Big 12 Bowl Preview & Pick: Oregon Will Seriously Test Texas Defense, Pride

Texas was the No. 4 bowl selection coming out of the Big 12. Never mind that, though. The Longhorns are matched up against the No. 10-ranked Oregon Ducks in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30 in San Antonio. Not a particularly good matchup for the Longhorns if they want to send longtime head coach Mack Brown out a winner.

Dec 7, 2013; Waco, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns center Dominic Espinosa (55) and quarterback Case McCoy (6) face Baylor Bears defensive lineman Andrew Billings (75) and linebacker Eddie Lackey (5) during the game at Floyd Casey Stadium. The Baylor Bears defeated the Texas Longhorns 30-10 to win the Big 12 championship. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Alamo Bowl will be Brown’s final game as the coach at Texas after 16 mostly terrific but lately tumultuous seasons in Austin. Texas is making its 52nd bowl appearance, second to only Alabama with 60. Fifteen of those postseason appearance have been under Brown, whose overall record at Texas is 158-47. He is second on the all-time win list among Longhorn coaches to former UT coach and athletic director Darrell Royal, who won 167 games in 20 seasons.

Texas (9-3) and Oregon (10-2) have met six times previously on the football field, but just once in the postseason. The two teams have played each other just one time in the past 42 years, however, in the 2000 Holiday Bowl. Oregon won that game 35-30, but the Longhorns lead the all-time series 4-1. This will be Texas’ third appearance in the Alamo Bowl. UT’s previous two appearances ended in victories over Iowa (2006) and Oregon State last season.

The major story line in this game, of course, is Brown’s final game on the Texas sidelines. There is some uncertainty surrounding that, however. How will the Longhorns  respond to that emotional situation? Will it fire them up to play hard, hang tough and win one for their departing head coach against Oregon, which for much of the season ranked in the top five in the country and as high as No. 2? Or will the Horns come out flat and emotionally saddened, knowing it is their coach’s final game, and play right into the hands of their opponents from the Pacific Northwest?

Texas experienced a roller-coaster season, losing two of its first three games, then winning six consecutive conference games, including a victory over archrival Oklahoma to snap a three-game losing streak against the Sooners. Texas hit a rough patch down, though, the homestretch, falling to Oklahoma State at home and losing to Baylor in the regular-season finale in a game that decided the Big 12 championship.

The Horns are led by junior quarterback Case McCoy, who replaced injured starter David Ash early in the season and has gone 6-3 since taking over the starting job. McCoy has thrown for 1,885 yards this season with 11 touchdown passes. The Longhorns’ strength on offense is their powerful running game. Texas’ lost its leading rusher, Jonathan Gray, to an Achilles injury in the ninth game of the season, but Malcolm Brown has easily picked up the slack, averaging over 100 yards rushing in his last seven games.

For Oregon, as quarterback Marcus Mariotta goes, so go the Ducks.  Mariotta has completed 63 percent of his passes this season and averages 284 yards passing per game, with 30 touchdowns on the year.  The Oregon sophomore quarterback, once considered a strong contender for this year’s Heisman Trophy, did not throw an interception in his first 10 games in 2013, but had four in his final two regular-season games (a humbling loss to Arizona and a one-point win over in-state rival Oregon State). The Ducks also can beat you with speed and power on the ground with a pair of running backs, sophomore Byron Marshall and freshman Thomas Tyner, both of whom average over six yards per carry.

Three Things To Watch For In The Game

  • Like the emotional uncertainty surrounding Texas with this being Mack Brown’s last game as the Longhorns’ head coach, Oregon may be battling some emotional demons of its own. Through the first eight games of the season, the Ducks were riding high with a perfect 8-0 record and blowout wins over ranked teams Washington and UCLA. It seemed, at that stage of the season, that Oregon might be a lock for one of the top two spots going to the BCS National
    Championship. But then came upset losses to Sanford and Arizona in two of its final four games, showing just how fast a once sensational season can go south and leave a team in a bruised and fragile emotional state as a result. With both the BCS Championship and then the Rose Bowl right there at the doorstep just a few weeks ago, the Ducks may feel they deserve better than the Alamo Bowl.
  • The Oregon ofense, the best in the Pac-12, averages close to 600 yards a game and 46 points. The Texas defense gives up an average of just over 400 yards a game and is just the sixth best in the defensively challenged Big 12. The question is: Can the Texas defense slow down the Oregon offense enough to all the Longhorns to stay in this game?
  • Oregon has little trouble moving up and down the field on offense, but it has had great difficulty producing scores when unside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Ducks are one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 in red-zone offense. Out of 70 trips into the red zone, they have been successful just 78 percent of the time. Texas, on the other hand, is the best in the Big 12 scoring in the red zone, with a 90 percent success rate. Winning this battle would be a big plus for the Longhorns.

Game prediction: Oregon 38, Texas 27 – Instead of “Remember the Alamo,” this contest will be more like, “Remember Baylor,” because Oregon will use its speed and offensive firepower to move the ball and give the Texas defense fits all night long. This is the same Oregon team that crushed K-State a year ago in the Fiesta Bowl, and this Texas team isn’t as good as that Kansas State team.

 

Topics: 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl, Big 12 Bowl Preview, Big 12 Football, Case MCoy, Mack Brown, Msarcus Mariotta, Oregon Ducks, Texas Longhorns

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