It's official; Horns Holiday Bowl-bound

Just over a week after being a virtual shoe-in for the Sugar Bowl and less than 48 hours removed from a possible Rose Bowl berth, Texas received and accepted an invitation to the Culligan Holiday Bowl Monday afternoon.

The Horns will spend their second consecutive late December in San Diego. Last year, the trip to the Holiday for the match-up with a top 10 Oregon team was a best-case scenario for UT. This year, the exact opposite is true.

Texas (BCS No. 7) will take on a barely top 20, three-loss Washington team that is coming off a 65-7 drubbing by Miami. Anything less than a big win by the Horns over the Huskies will be looked at nationally as a disappointment, and a loss will be flat-out devastating for a team with far loftier goals than a trip to the fourth-best of this year's Big 12 bowl bids.

Mack Brown, though, tried to put the best spin possible on what to his players must be an extremely disappointing destination.

"We had a great time at the Culligan Holiday Bowl last year and are looking forward to the opportunity to go back," the Texas head coach said. "Not many teams have an chance to win 11 games and finish in the top 10, and that's something we want to do. It'll be a great match-up with Washington, and I know Rick (Neuheisel) will have his team ready. We have a large fan base in California, and our fans have been tremendously supportive wherever we have gone."

Brown may be engaged in a bit of wishful thinking in regards to the potential Texas fan support at the bowl game. The free-fall from the Rose to the Holiday will certainly not send Orangebloods into a ticket-buying frenzy. And as devastated as the UT players and coaches were following Saturday's shattering loss to Colorado, the Orangebloods who will be charged with providing that support were equally as devastated based on the reactions on talk radio and the internet, and that could well affect that support level. Finding reasonable airfare and lodging with less than four week's notice for the Rose Bowl, with the national championship on the line, is one thing. Doing the same for an afterthought bowl is an entirely different proposition.

At Texas Stadium in Dallas, UT fans provided the Texas team a huge "home field" advantage. The Longhorn team, after wasting that edge against Colorado, simply can not expect the same level of support in San Diego. [Note: To purchase tickets in The University of Texas' section at the Culligan Holiday Bowl, contact the Longhorns ticket office at 800/982-BEVO or 512/471-3333.]

The Horns, though, will be aiming for win No. 11 and for a top-10 finish out on the Left Coast, both seldom-seen and significant achievements in the potential return to prominence of Texas football. Potential is the key word in that previous sentence. A loss to Washington and the Horns will have no claim to any sort of prominence. Matter of fact, this season once full of promise, would actually then be a step back. Not catastrophic, but enough to raise the temperature a bit more in Brown's spacious office overlooking the DKR field.

Colorado (BCS No. 4), a team that UT beat in October on that very field but couldn't overcome in the December rematch, and Nebraska (BCS No. 3) are both headed to BCS bowls, while Oklahoma will make it's first-ever appearance in the Cotton Bowl game.

Four other league teams will go bowling later this month. In a surprise pick, Texas Tech received a bid from the Alamo Bowl after some heavy lobbying by the Lubbock school. The 7-4 Red Raiders, by virtue of their head-to-head win over A&M, believed they deserved the bid over the 7-4 Aggies, and they got it Monday and will face Iowa on Dec. 29 at the Alamo Dome. With Tech headin' to San Antonio, A&M will spend its holidays in exotic Houston, playing in the Dec. 28 Bowl.

In a rematch of the 1998 Fiesta Bowl, Kansas State will play Syracuse in the Dec. 29 Bowl. Iowa State will play an SEC team in the Dec. 27 MainStay Independence Bowl to round out the eight Big 12 bowl-bound teams.

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