It begs the question: are the reeling Longhorns just as excited about a second-tier bowl destination just 80 miles south of campus after consecutive Rose Bowl victories?
"This is something (players) were excited about," head coach Mack Brown said Monday. "This is an opportunity for our fans to see the seniors play for the last time. Parents can get to the game more easily than if it was a way-West or a way-East Coast game. The guys will be able to head down on Christmas Day. They can spend Christmas at home, and they'll be home for New Years Day. If you're not playing in the BCS, we think this is a really good fit for our team this year."
A source inside the Texas Men's Athletic Department said Gator Bowl officials continued their in-house debate until mid-Sunday afternoon about whether to select 9-3 Texas or 10-2 West Virginia, which needed triple-overtime to get past Rutgers over the weekend. The source estimated that a disappointed fan-base would probably have sold less than 5,000 tickets had Texas played in Jacksonville, Florida on New Year's Day.
The Gator Bowl is obviously more high-profile, given that it is nationally-televised by a major network (CBS-Sports) on January 1. Yet, it will overlap the Cotton Bowl match-up between Auburn and Nebraska while going head-to-head with a pair of one-loss teams (Arkansas, Wisconsin) in the Capital One Bowl. The Alamo Bowl will be the only college football game played on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m. CST) on December 30. It is the middle game of an ESPN triple-header, beginning with the Meineke Car Bowl (Boston College vs. Navy) and the Chick-fil-A Bowl (Virginia Tech vs. Georgia).
Two games ago, Texas was in the thick of the mix for the BCS National Championship and certainly had the inside track to the Big 12 Championship and Fiesta Bowl. The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, were well on their way to a ninth-place finish in the Big Ten.
"We were obviously disappointed that we had two losses at the end of the season," Brown said, "but the guys are upbeat and excited. Not many people have a chance to win 10 games. In fact, not many people have won 10 games in their whole careers. These guys have had 10-plus wins every year."
In fact, Texas is the only Division-I program to have currently posted nine-consecutive nine-win seasons and are looking to notch a seventh-straight Top 12 finish for the first time in school history.
The Horns return to practice on December 12.