Hawaii Bowl 2013: Boise State vs. Oregon State TV Info, Predictions and More
Oregon State will square off with Boise State in the 2013 Hawaii Bowl, and it's a game that should give everyone something special to watch on Christmas Eve, at least during the commercials of It's a Wonderful Life.
The Beavers had quite the roller-coaster season, which began with a loss to FCS foe Eastern Washington. Mike Riley's team responded with six straight victories behind the excellent play of quarterback Sean Mannion and wide receiver Brandin Cooks. But the Beavers were unable to kick things into high gear when the schedule stiffened, and they dropped their final five games of the season.
As for Boise State, the year began with a 38-6 defeat to Washington, and though the Broncos were able to recover and win eight games, this wasn't the same team as those from the Kellen Moore era. The most intriguing aspect on the Boise State sideline is, well, on the sideline, as the team will be without now-former head coach Chris Petersen for the first time in nearly a decade. Petersen left to coach the Huskies, so it'll be interesting to see how the team plays without his direction.
The two squads last met in 2010 on the blue turf of Boise as ranked foes. The No. 24 Beavers cut the No. 3 Broncos' lead to just 31-24 entering the fourth quarter, but a pair of field goals for the home team provided the winning score, 37-24. Let's take a look now at how their matchup three years later might play out.
Time: Dec. 24th, 8 p.m. ET
Place: Honolulu, Hawaii
All info via ESPN unless otherwise noted.
Oregon State Keys to Victory
Allow Fewer than 30 points
The first key for Oregon State to win the 2013 Hawaii Bowl is to allow fewer than 30 points, and while that may seem like a high number, it's one that has played a role in almost every game this season.
In all six victories, Mike Riley's team scored more than 30 points. However, in all but one of the team's losses, it allowed more than 30, with the lone exception being a 20-12 home defeat to Stanford. There's also the fact that quarterback Sean Mannion and company average a little over 34 points per game, so as long as the defense doesn't completely implode, it will have a good chance to snatch a victory.
It's one of the staple entrees of pregame dissection of a football game, but it rings truer for the Beavers more than ever. They must limit turnovers, specifically interceptions, if they hope to have a chance at winning. Consider this: In the Beavers first eight games of the season, Mannion threw 30 touchdowns and just three interceptions. It's no coincidence the team went 6-2.
But in the final four games, Mannion threw just six touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and the Beavers lost each one. A perfect example of how this hurt the offense came in the Civil War, when the Beavers took the opening drive and marched down the field in hostile Autzen Stadium. Facing a 4th-and-1, Mannion launched a deep pass into the end zone that was picked off by Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Had he simply handed it off or looked for a less risky option, the Beavers may have maintained possession and come away with points.
Play with Fire
Anybody who watched Oregon State fall to Washington 69-27 on senior night saw a team that had zero chance of beating Oregon in the Civil War. Every point scored by the offense came in the fourth quarter with the game already decided, and the defense couldn't have stopped a high school junior varsity squad. In short, it was one of the more lackluster efforts you're ever likely to see.
A week later, that passion and heart that was missing against the Huskies returned at Oregon, and the Beavers made the Ducks earn every point before falling, 36-35. You can talk all you want about Mark Helfrich's team not playing as well as it was back in October, but this was all about Riley getting his guys ready to play their hearts out. And because they did, the Beavers nearly scored what would have been one of the biggest upsets in the rivalry's storied history. If that's the team that travels to Hawaii, Oregon State will have a great chance to win its first bowl game since 2008.
Boise State Keys to Victory
Lead at halftime
A common denominator in each of Boise State's losses this season is that it trailed at halftime. Granted, a 24-3 deficit at BYU was the only game that was nearly out of reach at that point, but clearly, this is a team that plays better with a lead.
It's pretty obvious that most teams are going to have a better record when they're ahead at the break compared with when they're behind, but note that only one Broncos victory, a 34-17 tilt against Nevada, came when the team trailed at the half. It's certainly not the kiss of death for them to be behind at halftime, but if the Broncos are ahead, it certainly bodes well for winning the game.
Ajayi scores more than once
Establishing the ground game is a critical step in winning a football game, even for teams that like to air it out. Boise State has another one of those under-the-radar backs in Jay Ajayi, who rushed for over 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, his sophomore year.
But in two of the four losses, Ajayi failed to reach the end zone. In the other two losses to Fresno State and San Diego, which were by a combined four points, Ajayi hit paydirt just once. Because the Broncos did capture a few victories in which Ajayi scored just once or not at all, this, like the first key, isn't a necessity. But Boise State's closest game in which the star back scored multiple touchdowns was a 34-17 win over Nevada. So if he gets going and starts to gash what has at times been a suspect Beavers defense, it will be a long day for Oregon State.
Hold Mannion to under 300 yards passing
We've already discussed the difference between when Mannion throws interceptions and when he takes care of the ball, but regardless, Boise State should be able to win if he throws for less than 300 yards. That number, for most quarterbacks, would mean a pretty special day.
But the Beavers average over 380 yards through the air each game, meaning Mannion needs to put up huge numbers just to put points on the board. With time to throw, he's going to find his target more often than not. But as long as the Broncos can keep things underneath and not allow the deep ball more than once, they'll have a good chance at shutting down Mike Riley's high-powered offense.
Players to Watch: Oregon State
WR Brandin Cooks, Jr.
Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks, a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation's top receiver, is the best all-around playmaker on either team.
QB Sean Mannion, Jr.
