The season comes to a conclusion for Oregon St. tonight in San Antonio. It's a season that few thought would lead the Beavers to the Valero Alamo Bowl, and more than a few reasonably feared it might not lead anywhere in the post-season.
The idea of being favored on the road to beat a brand name program like the Texas Longhorns has been a rare thought even in good times around Corvallis. And if you knew that the Beavers would be starting their "backup" quarterback when they reached the post-season (or at BYU for that manner), that idea would probably vanish.
But here we are, and what seemed like a season that would never start (when hurricane Isaac postponed the opener), and then seemed like it would never end, as Oregon St. marched through 11 games in 11 Saturdays, is almost over. And we only get to watch Jordan Poyer, Marcus Wheaton, and a few others, as Beavers one more time. Where did the fall go?
There are on the field keys to the game, like getting the ball to Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, which BB will expand on below, and there are others that determine what even happens on the field. Oregon St. MUST get off to a good start, and be in position to play down hill.
Everyone saw what happened in the Holiday Bowl, when Baylor was ready to play, and UCLA clearly was not. It got ugly early, and more people probably went to bed before the game was over than not, because the Bears had already mauled the Bruins beyond recognition. The Beavers have been on the wrong end of this being ready to play deal before, and before anyone brings up the "this is a different team" argument, its worth remembering the problem did arise this year as well, most notably in Seattle.
Oregon St. must put a week of fun and distraction behind them and play like the team that's favored to win the game, and NOT play like they believe they should win.
If they do that, then it becomes about those in game keys, and the biggest one is going to be defensive pressure in the Texas backfield. The Longhorns have as much as acknowledged they can't win a low-scoring battle, recognizing what Wheaton and Cooks especially are capable of, and probably going to do. Texas plans to try to stretch and spread the Oregon St. defense, forcing the Beavers to make plays all over the field.
That's a sound strategy, given their variety of weapons, but that plan does take time to execute. How well the likes of Scott Crichton and friends do at disrupting things in the Texas backfield will likely determine who ultimately wins. If David Ash has to hurry, he's probably going to make a mistake. That mistake likely involves Poyer.
It's also impossible to not note the impact of the suspension of Texas backup quarterback Case McCoy, who along with injured linebacker Jordan Hicks, was sent home for an incident that resulted in accusations of sexual assault. Hicks was already out for the season, but without McCoy, there is no viable backup for Ash who has any experience.
Should Ash go down, or even if he merely struggles, both of which have happened this year to the degree that Texas coach Mack Brown was forced to go to McCoy, the Longhorns are going to be in for a long night. Memories of the California and USC games in 2010 come to mind.
Oregon St. has [another] opportunity on the big stage [prime time game against a national name opponent], and they haven't had a better shot at making good on that in a long time. BB is better at calling scores, but I see defense as the key, and Oregon St. with a BYU game-like performance, in terms of a good start and putting it away late, in a game that was closer than the score indicated. Beavs 34 Longhorns 24.
Beaver Believer Believes:
Texas has had a rough year (at least by their standards), and if they get off to a quick start the crowd will get even more involved which will essentially turn it into a home game for the Longhorns.
BB12's Keys to the Game:
1. Stop the run. The Longhorns do not have too prolific of a running game, but if the Beavs can contain the run game well, it will set up the defense to get after the passer or to have additional defenders in coverage.
2. Get after Ash. I can't say how Longhorn fans feel about Ash, but his numbers for the year are not that bad despite his benchings. The Beavs need to disrupt his rhythm early, if he gets going early on then it will set up the Longhorn attack for success as the game continues.
3. Get the ball to Wheaton and Cooks. These are the two biggest playmakers on the team and they need to see a lot of looks, as has been the practice for the whole year. If they can start to stretch out the Texas defense then it will open the running game for the Beavs as well. The focus of the Longhorns will probably be on those two, but they need to overcome that and produce big games for the Beavs.
The Beavs need to start strong which I believe they can do. I feel it ends up a close game, 34-31 Beavs.
Bowl games are rewards for a good season, and the better the season, the better the bowl. Oregon State surprised everyone this year with its 9-3 campaign, and in result, get to spend the holidays in San Antonio. This isn't new territory for Beaver fans, although it is pretty unfamiliar. Going strictly off of the order in which the bowls pick in, this is the best bowl game since the 2000-01 Fiesta. That right there is reason to celebrate, and above all, enjoy the Alamo experience.
