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The Winding Road to San Antonio

It’s been four years since Colorado last earned a bowl berth. In 2016, the Buffs finished the regular season with a 10-2 record and a Pac-12 South division title. After a humbling loss to Washington in the Pac-12 title game, though, second-place CU was sent to the Alamo Bowl to face the No. 2 team from the Big 12, Oklahoma State.

The result of that game was a forgettable 38-8 loss to the Cowboys, with the Buffs sliding into the off-season with a two-game losing streak and a bad taste in their mouths.

This year, the Buffs aren’t the second-place team in the Pac-12, with that “honor” going to USC. But the Trojans mysteriously came down with a bad case of “We don’t want to lose again”, and bowed out, leaving Colorado as the only other option (after UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford, and Washington also declined to continue their seasons) for the number two Pac-12 bowl selection,

Now the Buffs are slotted to play in the 2020 Alamo Bowl v. No. 20 Texas (Tuesday, December 29th, 7:00 p.m., MT, ESPN).

A perfect end to a bizarre year … after a bizarre last two weeks …

Payback for Oregon

Buff fans remember the 2001 campaign well. That was the season when the BCS computers allowed Nebraska … a Nebraska team which hadn’t even won its own division, much less its conference … a Nebraska team which had just been beaten, 62-36 … to play for the national championship.

That season, the Buffs, the team that mauled Nebraska, the team which did win the Big 12 championship, finished behind the Cornhuskers in the computer rankings, missing out on a chance to play Miami in the Rose Bowl for the national title.

What Buff fans might not remember, however, was that the Pac-10 champions, the Oregon Ducks, were equally screwed by the BCS. Oregon was 10-1, and was ranked No. 2 in the polls, but finished No. 4 in the BCS computer rankings.

While Colorado fans are waiting for payback from the football gods, Oregon got its payback this past week.

The Ducks, having taken out a mistaken-prone USC Trojan team, won the Pac-12 championship game, even though the Ducks didn’t even win their own division. Oregon, like Colorado, finished second in the Pac-12 North, but was given a shot at the title when Washington couldn’t field a team.

As a result, Oregon gets its second straight Pac-12 title, while the 4-1 Buffs were left standing when the music stopped.

Which brings us to …

How did the Pac-12 not see this coming?

Last weekend, Washington was supposed to travel to Eugene to decide the Pac-12 North representative. The Huskies were 4-1; the Ducks were 3-2.

Washington backed out late in the week, with the “no contest” giving Washington the division.

Not sure whether the North division winner would be able to face USC for the Pac-12 championship, the conference hedged its bets, requiring the two second-place teams, 4-1 Colorado and 3-2 Oregon to plan on playing their game in Los Angeles instead of Boulder, just in case one of the two teams couldn’t play.

Just in case? 

According to a report by Sports Illustrated, Washington has 20 offensive lineman on its roster, including walk-ons.

Zero of the 20 were available to play last weekend.

Zero.

Recall that USC called off its game against Colorado because it didn’t have enough offensive linemen. We never heard anything about the Trojans being 0-for-20 in its offensive line room. Having a few starters out was enough to call off that game – and CU’s chance to earn its way into the Pac-12 title game.

Fair to say that everyone in the Washington locker room knew that their game against USC wasn’t going to happen.

The Pac-12 knew – or should have known – that Washington had no chance of playing in the Pac-12 title game.

And yet, the Pac-12 set up the runner-up game in Los Angeles, just in case Washington couldn’t play.

In other words, the Pac-12 knowingly manipulated the Pac-12 title game, getting the matchup it wanted all along, with USC facing Oregon.

CU and its season be damned.

Had the Pac-12 waited until Monday to announce its matchups for the seventh week, the Pac-12, even getting its wish for a USC/Oregon game, could have at least paved the way for CU to play another Pac-12 team (Oregon State? Arizona State? Cal?) to get in another conference game.

“I do have a lot of empathy for Colorado,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Thursday.

Not listening, Larry.

Then USC added to the hypocrisy …

Less than 24 hours after falling in the Pac-12 title game, USC decided it was unhealthy to play football.

From the USC press release: The decision was made following a recommendation from the USC medical team and discussions with the Trojan football leadership council. The football program has experienced a rise in COVID-19 cases among its players and staff recently, including positive cases this past week.

“A rise in COVID-12 cases”? “Positive cases this past week”?

Hmm … neither of those factors kept USC from playing in the Pac-12 title game. Yet, with almost two weeks before their next game (presumably the Alamo Bowl), USC declared it was unfit to continue.

So … Washington, with zero of its 20 offensive linemen available before the Oregon game, waited until the Monday before the title game to decide it couldn’t play. But … USC, a day after playing a game, is sure it won’t be healthy for a bowl game two weeks down the road.

