“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” is the saying that the Texas football team should have had posted in its expansive and ornate locker room as it prepared to play No. 11 Utah, the Pac-12 runner-up, in the Alamo Bowl on New Year’s Eve in San Antonio.
The bid to play in the Alamo Bowl is usually reserved for the second-best team in the Big 12 Conference, but, thanks to Oklahoma’s participation in the College Football Playoff and conference runner-up Baylor’s invitation to play in the Sugar Bowl, the Longhorns got the opportunity and jumped at it.
Texas (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) was likely not the third-best team in the conference — that is perhaps Oklahoma State or Iowa State — but both those teams have played in San Antonio in recent years.
The Longhorns have not played in the Alamo Bowl since 2013, the final game of Mack Brown’s tenure as coach at Texas, and also played in the postseason game the previous year, beating Oregon State.
Given the choice of picking the Longhorns, who will bring a stampede of fans to the game and fill hotel rooms in the Alamo City, the organizers of the Alamo Bowl went with the sure thing.
Texas coach Tom Herman knows that playing in Tuesday’s game is a win for his team, even if it doesn’t win the game.
“Our seniors were able to close their careers at home with a win, and now they’ll have the opportunity to play their last game as Longhorns in the state of Texas in front of so many of their friends and family,” Herman said.
“It’s a special thing for our whole team, but most of all, our seniors. We couldn’t be more excited to have this opportunity against a tremendous opponent in Utah. We’ll put in a ton of work to get ready for the game.”
Texas will need to put in that work. The Utes went 11-2 after losing the Pac-12 championship game to Oregon on Dec. 6 and dropped to 11th in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
“Any time we get ready for bowl games it means a lot, and we know it’s business that we have to handle,” Texas senior defensive end Malcolm Roach said. “Everybody knows it’s going to be the seniors’ last game in a Texas uniform, so it’s a great situation to be able to get ready for one of the best teams in the country and finish our careers off in Texas.”
Utah has won back-to-back Pac-12 South division championships under coach Kyle Whittingham. The Utes began the season 3-0 before losing to USC, and then ran off eight straight wins to reach the Pac-12 title game.
“We have quite a few players on our roster from the state of Texas, and it’ll be a good experience for those guys to be able to get back home and play in front of some of their family,” said Whittingham.
“We are proud of all this team has accomplished this year, including winning a second consecutive Pac-12 South title and winning 11 games, the third-highest single-season total in school history.”
Utah and Texas have met only once before. The Longhorns defeated the Utes 21-12 in 1982.
–Field Level Media