A pair of teams with inconsistent seasons and streaks in opposite directions throughout the year meet in this year’s version of the Valero Alamo Bowl. Oregon State takes on Texas in a home-state bowl for the Longhorns after both were around BCS consideration before ending the year with quarterback uncertainty. However, even after topsy-turvy seasons both teams are ranked in the top 25 and give us our first ranked-on-ranked matchup of the bowl season. There’s some top-level talent in what should be a solid game. Here’s a brief rundown.
When to Watch: 6:45 PM ET, Saturday, December 29, 2012
Where to Watch: Live on ESPN from the Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
What to Watch for:
When Oregon State has the ball: Oregon State has used two quarterbacks this season after Sean Mannion went down with an injury after a 4-0 start. Mannion was replaced by Cody Vaz who kept the Beavers undefeated before going down with an injury of his own. Mannion struggled after being reinserted and was removed again for Vaz but did start the team’s regular season finale which was a blowout. It’s Vaz who gets the nod in this one. Vaz passed for 1,286 yards and 11 touchdowns while importantly avoiding interceptions with just one on the season. Overall, Oregon State ranks 15th in passing offense averaging 316 passing yards a game.
The Beavers offense boasts a pair of great wide receivers with Markus Wheaton leading the way with 88 catches, 1,207 yards, and 11 touchdowns. On the other side of the field, don’t overlook the abilities of sophomore Brandin Cooks who caught 64 passes for 1,120 yards and five touchdowns.
Texas’s defense has struggled this season against the big pass play which could be trouble against Vaz and Wheaton. The Texas defense struggled with big-time passing games giving up 48 to Geno Smith and West Virginia, 63 to Landry Jones and Oklahoma, 50 to Nick Florence and Baylor, and 42 to Collin Klein and K-State. They did have success against Seth Doege and Texas Tech in their 31-22 win.
When Texas has the ball: Texas is going back to David Ash under center who was benched after starting the first 11 games during the team’s loss to TCU on Thanksgiving day. Ash had 2,458 yards and 17 touchdowns and seven picks. Texas finished 39th in the nation in passing offense and 49th in rushing yards. They were able to put up 30 or more in nine games this season, but were only ablye to score 37 in their final two games combined as they fell to TCU and K-State.
Oregon State’s defense won’t make things easy for Ash. The Beavers D ranks 22nd in the FBS in scoring defense, 29th in scoring defense, and perhaps most importantly 13th in turnovers forced. The defense was paced by sophomore Scott Crichton up front and senior Jordan Poyer in the defensive backfield who were both named to the All-Pac-12 Conference first team. Crichton has 16 tackles for loss and nine sacks on the year and was on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award which recognizes the most outstanding defensive player in college football. Poyer is tied for second in the nation with seven picks and has incredible ball-skills which landed him as a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award. The OSU defense has been the key in their turnaround from last year’s 3-9 to their 9-3 record so far this year.
Who to Watch (NFL Prospects
At two big-conference schools like this, there’s plenty of NFL potential on both sidelines. The highest picks are likely to be from the defensive side of the ball with Texas defensive end Alex Okafor most likely going in the first round and fellow-Longhorn defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat following in the second if he chooses to enter the draft this year. Jeffcoat will miss this game due to a season-ending injury which further clouds his draft prospects. Another name from the Longhorn defense showing up in the late-first or early-second round will be free safety Kenny Vaccaro who could play a big part in trying to shut down the Beavers’ passing game.
For Oregon State, keep an eye on cornerback Jordan Poyer who is looking like a second-round pick and is getting linked repeatedly to the Washington Redskins by early mock drafters. Markus Wheaton could go around the same time in the second round in a deep wide receiver class in which he is comfortably in the top ten available options. Scott Crichton could also make a splash if he decides to come out after just his redshirt Sophomore season. If Crichton did declare, he’d likely be a second or third round pick.
Oregon State’s defense forces turnovers, and Texas has had turnover problems in their last two games. If the Beavers pressure the Longhorns into turnovers, they can get a win over Texas even in their home state. I don’t think the Texas D will be able to stop Markus Wheaton deep down the field, and Cody Vaz is the right QB for this bowl game for the Beavers.
OSU has more fire-power on offense and the better defense, so I’ll take them and give the field goal even in what amounts to a road game in San Antonio. The spread right now is at 3.5 and trending toward the Beavers after opening at just 1.5. Texas is just 2-6 in their last eight against the spread while Oregon State is 5-3.