Anyone want to bet me that, had USC won the Pac-12 title, and been an undefeated conference champion invited to the Fiesta Bowl, that the Trojans would have found a way to get healthy enough to play that game?

Didn’t think so …

But I’m not complaining … 

Colorado is all too familiar with sitting home during championship week.

After all, the Buffs have played in only one conference title game since joining the Pac-12.

The last three seasons, CU finished with identical 5-7 records, one win shy of a bowl opportunity and the extra practices offered by qualifying for post-season play.

This next week, the Buffs will be practicing, one of only two Pac-12 teams to be doing so.

Washington, Cal and Arizona already have hung up their cleats for the season. With their final games Saturday, USC, Arizona State, Utah, Washington State, UCLA, Stanford, and Oregon State are done until spring.

Colorado, though, has a bowl game to look forward to.

Yes, it’s been a tough go this year. The spring that didn’t happen. The summer practices conducted only by way of Zoom meetings. The off-again, on-again fall schedule. The regular season grind which was supposed to end Thanksgiving dragging on until the week before Christmas.

And now we’re asking these Buffs to practice the week before Christmas, instead of being home with their families.

Head coach Karl Dorrell understands the sacrifices being made.

“A lot of me wants for them to reap what they deserve, which is postseason opportunities, but I know that they do miss their families, too,” he said. “There is a lot of emotions about what has gone on this year. We are going to always remember this year. I think sometimes we don’t look at the simple things in life and how important those things are, how things were prior to this (pandemic). Maybe we took life for granted.

“Like I tell my players, when I walk into this building I am thinking about what is best for this football team. That keeps me motivated, that keeps me driven in doing my job as efficiently and effectively as I can for the betterment of this football team, this school, and these young men. Those are the things that mean the most to me. I try to keep it that simple.”

Senior linebacker Akil Jones, who became a father a few weeks ago, got it right. If anyone would want to call it a season, you would think it would be a young man who won’t be doting on his infant this Christmas.

And yet …

“Bowl games are special, really,” Jones said. “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.”

For a team who had no spring practices (one of three in the Pac-12 to get zero spring ball), and a new coaching staff which went seven months without a chance to be on the field with their players, to be a “good football team”, practicing the week before Christmas, is nothing short of amazing.

Yes, the Buffs got screwed by the Pac-12 and by USC. At the very least, CU should have been provided an opportunity to take on a conference opponent this weekend, instead of sitting home, watching other teams play. If USC declared itself unfit to play on Saturday, why were they playing on Friday?

But … the Buffs will get another game … a bowl game!

Just the second bowl game in the past 13 years.

A bowl game no one predicted ten months ago, when Karl Dorrell was hired.

A bowl game no one predicted two months ago, when the seven-game schedule was announced.

Give Larry Scott and the Pac-12 the finger if you want to, but CU’s unscheduled bye week is now behind us.

Onward and upward …

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10 Replies to “The Winding Road to San Antonio”

  1. Time to go back to work he big 12
    As long as Larry Scott is in charge we will get plunked every time
    This is on our dumbass president distefNo
    He is aych a government wonk
    Maybe we should rename Hume finer pyle 2

  2. Cancellation of the CU-USC game seemed really suspect – this makes it look worst. How convenient that the Trojans didn’t have to play the Buffs . . . glad the Ducks gave them a bit of a comeuppance.
    Sure, playing a Big 12 team in the south central part of Texas isn’t ideal, but neither was meeting a Southwest Conference team in the Cotton Bowl. Corralling the ‘Horns would be a nice recruiting boost and make a great start into the next season. Go BUFFS!

  3. Though it’s a little irritating that Horns get basically a home game, this is a great opportunity for the Buffs to again prove doubters wrong. Buffs have been a bright, fun spot during these unusual and challenging times. Glad they are rewarded with a bowl against a quality opponent!

  4. Personally, I think it’s Washington that screws the Buffs. Sure…SC bailed on us early, but UW always finds a way to pull the rug out from under us. Oh, and the Pac12 … these guys collectively have the brainpower of a dung beetle.

    1. Welp the Mighty
      Buffs just kicked
      their little basketball
      arses………….

      Buffalo Up

      Note: For ep and others………….Buffalo Up……………….is like……………….
      Gear Up………..Unless you served you may not get it……………Yur Welcome

      I’m smiling ep.

  5. Arrrgghhh
    Texas? SA is an hour and a half drive from Austin let alone being smack dab in the middle of the rest of Texas.
    If the Buffs can some how win this overblown homer game and put it in the eyes of Texas think of the recruiting bonus. I doubt if a win will still get any more respect out of the PAC stooges.

  6. Sheesh Oregon replaced Colorado in the Colorado Forever Punked rankings

    The disrepect never ends

    Time to win a frigging bowl game no matter which big 12 school is selected.

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