Don't downplay the importance of the Freedom Bowl to the University of Colorado football team.
Having packed up after losing seasons the three seasons prior to this one, the Buffalos are excited just to be in shoulder pads at this time of the year.
They'll get to add game uniforms to their attire Monday night when they meet the University of Washington Huskies in the second annual Freedom Bowl at Anaheim Stadium. Kickoff is 5 p.m.
"I'm really excited and so is everyone else," said Colorado punter Barry Helton. "We were happy to go to any bowl game whatsoever, but the Freedom Bowl is perfect ... it's in the sunshine.
"I talked to some of the players from Iowa this year and they said they really enjoyed the Freedom Bowl. We wouldn't trade this for Christmas at home."
Colorado finished its first regular season since adopting a wishbone offense with a 7-4 overall record and wound up tied for third with Oklahoma State at 4-3 in the Big Eight Conference. It was the school's first winning football season since 1978.
In 1984, the Buffalos won once in 11 tries.
The Huskies, installed as a four-point favorite by oddsmakers, were 6-5 overall and finished tied for fourth in a tight Pacific-10 Conference race and are geared up for the game as well.
"Personally, the Freedom Bowl will be just like the Orange Bowl for me," said sophomore Chris Chandler, who is expected to share quarterbacking duties with senior Hugh Millen. "I don't mind spending 10 days in Anaheim."
Colorado, with its newly installed wishbone, finished 10th in the nation in rushing. Fullback Anthony Witherspoon led the Buffalos with 569 yards on 140 carries, with quarterback Mark Hatcher second with 539 yards on 125 rushes.
The Buffalos have a formidable defense as well. They held their opponents to 17 points or less every game except two this season.
Washington boasts a diversified offense. The Huskies averaged 326 yards per game in total offense -- 181 on the ground and 145 through the air.
Defensively, the Huskies held their opponents to less than 19 points per game and shut out Stanford.
The Freedom Bowl could prove a valuable showcase, one with long-lasting effects, for Colorado Coach Bill McCartney.
"A bowl game is a nice reward for any season, but we're particularly excited to be playing in Anaheim," McCartney said. "We've identified that area as critical to the future development of this program. We've gotten a lot of our best players out of there and we have four coaches that recruit Southern California full time."
The Freedom Bowl will be the first bowl appearance for the Buffalos since 1977, when Colorado was a 37-10 loser to Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.
Colorado and Washington have met five times since 1915 with each school winning wice and one game ending in a tie. The last meeting was in 1976, a game won 21-3 by Colorado.
The University of Iowa won the inaugural Freedom Bowl, 55-17, over the University of Texas.