Whether you're in San Antonio or at home, Beaver fans should enjoy this one. This is YOUR reward for enduring that 3-9 season. For standing through two straight hours of monsoon-like conditions against California. For going to the Nicholls State game, even after making the same trip the last two weeks and the disappointing Civil War that preceded it. It doesn't get a whole lot better than playing on ESPN on a Saturday afternoon in the Alamodome, so the players and fans need to enjoy it.
With that said, there is a football game to be played, and the whole thing would be even better if the Beavers escaped San Antonio with their tenth win of the season. To do that, they'll need to do what has worked all season; force the other team to make mistakes.
Texas is going to stretch the field and sling the ball around even more than usual now that its under the direction of Major Applewhite, so the opportunities for interceptions will certainly be there. I love seeing Poyer come in on a corner blitz, but Ash isn't going to give Oregon St. defensive coordinator Mark Banker a chance to dial those up.
Instead, the Beavers need to make the plays 15, 20 yards into the field, not behind the line of scrimmage. This will be a much simpler offense under Applewhite than the Longhorns have shown all season. If the Beavers can come up with an interception or two out of it, they should win this one.
Prediction: Oregon State 24, Texas 17
It's nice to be in a relatively relevant bowl game in a year which started with hopes of playing in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Even nicer is playing a big-name opponent in what should be a competitive and winnable game.
The Beavers have the talent to beat the Longhorns. But they also have the talent to beat Washington and probably Stanford. The Beavs came out flat and lost those games on the road, and with the game being played in San Antonio, it's not hard to imagine a slow start happening again after nearly a whole month without playing a game.
This will come down to coaching. How well have Mike Riley and the rest of the coaching staff prepared the team and kept them ready to play? Falling behind early isn't a good gameplan, especially against ranked opponent.
It will be nice to see a healthier Beaver squad. Speedsters like Brandin Cooks and DJ Alexander were pretty banged up by the end of the year. They should have a little more pep in their step. The rotation of O-linemen should be a little less hectic. Hopefully the team can play close to their potential.
The Beavers will score points, but the Texas offense may score some themselves after plenty of time to scout, and plenty of examples of the Beavers getting scored on. In the end, I think the Oregon State defense will keep the Longhorn offense at bay well enough for the OSU offense to get the victory.
OSU 28 UT 18
Ah what a break does for one during Bowl season! On one side, it gives one time to reflect and look back on a very successful season, which I truly believe it was for the Beavs coming off the 3 and 9 season last year to turn it around completely to a 9 and 3 season this year (OSU actually is tied for one of the best turnarounds +6 games, of all football programs this year).
On the other side, it gives one lots of time to have the previous season drift out of memory for the specifics. What does stand out for me though is a team that came together the first game of the season, against, ironically enough, the 13th ranked Wisconsin Badgers. After winning the first six games the team from there was able to work through rough spots of losing one starting QB and having to adjust over time to the switching between QBs.
The season then ended on this strange bad and good note, with the sloppy loss to Oregon in a game I still think was there, for at the very least, a more competitive second half; and then the Beavs were able to get a make up game against Nicholls State in which they scored on their first eleven possessions to break records and end on a high note with a dominant win, along with earning an invite to the Alamo Bowl.
To cap off this season, we are now headed into that Alamo Bowl against a strong opponent in the Texas Longhorns. As Bowls go, one can look at them as a consolation prize that means little in the grand scheme of the regular season, unless one is in a BCS game. But I feel this Alamo Bowl invite for this program is an important one.
There are the recruitment benefits Andy outlined, and also overall, I feel this could be a game that could help define what I think could well be Coach Riley's beginning to closing out of his college coaching career. I am not implying that his time is short, but do think this could be a possible springboard for another strong run for his career at OSU over the next few years. On the other side of things of course, while this could be a game that means little in the grand scheme, one also wonders if this is not one of those seasons that could lead to another run at better things.
For the specific game itself my expectations are high, which just goes with how the season has panned out so far as well as playing a strong opponent with a tradition of football success in a top-tier Bowl game. I am a bit worried about the QB situation, with going with Cody Vaz, which to me seems like a bit of a strange decision. But otherwise I do actually think the two teams match up well against each other for a very competitive game. And yes by competitive, I do feel that OSU has a great chance at winning this one.
So in many ways, it comes down to does Coach Riley rekindle his Bowl game magic, where he was 5 and 0 in Bowl games, or are we still in the funk that in many ways seemed to begin with the loss to BYU in the 2009 MAACO Las Vegas Bowl? We are almost there for finding out!