Texas speedster Daje Johnson
Who: No. 23 Texas Longhorns (8-4, 5-4 Big 12) vs. No. 13 Oregon State Beavers (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12)
When: Saturday, Dec 29 at 6:45 PM EDT
Where: Alamodome (San Antonio, TX)
Line: Oregon State by 2
Two teams headed in very different directions clash in San Antonio as the No. 13 Oregon State Beavers look to send the No. 23 Texas Longhorns into a further tailspin in the Alamo Bowl.
Each of these teams has been quite the surprise in the college football landscape but for very different reasons. The Longhorns—picked by many to win the Big 12—sputtered for the third consecutive season behind an underachieving defense and underwhelming quarterback play. On the other hand the Beavers, normally an afterthought in the high-profile Pac-12, earned everything they got after winning their first six games.
This is a game that Texas and its coaching staff desperately need to keep a frustrated fanbase at bay for one more season. Not to mention the recruiting hit they could take in losing to a team that is built largely on 3-star recruits. But they certainly have their work cut out for them against a very well-rounded Oregon State team.
Here is the complete preview for the 2012 Alamo Bowl.
Diggs will make his first start at safety after to shore up the position.
QB: David Ash, So.
RB: Johnathan Gray, Fr.
WR: Mike Davis, Jr.
WR: Jaxon Shipley, So.
WR: Marquise Goodwin, Sr.
TE: D.J. Grant, Sr.
RT: Josh Cochran, So.
RG: Mason Walters, Jr.
C: Dom Espinosa, So.
LG: Sedrick Flowers, Fr.
LT: Donald Hawkins, Jr.
DE: Cedric Reed, So.
NT: Desmond Jackson, So.
DT: Brandon Moore, Jr.
DE: Alex Okafor, Sr.
OLB: Demarco Cobbs, So.
MLB: Steve Edmond, So.
OLB: Peter Jinkens, Fr.
CB: Carrington Byndom, Jr.
FS: Kenny Vaccaro, Sr.
SS: Quandre Diggs, So.
CB: Duke Thomas, Fr.
Texas will have its hands full with All-Pac-12 receiver Markus Wheaton
QB: Cody Vaz, Jr.
RB: Storm Woods, Fr.
WR: Markus Wheaton, Sr.
WR: Brandin Cooks, So.
WR: Kevin Cummings, Jr.
TE: Colby Prince, Sr.
RT: Michael Philipp, Jr.
RG: Josh Andrews, Jr.
C: Isaac Seumalo, Fr.
LG: Grant Enger, Jr.
LT: Colin Kelly, Sr.
DE: Scott Crichton, So.
DT: Castro Masaniai, Sr.
DT: Andrew Seumalo, Sr.
DE: Dylan Wynn, So.
OLB: D.J. Alexander, So.
MLB: Michael Doctor, Jr.
OLB: Feti Unga, Sr.
CB: Jordan Poyer, Sr.
FS: Ryan Murphy, So.
SS: Tyrequek Zimmerman, So.
CB: Rashaad Reynolds, So.
After strong wins over Texas Tech and Iowa State, the Texas Longhorns looked like they might have finally taken the next step on their way to reemerging as one of the nation's elite. But after embarrassing losses to TCU and Kansas State, Mack Brown's squad once again needs a big bowl win to keep things together.
All offseason the talk was that if sophomore David Ash could be at least average, then Texas was a shoo-in for a BCS bowl or better. Well Ash was better than average in completing 68 percent of his passes and throwing 17 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. And still this team underachieved.
This year, much of the blame belongs to the defense. A season after being the Big 12's best in 2011, the Texas defense was among the conference's worst in 2012 due mostly to allowing just under 200 rushing yards per contest.
The result was yet another disappointing season highlighted by blowout losses to Oklahoma and Kansas State along with a gut-wrenching Thanksgiving defeat at the hands of TCU. The 'Horns were able to turn things around in the middle of the season thanks to a four-game winning streak as the defense finally began to stabilize, but then quarterback play fell off for the final two weeks.
The 'Horns have a lot of work to do between now and September 2013 as there is no single issue that if resolved would right the ship. Though a bowl win over a ranked team would certainly pay dividends.
Jordan Poyer, a First-Team All-Pac-12 selection, is a big reason the Beavers were able to shock so many in 2012.
Though the Beavers were not able to play BCS buster following their 6-0 start, any- and everyone would tell you that this team was a successful one in 2012.
The Beavers did go 3-3 over the final six weeks of their season but certainly proved that they can play with anybody in 2012. They opened their season with two victories over ranked teams in Wisconsin and UCLA, the latter having played for the Pac-12 championship. The Beavers were also able to topple a talented Arizona team and played eventual conference champs Stanford very close on the road.
This success in one of the nation's toughest conferences along with three first-team all-conference selections is a stellar testament to this Oregon State program. Head coach Mike Riley has taken average talent, at least compared to college football's best, and turned it into one of the more complete teams in the FBS.
All that's left for this team is to knock off the high-profile Longhorns, a program that passed over many of Riley's top players.
DE Alex Okafor:
When Texas has gotten beat this year, it has lost the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Senior defensive end Alex Okafor can change that for the defense.
Okafor may have been left off of the Big 12's all-conference teams, but there is no denying what he can do from the defensive end position. Last year's unanimous all-conference selection is fourth on the team with 60 tackles and tied for third in the conference with eight sacks.
