Several teams in the Pac-12 and around the country decided to forego opportunities of playing in bowl games.
The Colorado Buffaloes, however, felt their season wasn’t quite complete.
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 (TV: ESPN).
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.
“We do have an exciting team that’s excited to play in the postseason,” Dorrell said. “We’re looking forward to keep extending the fruits of our labor from what we’ve done so far this year.”
CU is one of just two Pac-12 teams going to the postseason, along with Oregon (4-2), which will play Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl after winning the conference title game against Southern California on Friday.
The difficulty of going through a season delayed and cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic led to Arizona State, Stanford, USC, Utah and Washington all bypassing bowl opportunities. Several other teams around the country did the same.
The Buffs haven’t played since a 38-21 loss to Utah on Dec. 12. Last week, they were supposed to play Oregon, but the Ducks were moved into the title game, while the Pac-12 had CU on standby in case of COVID-19 issues. The Buffs wound up not getting a chance to play.
“As soon as we were supposed to be a backup or runner up for our conference championship, I think our players felt like they were ready to play another game,” Dorrell said. “We only played five this year; we had two cancellations.
“We weren’t a team that that had to cancel a game because our own health. We’ve been healthy all season long and we just wanted to finish the season with the fruits of our labor being rewarded. They worked hard in such a short period of time and they’ve earned this, so this was something that I think our players were excited about doing right from the very beginning.”
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 around the country.
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 football team and they’ll play a traditionally strong program in Texas (6-3), which is ranked No. 20 in the College Football Playoff rankings. It is also No. 20 in the Associated Press Top 25 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 its fifth appearance — more than any other team.
“I know our kids will be excited, our players will be excited to head back, regardless of the circumstances that 2020 has thrown everyone’s way, including the Valero Alamo Bowl,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “We are honored and proud to be a part of it.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for Coach Dorrell and his program and what they’ve been able to do on the field this year and I know it’ll be a heck of a game and a heck of an experience for our young men.”
CU 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. Colorado and Texas were both in the Big 12 from 1996-2010.
Regardless of the opponent, Dorrell is excited the Buffs get the opportunity to play.
“Obviously with cancellations and the things that are going on in our country and across the world, those are more important issues,” he said, “but to be able to play this game and to celebrate the game of football and to get people excited about football and particularly postseason during the holidays, it’s fun to be a part of that. We’re very, very thankful for the opportunity to play and we look forward to it.”