There’s never any doubt about the entertainment value provided each year by the Valero Alamo Bowl.
But this year’s game with No. 10 Colorado Buffaloes and No. 12 Oklahoma State Cowboys on Thursday at the Alamodome will bring a little more to the table for one of the top college games that’s not part of the College Football Playoffs. More than 60,000 people are expected to attend the game slated to kick off at 8 p.m. Last year’s TCU-Oregon game, which went into triple overtime, drew 64,569 fans to San Antonio’s near Eastside.
It’s the highest ranked Valero Alamo Bowl matchup ever and the first time both teams are ranked inside the Top 12. The 2016 game will be the third consecutive Top-15 matchup the bowl has produced and marks the third year of a conference agreement to match the No. 1 Big 12 and No. 1 Pac-12 teams outside of the CFP selections.
In many respects, Colorado and Oklahoma State are mirror images of each other as both teams utilize spread offenses, employ mostly stingy, turnover-causing defenses, and have special teams that excel.
The colleges are old rivals from the Big Eight and Big 12 conferences, with plenty of desire to build momentum for the future with a victory to end this season – adding even more vinegar to the mix.
For Colorado (10-3), which lost to Washington in the Pac-12 Conference championship game, the trip to the Alamo City represents its first bowl appearance since it lost to Alabama in the 2007 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
“We’re excited about Colorado going to their first bowl game in 10 years,” said Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre. “It’s a chance for us to get the monkey off our back for the bowl games and it’s a lot of fun. Our kids will be excited about it. It’s going to be a heck of a football game with a great atmosphere. “
Colorado’s attention was further piqued when watching Oklahoma State’s scouting video, MacIntyre said.
“Our guys have seen Oklahoma State and they realize how good they are, so that motivates them a lot, too,” MacIntyre said. “I’ve told all our guys, ‘You have to compartmentalize.’ They have to really understand that and take care of that. I think they will. They’re excited.”
The Buffaloes are also pumped to have quarterback Sefo Liufau back behind center. Linfau missed most of the first half of the Pac-12 Championship game because of an ankle injury. Now he’s healthy and ready, according to reports.
The four-year starter owns or has tied 87 school records (58 passing, 20 on offense and nine others) and has thrown for 2,171 yards and was responsible for 18 touchdowns (11 passing, 7 rushing) this season, earning the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award.
The Buffs’ defense was dominant toward the end of the year before wilting some in the Pac-12 title game. After defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt left Boulder for a similar position at Oregon in mid-December, the unit will be a partial question mark.
Oklahoma State (9-3), which lost its regular-season finale to Oklahoma in the de facto Big 12 Championship game, has balance on both sides of the ball.
The Cowboys’ offense runs through quarterback Mason Rudolph. When he plays well, the Cowboys usually win. Rudolph has surpassed 350 yards passing in five games this year, including two of the past four games and threw for a school-record of 540 yards in Oklahoma State’s win over Pitt. He’s the only player in the country this season who has surpassed 3,500 passing yards while throwing less than five interceptions.
“I like our attitude,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “Both teams played in their conference championship game, and I’m sure they wanted to win just as much as we did. You go through a week or so after you lose to get the guys back up and going.
“Our first couple of practices were pretty average, but since that point the leadership and the chemistry of the team has taken over and we’ve been tremendous,” Gundy said.
This is the first meeting between the two teams since Colorado moved to the Pac-12 in 2011, and it should be a good one.
The series between Oklahoma State and Colorado dates to 1920. The two teams played every year as members of the Big Eight Conference and that extended into the Big 12 era. The schools have met in football 46 times with Colorado leading the series, 26-19-1, but the Cowboys won the last two in 2008 and 2009.