Speaking to reporters after the Broncos arrived at Sky Harbor Airport on Monday morning, coach Chris Petersen announced three players had been left behind but did not identify them or disclose any other details.
"We kind of say it's not meeting the Broncos standards. We don't say why," Petersen said. "They just didn't meet the standards that we kind of try to live by."
The sixth-ranked Broncos (13-0) will meet No. 3 Texas Christian (12-0) on Jan. 4 in a game dubbed the "BCS Buster Bowl" because it's the first meeting of non-automatic qualifiers in the controversial scheme's history.
With a Mariachi band serenading them on the tarmac, the Broncos deplaned on a gray, 50-degree morning - cold by local standards.
"We would like to thank you guys for this weather - and I'm serious," Petersen said as dozens of bowl volunteers laughed. "I had a big ol' coat on when we left and no coat now."
Indeed, the Broncos' Web site featured a photo of a snow-covered Bronco Stadium field with "BEAT TCU" carved out of the powder.
Showers are in the forecast for Tuesday, when the Broncos planned to begin workouts. The Horned Frogs are scheduled to arrive on Tuesday afternoon.
Three years ago, the Broncos showed up at the Fiesta Bowl as the ultimate BCS outsiders, and many wondered if they belonged on the same field as 10th-ranked Oklahoma. Throwing a bagful of gadget plays at the Sooners, the Broncos won a 43-42 overtime thriller.
"We had one of the most memorable times, certainly of our football careers, here a few years ago," Petersen said. "I'm not necessarily just talking about the game. I'm talking about the whole week of the experiences and the festivities we had."
This time, the Broncos felt more at home as they returned to the desert.
"Coming in last time, nobody knew anything," Petersen said. "Most of our staff had never been to a bowl game. So now, we know the hotel we're staying in. We know that Starbucks is across the street. We know where the practice facility is.
"Those types of things ease some of the burden," Petersen said. "I think for our players, we have so few of them back (from the first Fiesta Bowl trip) that their eyes are wide open. And that's a good thing. It's one of those experiences they will appreciate as the week goes on."
Petersen said starting receiver Austin Pettis, who led the Western Athletic Conference with 14 touchdown catches, will be a game-time decision. Pettis missed most of the last two games with a lower leg fracture.
"He's right on track with what the doctors have hoped but he's not there yet," Petersen said.