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December 4, 2012

National Analysts Weigh In on Alamo Bowl Matchup

As far as history and tradition is concerned, the Alamo Bowl matchup between Oregon State and Texas is a huge mismatch when counting championships and bowl appearances.

Thankfully for the Beavers, though, the game will be played in the here and now.

Comparing the talent on the rosters of the two current teams, the Beavers undoubtedly have a shot to knock off the Longhorns in front of what should be a mostly pro-Texas crowd on December 29 (3:45 p.m. PT, ESPN) at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Sunday night, several ESPN analysts talked about the game during the sports network's 'Bowl Selection Special' and agreed that Oregon State (9-3) is on the verge of a 10-win campaign for a reason, starting with the talented wide receiver duo of Markus Wheaton (88 receptions for 1,207 yards) and Brandin Cooks (64 for 1,120 yards)

"This is a very good and very explosive Oregon State team with a couple of terrific receivers against a Texas defense that will give up some plays," Rece Davis said. "We'll see if Mike Riley can get win number 10 against Bevo."

The Texas secondary is yielding an average of 213.5 yards per game through the air and has intercepted just 10 passes in 12 games. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 60 percent (193-of-322) of their passes for 16 touchdowns against the Longhorns.

"They (Texas) will give up some plays," analyst David Pollack said. "Oregon State has been one of those teams all year that has been balanced enough. They have great, big-play wide receivers on the outside. You look at their losses and they've come against good teams. It's not like they've laid eggs. They've been solid and they've been competitive. They almost beat Stanford, which has been one of the hottest teams in the country."

Pollack anticipates an Oregon State defense allowing less than 20 points per game giving the Texas offense all they can handle for 60 minutes. The Beavers are ranked No. 33 or better nationally in three (scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense) of the four major defensive categories along with forcing a staggering 30 turnovers (19 interceptions, 11 fumbles).

"They play good defense, they play physical, they can get after the quarterback and they turn the football over," Pollack said. "It's been a really fun story this year. Everybody that called for Mike Riley's job, go to Corvallis. Visit Corvallis and see if you'll call for his job. Tough place to recruit, but he's done an excellent job with this football team."

Mark May pointed out the expectations for Texas and Oregon State were massively different at the beginning of the season. With some of the finest facilities in the country, the summer outlook in Austin was bright as opposed to Oregon State, which just hoped to attain bowl eligibility.

Right now, the nine-win Beavers have one more victory than Texas, going from three wins in 2011 to three losses in 2012. Few pundits saw that happening back in August.

"The difference between these two teams was expectations," May said. "You didn't expect a lot out of Oregon State this year. They are the big surprise. Texas and Mack Brown, after last year winning the Holiday Bowl, all said, 'We're back! Things are going great!" All of a sudden, they lose four games this year.

"Texas is under a lot of pressure. I think Mack Brown is under a lot of pressure. They've lost a lot of games the last couple of years. They have to play well in this game and at least show up and show they're on the right track again for next year like they did last year."

May anticipates the Beavers will adopt the same strategy as TCU and Kansas State in the past two weeks - get physical with the Longhorns at the line of scrimmage. Usually, the strategy works.

TCU and Kansas State kept the ball on the ground 80 percent of the time against Texas, rushing the ball a combined 93 times out of 117 total snaps for 385 yards, an average of 4.14 yards per rushing attempt.

Six opponents have rushed for 200 or more yards against Texas this season, including 343 yards by Oklahoma in the Sooners' 63-21 rout over the Longhorns in the Red River Shootout. TCU attempted just 10 passes in the 20-13 win over Texas on November 22.

"I think Oregon State is going to do exactly what Kansas State and TCU did," May said. "Hit them in the mouth and make them wilt."

Jesse Palmer, a former NFL signal caller, suggested Oregon State would enjoy an advantage at the quarterback position. Texas quarterbacks David Ash and Case McCoy have combined for 23 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Typically, one solid performance has been followed by a subpar one.

Oregon State quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz have combined for 3,732 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Who will win the battle at the all-important quarterback spot?

"The biggest issue Texas has had this year on offense has been the inconsistent play at quarterback," Palmer said. "Whether it's been David Ash or Case McCoy, (the problem) has been consistently finding big plays in the passing game from the pocket. They have had a lot of turnovers at inopportune times. This has regularly been a very good third down offense and very good red zone offense. But late in the season, (they've had) erratic play at the quarterback position.

"We don't know which one is going to go against this Oregon State defense. That will be the key in this game - the quarterback play by Texas. It's unfortunate because they have the weapons with Mike Davis (54 receptions) and Jaxon Shipley (51) that can hurt you on the perimeter."

Ash possesses greater mobility and more confidence running with the football (119 net rushing yards), while McCoy prefers to stay in the pocket. Ash has seen most of the action this season, but McCoy started the loss to Kansas State because of an injury Ash suffered in the TCU game. The younger brother of former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns in the 42-24 setback to the Wildcats.

"David Ash has better mobility, but he doesn't have the moxie of Case McCoy," Pollack said. "Case McCoy scrambles and buys time, but he tries to be Johnny Football. He doesn't have the athleticism, but he does a good job."

Texas is 21-16 since falling to Alabama in the 2009 national championship game, including a 5-7 disaster in 2010 that included horrific home losses to UCLA and Iowa State. Are the Longhorns the most underachieving program in the country?

It would be difficult to convince May otherwise.

"They always get these great recruiting classes," May said. "They get anybody they want from the state of Texas. They have the best facilities and supposedly have the best guys. They're just not developing that talent. That's the thing about Texas that really disturbs me."

The Alamo Bowl marks the third meeting between the Beavers and Longhorns, but the first in a quarter century. Texas leads the all-time series, 2-0, with both games being played in Austin. Oregon State lost, 35-0 in 1980, followed by a 61-16 loss in 1987.

The upcoming battle with the Beavers is also Texas' second appearance in the Alamo Bowl's 20-year history. The previous outing came in 2006 when Texas defeated Iowa, 26-24, in a nail-biter.

The Beavers, though, are capable on both sides of the ball of turning this year's Alamo Bowl into a much less pleasant experience for the Longhorns.


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