyre needs look no further than the Buffs' opponent in that 2007 Independence Bowl to find a desirable template to emulate.
Going into that matchup against Alabama, the Crimson Tide had posted just one winning season over the previous four years. Hardly the epic drought of CU proportions (Bama was 10-2 in 2005) yet for a program of Alabama's pedigree, chances are Crimson Tide fans were feeling just as frustrated during that era as Buffs fans recently, justified or not.
That 2007 season was the first for Alabama under coach Nick Saban. To say the Crimson Tide and CU programs went different directions after that matchup is a classic understatement. The idea of Alabama not being a perennial national title contender these days feels laughable. Ten years ago, that idea indeed was a joke.
The Buffs deserve a more fitting finale to their remarkable 2016 season than their mess of a loss in the Pac-12 Conference title game. Buffs fans deserve the Alamo Bowl to be the beginning of sustained greatness, and not the end of something good but fleeting.