Texas Football: Utah Will Test Texas' Toughness
Utah looked to have the inside track to a College Football Playoff through a good portion of the second half of the year thanks to its dominance and what the CFP committee has called a "complete team" multiple times when explaining its high ranking.
Yet it was the Utes' loss to Oregon not only sent them to the Alamo Bowl, but elevated their opponent into the game. Utah's defeat in the Pac 12 Championship Game coupled with LSU's dominant win over Georgia meant that the Big 12 would send either Baylor or Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff and the loser of the Big 12 title game to the Sugar Bowl.
In a tie for third place, Texas was selected to play in San Antonio for obvious geographical and marketing reasons over the rest of the teams logjammed into a third-place tie in the conference, giving the Longhorns a shot at not only a national TV audience but a chance to knock off what has been a top 10 team all year - washing away some of the taste of a disappointing 7-5 season on the Forty Acres.
But with the high reward of playing a nationally-respected opponent in a bowl comes the high risk as well. The Utes may have the best defense the Longhorns have seen so far this year.
"The stats that you read in terms of rushing yards, yards per play all that stuff," Herman said. "We know that our offense is going to be in for a big-time challenge. Our defense as well."
The Utes led the country in defending the run and were a top five overall defense nationally. That comes with the extra challenge of prepping for the game with interim placeholders at both offensive and defensive coordinators.
Who has the most to gain/lose?
Bowl games often come down to which team is more motivated. For both of these squads there is still something to play for despite dissapointing finishes to their respective seasons.
For Utah it's a chance to finish the year as a top 10 team and potentially set itself up for a run at the CFP next year.
For Texas - as stated above - it’s a chance to dump some of the memories from a massive letdown year and garner some momentum and buzz heading into the offseason.
For audiences it will be an opportunity to see two of the most talented teams in the country play in New Year’s Eve.