SAN ANTONIO — Oregon and Texas were not aiming for the Alamo Bowl.
The Ducks went into November at 8-0 and thinking about a national title, but that dream died at Stanford, and their run of four straight BCS games ended with a loss at Arizona.
Despite a 1-2 start, Texas began December with a shot at the Big 12 title and a BCS berth, but those went away with a loss at Baylor.
So the Ducks and Longhorns ended up here in what may seem like a consolation prize to many. However, after a couple of weeks to deal with disappointment, both teams insist they have plenty of motivation.
"You're playing Texas, that's enough said right there," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "The logo, the tradition, everything that encompasses that is a tremendous challenge. They are really well-coached and a tremendously talented football team, and our guys know that. They will be very exited to play."
Helfrich is looking to win his first bowl game as a head coach, and the Longhorns want to send out Mack Brown with a final postseason victory after he resigned under fire following an 8-4 regular season.
"Coach told us all we have to do is focus on now and let others worry about the future," senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. "It will be a fun game. We are excited to play Oregon, a 10-2 team, in the Alamo Bowl."
Texas has dealt with rumors about Brown's future all season, and it took a week after the loss to Baylor before his fate was finally sealed.
"We are a tight-knit team and we have overcome a lot, and it has only made us stronger," Texas senior quarterback Case McCoy said. "I think the underclassmen want to win it for us seniors, and we want to go out the right way."
There figures to be plenty of emotion for Brown's final game in front of a large Texas fan base so close to home, and McCoy said that will only help the Longhorns.
"I think we need as much emotion as possible right now," he said. "Hopefully, a lot of fans show up and support our class and the staff one last time."
The Ducks know there will be plenty of burnt orange just 90 minutes from Austin.
"We understand we are going to Texas and they are going to fill the stands," Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota said. "We will handle it the same way we have every other game. At the same time, we understand it will be a packed house, so we have to make sure our communication and all those things are working."
Oregon won 19 straight road games before losing its last two this season.
"We will treat it like an away game," Helfrich said. "Treat it like the many tough venues in our conference, but amplify it from an emotional standpoint, however much more the decibel level will rise as a tribute to coach Brown.
"There is no question they will be fired up. The crowd will be much more into it."
Oregon is a two-touchdown favorite, but oddsmakers can't account for emotion.
"They are playing for their old ball coach," Oregon senior safety Avery Patterson said. "Having to play for a guy like Mack Brown, now they will come out and give it their best shot. They will probably play their best game against us."
Helfrich was asked if the coaching change can be a distraction for the Longhorns.
"We hope it is a distraction from our angle," he said. "That's potentially the case. From a coaching perspective, I have been in those situations where you are going to a different school after the game and there are a lot of things on your plate. Managing players that may have different levels of commitment to the whole situation. It's potentially a distraction, but I'm sure those guys will handle it well."
Oregon's commitment was questioned after the Stanford loss when Josh Huff and De'Anthony Thomas talked about how playing in the Rose Bowl would be a disappointment after having national-title hopes. That was followed by a loss to Arizona that put the Rose Bowl out of reach.
Oregon's senior class has won 46 games in four years, tied for the most in school history with last year's group. A win over Texas would give the seniors the record at 47 and give Oregon at least 11 wins in four straight seasons for the first time in school history.
"That is something that we've talked about, we've heard it going around ever since the Oregon State game," Patterson said. "Us seniors want to leave a legacy here at Oregon and have our class cemented in the history of Oregon. If we win, we will do that. We want to leave a lasting impression here. We don't want to ever be forgotten. This game is huge for our seniors and our team."