"I'll fly away," goes the old country gospel song, and that's exactly the mindset Texas fans need to prepare for as the Decision Day for bowl selection nears. And with a myriad of opportunities, Longhorn fans can ready themselves for any of a number of interesting scenarios on Sunday.
From Tempe to Pasadena, from San Diego to San Antonio, from Dallas to Miami, the Longhorns could be headed anywhere at the end of the day on Sunday.
That said, there are a couple of really important points for Texas fans to understand. And the first is, more than any other year recently, this is an invitation-only party. For much of its football history, the Longhorns competed in the Southwest Conference. And what you played for in those days was the right to drive to Dallas and represent the league as its champion in the Cotton Bowl.
Now, whether it is in the mix of the Bowl Championship Series or as a candidate for the Big 12 representative slots in the Cotton, Holiday or Alamo Bowls, the Longhorns--who have raced to No. 6 in the BCS standings and have earned so much respect by their play in the last half of the season--will be a chosen guest, rather than an automatic one.
And whichever bowl selects Texas, it will be critical for Longhorn fans to join the team and--perhaps as the song says--fly away. In each case, there is an allotment of tickets to be purchased and seats to be filled with burnt orange to support the Horns. It is important for Texas fans to show their enthusiasm for the football program by purchasing tickets and joining the team at its bowl destination. The UT ticket office will have information available on Sunday on the Texassports.com website, and will be accepting phone orders by Monday.
Bowls are in business to sell tickets and exciting matchups. If they invite you, you better be proud and thrilled for your program and follow your team bringing friends. Or the next time, they will invite somebody else -- another program they perceive has greater support and will travel more enthusiastically.
All of that said, here is a primer on the most likely bowl possibilities as we know them.
First of all, as the whole world knows by now, Oklahoma has to beat Kansas State for Texas to be eligible for an at-large bid from the BCS.
If the Wildcats upset the Sooners, then K-State goes to the Fiesta Bowl, which has the Big 12 champion as its traditional conference "anchor."
Oklahoma, by its points, would still be an at large selection and go play for the National Championship (which is held this year in the Sugar Bowl), just as Nebraska did in 2001 as an at large rep from the Big 12.
BCS rules prohibit three teams from the same conference from being selected to play in one of the four BCS games.
That's what knocked Texas out when Colorado won the Big 12 championship game in 2001, even though the Longhorns were ranked seventh in the final BCS standings.
Now, here is the procedure if the Sooners win.
The Fiesta Bowl, because its "anchor" has vacated to the Sugar Bowl, gets the first choice since the Sooners are the highest-ranked team.
There are six automatic qualifiers for the BCS. The winners of the Big Ten (Michigan), the Big 12 (either Oklahoma or Kansas State), the SEC (either LSU or Georgia), the Big East (Miami), the ACC (Florida State), and the Pac-10 (Southern Cal).
Then, from the top 12 teams in the BCS, bowls can pick two at large selections. So the Fiesta gets to pick any team from the pool that is not in the National Championship game.
Assuming Southern Cal is the No. 2 team, the Rose would get the second pick, since its Pac-10 "anchor" would be vacated. Michigan, as the Big Ten winner, is already guaranteed one of the Rose spots.
The Orange Bowl weighs in by choosing either the Big East or the ACC as its host, and all indications point to their choosing Miami. Then it is back to the Fiesta, with the last team going to the Orange Bowl to play Miami.
Fan following is a big deciding factor. If, for example, the Fiesta believes more fans from an at large pick such as Ohio State will come to their game than will Florida State fans, then one of their picks is likely to be the Buckeyes. If LSU beats Georgia and is a strong No. 3 nationally, they could be an attractive option.
If, after all is said and done, the Orange Bowl winds up with a Miami-Florida State rematch, they may want to avoid that and do some trading with the Fiesta or the Rose.
The Fiesta, because of its relationship with the Big 12 and its respect for Texas, has been firm on its commitment to the Longhorns, if they are available.
Whatever Texas' destination, it is important for folks to follow. Tempe would be an easy reach. With a game date of January 2, there are creative ways to find reasonable air fares. And it is a comfortable two-day drive if you choose to go that route.
If Kansas State wins, then an attractive long-distance option in the Big 12 bowl package is the Holiday Bowl. The San Diego trip has quickly become a popular one for Texas fans. The 'Horns' victory over Washington two years ago ranks as one of the most exciting bowl games in history. The Pac 10 representative will be Washington State, and the December 30 date also affords some good travel options.
The Cotton Bowl has long been one of the most respected bowl games in the country, and the Alamo Bowl has rapidly developed a reputation as one of the best post-season trips, so any of the options are interesting--some clearly (for obvious reasons) more than others. The Cotton Bowl has already named Mississippi as its SEC representative, and the Alamo will feature a Big Ten team.
If you are into "what can I do to help?" then the answer is easy.
Support the Longhorns, wherever they go. Buy tickets, take friends. Show the college football world that the Burnt Orange folks are going to be there.
Saturday night and Sunday morning will bring options and opportunities. Texas is not in a position to control them, but it is in a position to take advantage of them. This team has come so very far, it deserves it.
From mid-October on, it did everything it could possibly do. It has earned the right to be in the mix for some truly exciting things.
So check the flight schedules or gas up the SUV. Put wings on your 'Horns, and plan a super trip.
Even if you don't yet know where you are going.