The great thing about Okafor is that he is just as good against the run as he is at getting to the quarterback. The problem is that with fellow bookend Jackson Jeffcoat out for the season teams have been able to avoid and load up on Okafor, considerably lessening his impact.
In order to beat Oregon State the Longhorns are going to need Okafor to get after quarterback Cody Vaz and get some hits on running back Storm Woods. To do so, the defensive coordinator needs to experiment with moving his best player around on the line of scrimmage to create mismatches.
If Okafor can have the same sort of impact that he did against West Virginia (two sacks, two forced fumbles), then the rest of the defense will raise their play.
Also Watch: RG Mason Walters
Texas was going to have trouble running against Oregon State before all-conference left guard Trey Hopkins went down with an injury. Walters, who has had a down year after being an all-conference player himself in 2011, will need to to raise his play considerably if Texas is going to have success on the ground.
RB Storm Woods
The Texas run defense has not been able to stop a nosebleed for much of the season, meaning redshirt freshman tailback Storm Woods should be the focal point of the Oregon State offense.
The Longhorn running backs may get most of the attention heading into this game, but Woods is no slouch himself. The first-year starter has racked up 822 yards on 171 carries, good for a very solid 4.8 average. What impresses most about Woods is that he does not have bad games as he was held under four yards per carry only twice this season, both in wins.
Texas has already given up a 207-yard rushing effort to a backup running back this season, and Woods is much better than a backup. Look for Mike Riley to go to Woods right from the start to let his quarterback Cody Vaz get comfortable and to open up the play action.
If Woods has a big night, this game is Oregon State's to lose.
Daje Johnson is one of Texas' most explosive offensive weapons and needs to be part of the offensive game plan.
Get the Speed Guys Involved
Texas has three offensive players in Daje Johnson, Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe that run a 4.3 in the 40 yard dash. The offense needs these three and their game-breaking potential in this one.
When Texas gives the ball to these three players, good things happen. On the season, they have combined for 883 yards of offense and nine touchdowns.
But their impact also goes beyond the stat book. Their speed is something that the defense has to account for every time they step onto the field, and their ability to spread out the opponent makes things easier for rest of the offense.
Oregon State is very solid across the board on defense, but Texas has an athletic advantage and can get yards on the edge. That is the specialty of these three players and their abilities simply must be utilized if Texas is going to win.
Take Care of the Ball
Oregon State has a very talented secondary highlighted by unanimous All-American selection Jordan Poyer that will make David Ash pay for his mistakes. Ash, along with the rest of the team, must be careful with the ball or this game could turn into a blowout.
Creating turnovers is this Oregon State team's, and especially Poyer's, specialty. The Beavers are tied for twelfth in the nation with 30 turnovers while Poyer tied for second in the nation with seven interceptions.
This is a bad sign for likely starter David Ash, who has thrown six interceptions in losses this season. What's worse is that all seven of his interceptions have been deep in the opponent's territory, which is basically giving points to the other team.
If Ash is going to stake any claim to 2013's starting quarterback job in this contest, he cannot make these mistakes. He played mistake-free in last year's bowl victory over Cal, and he will have to do the same on Saturday.
Run the Ball
Oregon State lives by the big play, but if they can find a good balance between running the ball with Storm Woods and throwing it downfield then this game is theirs to lose.
It cannot be said enough. If Oregon State can run on the Texas Longhorns like so many other teams have this season then they should win this game.
Not only is there yardage to be had against this Texas front, but establishing the run will open up the play action and open up the big play capability of this offense. If they can then get a strong lead and force Texas to air it out, there is a strong chance David Ash or Case McCoy will throw this game away.
Keep Drives Alive
One area in which the Oregon State offense struggles is converting on third down, which is one area where Texas Longhorns actually excel on defense. Converting on such downs and forcing the Longhorn defense to stay on the field will be key in coming out with the victory.
The Beavers are very good at creating big plays, but sometimes become too reliant upon them and suffer for it on third down. Mike Riley's team only converts 35 of its third down tries, which is 23rd-worst in the nation. On the other hand, the Longhorns only allow 38 percent of opponents' third downs to be converted.
Running the ball will help in this area, but the easy recipe here is not to get too greedy. Those opportunities will be there, but keeping their defense off the field is imperative as the Longhorns have much more speed and depth than do the Beavers. And tackling those Texas running backs is no easy chore.
Then again if the Beavers do not convert on third down, they may as well just go for it on fourth down. The Longhorns have allowed opponents to convert 77 percent of their fourth down attempts, third-worst in the nation.
The Longhorns may have a more athletic team than the Beavers, but their strengths will be outweighed by their weaknesses as they fall for the fifth time this season.
This is a blowout were it not for the fact that Texas plays very well when Mack Brown and his staff have a lot of time to prepare. Unfortunately, this is just the type of team that has given Texas fits all season. The Beavers are strong against the run (28th in the nation), have an elite secondary and they love to throw the ball deep.
Unless Texas can figure out how to stop the Beavers consistently on defense, then it is hard to imagine this being anything but another double-digit loss. It should be close early on, but once Texas has to throw to keep up, the game is over as turnovers will be almost inevitable against that secondary.
But if Texas is able to pull it off, it would be incredibly beneficial to this program. The recruits will start pouring in again, the win will be its biggest in the post-Colt McCoy era and the coaching staff will finally have some success to build off of with these players.
Unfortunately this is just a tough matchup, even in the Longhorns' own backyard.