3 Valero Alamo Bowl storylines to watch against Colorado

26 Dec By
Sophomore Colorado running back Jarek Broussard rushed for 163 yards per game — the second-highest per-game average in the country — to lead the Buffaloes to a 4-1 record and to earn Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors (photo courtesy of cubuffs.com).

AUSTIN, Texas — In a year in which nearly everything has been different, the Texas Longhorns will have a measure of familiarity as they return to San Antonio for the Valero Alamo Bowl for the second year in a row. Last year Texas upset then-No. 11 Utah 38-10. This season, No. 20 Texas will battle Colorado, which finished its abbreviated season with a record of 4-1 overall, and 3-1 in games against teams from the Pac-12.

Tuesday night's contest in the Alamo City will kick off at 8 p.m. (Central time) on ESPN. So what are some of the key storylines when the Longhorns and Buffaloes collide?

Lack of seniority for the Horns
The Texas team that takes the field Tuesday will not be the same one that was seen throughout this season. On the offensive line, center-turned-tackle Derek Kerstetter suffered a leg injury at Kansas State that cost him the rest of the season, and Samuel Cosmi departed for the NFL Draft before Texas played K-State. At wide receiver, Brennan Eagles, who led Texas this season in receptions, has left for the NFL. Keaontay Ingram has opted out too, partially due to injury. Don't even look at defense. All four defensive captains — JACK Joseph Ossai, safety Caden Sterns, defensive tackle Ta'Quon Graham, and safety Chris Brown — have opted out to begin preparation for their professional careers.

What does this mean? Well, though Texas may be without several of its regular starters, there is not a lack of talent. Promising offensive lineman Jake Majors, who has been working out as a center since January, will get the start at center. At left tackle will be another freshman in Andrej Karic. The young linemen have shown flashes of talent, but expect Sam Ehlinger to be forced out of the pocket early and often with the lack of experience on the line.

Defense will be the real challenge. While the departed captains leave voids in their wakes, Herman noted in his Dec. 23 press conference that there are replacements he expects will step up as leaders.

"There are multiple guys who are on our leadership council," Herman said. "You've got (defensive back) Josh Thompson certainly comes to mind at corner, (defensive tackle) Keandre Coburn definitely comes to mind and (defensive lineman) Moro Ojomo comes to mind. So there's still plenty of leadership on that side of the ball."

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Buffaloes' stampede
For Colorado, the keys to success will begin on the ground: the Buffaloes' rushing attack was one of the best in the Pac-12, ranked third in rushing yards per game, averaging 218.4 yards per game. It all starts with sophomore running back Jarek Broussard, the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.

Broussard went from being absent on the depth chart to a breakout sensation in a matter of weeks, finishing the regular season with 813 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. His average of 163 yards per game ranks second in the country. The UT defense needs to hold Broussard below that mark and eliminate his opportunities to get into the open field. He runs hard and finds lanes behind an experienced, but at times, short-handed offensive line.

A rivalry renewed
It has been a while since Texas and Colorado last squared off on the gridiron — so long, in fact, that freshman running back Bijan Robinson had no idea that the two schools both were part of the Big 12 until 2010.

The Longhorns and Buffaloes met regularly before Colorado departed for the Pac-12 a decade ago. In the last edition of this rivalry, played in October 2009, Texas rallied from a 14-3 deficit to win, 38-14. It has been 19 years since Colorado beat Texas, in the 2001 Big 12 Championship Game.

The teams first played in 1940; Texas leads the series, 11-7.

Riley Zayas is a high school sophomore and freelance journalist from Round Rock, Texas. He began his journalism career as a Sports Illustrated Kids reporter and has since become a regular contributor to Horns Illustrated, covering Texas Longhorn sports. His work also includes Fellowship of Christian Athletes publications, his personal blog 360 Sports, College Baseball Nation and Sports Spectrum, a national christian sports website. Twitter: @ZayasRiley