Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden: This Alamo Bowl is much bigger for Texas than visiting Utah

Posted December 9th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • Texas faces Utah at the Alamo Bowl New Year's Eve.
  • The Horns are 7-6. Utah is 11-2.
  • Texas failed to reach the Big 12 title game after starting the season ranked No. 8 in some preseason polls.

The Alamo Bowl is bigger for Texas.

This fan base is dealing with the bummer that comes with its team failing to meet some really high preseason expectations.

At the beginning of the season, 129 fan bases were awash in hope and the kind of enthusiasm that can only come when every program in the nation is 0-0. “This could be our year,” many thought.

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Then the season happened.

For some, like LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma, the right kind of success happened.

For others, like the Longhorns, the regular season falls under the disappointment category, especially for ultracompetitive quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who relishes the challenge Utah presents.

“What they’ve done this season has been spectacular,” Ehlinger said in a statement. “We’re also looking forward to playing so close to home and in the state of Texas, and we can’t wait for all of our fans to be in San Antonio at the Alamodome on New Year’s Eve.”

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) runs off the field as the punting unit runs into position against Baylor during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Waco, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Spectacular would not be my description of a 7-5 Texas season that included a loss to a 5-7 TCU team and a two-point survival win over a Kansas team that went 3-9. Playing in the Alamo Bowl would have been viewed as a tremendous disappointment in the hours after Texas spanked Georgia in the Sugar Bowl last January and in the minutes after the preseason polls revealed Texas as the No 10 team in the country.

Longhorn Nation found out Sunday that it would  be playing Utah, which spent the last few weeks as a dark horse to make it into the College Football Playoff but is now wearing tread marks after getting trucked 37-15 by Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. The winner of the New Year’s Eve clash will march into the offseason with a small measure of redemption and something even bigger than that: Hope.

Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, left, and Texas head coach Tom Herman shake hands after an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

It’s a nice matchup. The Alamo Bowl wanted star power, which apparently ranks ahead of the number of hotel rooms that can be filled because Kansas State would have traveled to San Antonio in larger numbers, whereas many in the Texas camp will invade the Alamo City from big cities like Dallas, Houston and, of course, Austin. Many will arrive the day of the game, spend the night and then head back.

Economically speaking, San Antonio would have probably benefited more from a Kansas State-Utah matchup, but the Horns playing in their home state brings a sexier feel to this pairing.

“We’ll put in a ton of work to get ready for the game,” UT coach Tom Herman said in a statement.

They better.  On the surface, the game is much more important for the Horns. A 7-6 finish and a non-appearance in the Big 12 title game would represent a significant step backward in Herman’s quest to return the Horns to special places. It’s much bigger than getting the senior class a bowl win. This is about the program and a head coach that just made sweeping changes on his staff due to the failures that have occurred over the last three months.

Everything is bigger in Texas. Including this game.

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