Texas Football: 5 Things We Need to See in the Alamo Bowl
Bowl season generally means two things: the coaching carousel and bowl game preparation.
For the Texas Longhorns (8-4, 7-2), they will be dealing with both on tremendous scales.
For the second consecutive season, the Longhorns will travel down I-35 to play in the Valero Alamo Bowl. But the recent headlines regarding Mack Brown possibly stepping down from his head coaching post after 16 years will provide a whole new carnival.
In 2012, fueled by a strong second-half comeback, Texas was able to knock off Oregon State 31-27.
But in less than three weeks, Texas will encounter No. 10 Oregon (10-2, 7-2) and its massive offense.
We saw the Longhorns sneak away with a win last year, but the challenge appears to have increased tenfold with the Ducks flying into San Antonio for the December 30 contest.
In preparation for what figures to be a matchup nightmare for the Longhorns, here are five things that Texas has to have against the Ducks.
A Strong Running Game
One thing Texas fans can rest assured of is that the Longhorns will be true to their identity on offense.
The running game has been there every step of the way this season, and you can be sure that Texas will want to impose its own will and tempo come game time.
Malcolm Brown has rushed for just over 100 yards per game over the past seven, carrying the ball an average of 23.6 times over that span. He is the workhorse who can bring Texas a win, but he will need plenty of support.
Oregon is allowing 164 yards rushing per game this season, so expect the Longhorns to develop a game plan that heavily involves the ground attack.
Dominance from the Defensive Line
Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed.
These two outstanding defensive ends will have to leave big handprints on this game if Texas wants to win.
Many Texas fans will recall Alex Okafor racking up 4.5 sacks in last year's Alamo Bowl win, and the Longhorns' defensive front will really have to wrangle with the FBS' ninth-ranked rushing offense, which picks up 278 yards per game. For those wondering, BYU is ranked 10th.
So though the 'Horns will want to lean on their running game offensively, they will have to play lights-out handling responsibilities against one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in the country.
Jeffcoat and Reed will hog the spotlight, but others like Malcolm Brown and Desmond Jackson will need to have standout performances in supporting roles.
Defensively, it will all start with the defensive line play.
Solid Performance by the Linebackers
Texas has suffered tremendously at the linebacker position, possibly even more so than last season.
For the second straight bowl season, the Longhorns will be without their star, Jordan Hicks, who has been out since Kansas State.
Steve Edmond, arguably Texas' second-best linebacker, will also be out with a lacerated liver suffered against Texas Tech.
That leaves Dalton Santos, Peter Jinkens and Tim Cole as the primary patrol at the second level.
The linebackers will need to be dialed in on their positioning and discipline, as one missed tackle or assignment could lead to home run plays for the Ducks.
This group will not have to be otherworldly. They just need to make enough plays to get the stops needed and avoid suffering the big mistakes that lead to easy scores.
Discipline on Defense
There is a pattern here.
Against the shape-shifting, quick-hitting Oregon offense, discipline may be the word of the day for the Texas defense.
Texas has faced some high-tempo offenses this season, which could easily play in its favor, but against one of the more explosive groups it has seen this year, the Longhorns will have to be ready for everything.
But by that same token, Texas needs discipline from every position group on defense.
A simple miscue at one level could be enough to have Oregon take it to the house, and that is exactly where Texas can lose the game: on the big play.
It is hard to stop the Ducks offense, but it can be done.
Just ask Arizona or Stanford, which held Oregon (46.8 PPG) to 16 and 20 points, respectively.
More often than not, the little things are what make the biggest differences down the stretch.
Texas has not been particularly great on its special teams work, but it has not been terrible, either.
Anthony Fera is a Lou Groza Award finalist for the top place-kicker in college football, so field goals are covered.
But where the Longhorns have been lacking is in every other phase.
Coverage has been poor, and punting has been up and down, as has the return game.
The bottom line is that special teams can pick up the hidden yards and points that will support a team's success.
Texas has scraped by with dodgy performances on special teams, but it will need its unit to be on point against an Oregon team that will be looking to score points in every fashion imaginable.