We've already discussed in depth what Mannion brings to the table, but he's clearly one of the most important players to watch for Oregon State, as he's the guy who really makes the whole engine run. If he can limit his throws into double coverage, he could make a strong case for MVP of the bowl game.
DE Scott Crichton, Jr.
Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton is a next-level guy who played a huge role in defensive coordinator Mark Banker's 4-3 scheme this season. He also had the numbers to back up his athleticism. Crichton notched 44 tackles on the year, although 16 were for loss in addition his his 6.5 sacks.
WR Richard Mullaney, So.
Mullaney is an important name on the Oregon State roster because the sure-handed sophomore helps take pressure off Cooks. He has 49 catches for 736 yards and three touchdowns this season but is liable to explode for a big game, as evidenced by his seven-catch, 142-yard effort at Utah.
C Isaac Seumalo, So.
Seumalo was one of the best recruits in Oregon State history, and in his sophomore year, he's become the true anchor on the offensive line. Though the rest of the unit has been up and down, Seumalo always makes it tough for defenses to get pressure on Mannion up the middle.
WR Victor Bolden, Fr.
Victor Bolden is a speedy freshman for the Beavers who does a little bit of everything. He hasn't put up big numbers, but he did score on a 25-yard run against the Ducks to put his team ahead by six with under two minutes left in the Civil War.
You can find the complete Oregon State depth chart here.
Players to Watch: Boise State
DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Sr.
With a last name like Tjong-A-Tjoe, it's easy to stand out in media guides and team previews. But the senior defensive tackle makes the most noise with his play on the field, and he should be able to plug up any holes that emerge when the Beavers attempt to rush the ball.
Charles Leno Jr., Sr.
There might not be a more important position in football than left tackle, at least if you plan on passing the ball. Leno is one of the anchors of the Broncos offensive line, and his battle throughout the game with Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton will be special.
WR Geraldo Boldewijn, Sr.
The third-leading receiver on the team, Boldewijn is another important weapon in Boise State's passing attack. If he can beat his man in single coverage, it will take some of the pressure off Miller and likely lead to more yards through the air.
Players to watch
WR Matt Miller, Jr.
Matt Miller is Boise State's leading wide receiver with 77 grabs for 934 yards and 11 touchdowns. He'll need another big effort against an athletic Oregon State secondary, and the key will be getting open before the Beavers pass rush makes life difficult for quarterback Grant Hedrick.
RB Jay Ajayi, So.
The aforementioned Jay Ajayi is perhaps the most pivotal cog in Boise State's offense, and winning the game will depend largely on what he's able to churn out in the ground game. Ajayi has six games with over 100 yards rushing, including a 222-yard effort against Nevada.
CB Donte Deayon, So.
Because of Cooks and the Beavers' stable of receivers, the onus is on the Broncos secondary to not allow long plays down the field. With five interceptions on the season, Deayon will be doing his best to make big plays for the defense.
You can find the complete Boise State depth chart here.
What They Are Saying
Boise State Punter Trevor Harman, on Chris Petersen's departure, per the Idaho Statesman's Chadd Cripe:
That’s what I woke up to this morning, unfortunately for us. But we’re going to move on. Congratulations to him. I couldn’t have thought of a more well-deserving person for the job.
Boise State president Bob Kustra, on the program's future, per the Idaho Statesman:
Boise State fans, players and students know this program was built one brick at a time, with a succession of coaches who moved us to the next level. Our program has advanced steadily with an amazing amount of success through all those years, and we will be looking forward, not backward, making sure that we continue that success. Bronco Nation deserves no less.
Oregon State QB Sean Mannion, on how his team competed against Oregon, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
I'm extremely, extremely proud of our team. Despite the loss, no one on our team quit the entire way. I couldn't be prouder to be a member of this team just by the way we fought.
Oregon State safety Ryan Murphy, on players' responsibilities during games, per the Oregonian's Lindsay Schnell:
As players, we play the game. It’s not like we’ve been out coached this year; we’ve been outplayed. A lot of guys should see that and look within themselves (and ask), ‘What can I do to win my one-on-one battle?’ We need to go into our next game, if we have one, and this offseason, and fix that.
It's tough to know exactly which Oregon State team will show up to the 2013 Hawaii Bowl, and if we knew, the prediction would be fairly simple.
One of the keys leading up to this one will be how the Beavers play after losing a heartbreaking Civil War, but against a well-known team like Boise State, you have to believe they'll be ready for a fight.
The Broncos are probably the better all-around team, and you can usually count on them to show up with a focused, determined effort. However, the loss of coach Chris Petersen could bring about a lackluster effort, the likes of which the program hasn't seen in years.
Look for the Broncos to run the ball fairly well but struggle a bit against a ball-hawking Oregon State secondary. If Jay Ajayi can put together a couple solid drives on the ground and help the offense take control, Boise State should be able to sit back on defense and force Sean Mannion to have to be spectacular.
But again, this goes back to which version of the strong-armed quarterback will show up. With two-and-a-half weeks to prepare, Mannion should be able to find a rhythm with receiver Brandin Cooks. Whichever team establishes its game plan first is going to come away with the victory in this one.
Both teams will have motivation, as the Beavers want to prove the late-season collapse isn't indicative of the direction of the program, and the Broncos will want to show they can still play their brand of football without Petersen. However, the Broncos seem like a bigger risk to come out with a flat effort, and because the Beavers are well-versed in attacking defenses through the air with big plays downfield, they seem like the safer pick here.
Prediction: Oregon State 38, Boise State 27