Alamo Bowl: Fresh Texas vs. Oregon Preview
All eyes will be on the Valero Alamo Bowl game between the Texas Longhorns and the Oregon Ducks, but not necessarily because of the great matchup on the field. The college football nation will be anxiously waiting to see if the Longhorns can send Mack Brown off into the sunset with a win in his final game coaching at Texas.
Brown holds a 10-4 bowl-game record and is 0-1 against Oregon in his 16-year career as the Longhorns' leader. But ending his career in Austin on a high note will not be an easy task against the stacked Oregon Ducks, who appeared to be a favorite to play for the BCS National Championship before losing to Stanford early in November.
Can the Longhorns upset the well-balanced Ducks? Let's take a look.
Who: Texas (8-4) vs. No. 10 Oregon (10-2)
What: Valero Alamo Bowl
When: Monday, Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. ET
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Radio: ESPN Radio
Spread: Oregon (-14), as of Friday, Dec. 27 (per VegasInsider.com)
Last meeting: Dec. 29, 2000, Holiday Bowl
Last outcome: No. 8 Oregon 35, No. 12 Texas 30
Texas Keys to Victory
If somebody would have predicted the Texas defense would end up holding its Big 12 opponents to 138 yards rushing per game after the Longhorns gave up 550 yards on the ground to BYU, that person would probably have been put in a straight jacket. But the defense has managed to make a significant turnaround and is one of the few positive storylines for the 2013 season.
In order for the Longhorns to send Mack Brown off with a win, the defense has to be up to the task of shutting down's Oregon's potent offense.
The Ducks have averaged 573 yards and 47 points per game and rank No. 2 nationally in total offense. Oregon has a variety of playmakers on offense, but a key factor is quarterback Marcus Mariota, who poses a threat in the air and on the ground.
The Texas defense has struggled against the quarterback run game all season and it will need to end that streak by shutting down Mariota and the Oregon ground attack on Monday.
This sounds like a broken record, but history has proven this to be true: The Texas offense has to rely on running the ball in order to have success. The Longhorns have outscored their opponents by an average of 22 points and are 4-0 when the offense ran the ball more than 55 percent of the time with Case McCoy as the starting quarterback. McCoy is 2-3 as a starter when the offense rushed less than 55 percent of the time.
With running back Johnathan Gray out for the season, junior Malcolm Brown has taken control of the Texas run game and has averaged 105 rushing yards per game since Gray's injury.
Oregon's defense recently struggled against opposing running offenses, allowing more than 800 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in three of the Ducks' final four games of the regular season.
Texas needs to pound the rock against what appears to be Oregon's weakest defensive link.
Oregon Keys to Victory
Oregon has a variety of playmakers on offense but a huge key to success over the Texas Longhorns will come from the Ducks' ground game.
The Longhorns run defense has made vast strides since allowing 550 yards rushing to BYU in September, but it has struggled to stop the quarterback run. A prime example of this was in the 25-point loss to Oklahoma State. Quarterback Clint Chelf, who was previously not known for his running ability, rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns in the Longhorns' 38-13 loss to the Cowboys.
The combination of Oregon's running back corps with quarterback Marcus Mariota's ability to run the ball could be the determining factor in Oregon sealing the deal against Texas.
Oregon's run defense was exposed in its two regular-season losses, in which it allowed 578 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. With quarterback Case McCoy at the helm, the Longhorns offense is somewhat limited to solely relying on the run game.
If the Ducks come prepared to stop a run-heavy attack from the Texas offense and force McCoy to throw the ball, Oregon could very likely walk away with an Alamo Bowl victory.
Texas Player to Watch
No. 28 Malcolm Brown
Since rushing for 120 yards against Oklahoma, running back Malcolm Brown has been a huge key to the Texas offense's success. Brown has rushed for more than 100 yards four times this season and was splitting reps with Johnathan Gray in two of those four games.
With the Ducks' recent struggles stopping the run, it is easy to assume that No. 28 will get the majority of the Longhorns' carries in the Alamo Bowl.
Oregon Player to Watch
No. 8 Marcus Mariota
As previously mentioned, Texas' ability to stop its opponents quarterback's run game has been less than stellar all season, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota could very well be a nightmare for the Longhorns run defense.
Mariota is averaging 7.2 yards per carry and has scored nine touchdowns on the ground in his redshirt sophomore season. But he does not only pose a running threat. Mariota threw 183 completions, 25 touchdowns and zero interceptions throughout the first 10 games of the Ducks' season. Let's repeat that: Mariota threw 183 completions, 25 touchdowns and zero interceptions throughout the first 10 games of the Ducks' season.
Mariota is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football and will be a key player in the 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl.
What They're Saying
Texas head coach Mack Brown on playing Oregon in the Alamo Bowl
"You always want to be challenged in a bowl game so you won't come in without an edge. We got that, without a question. We have a BCS-type of team in the Alamo Bowl. Oregon could be as good as anybody in the country. Mark (Helfrich) has done a tremendous job taking over what was already a great program and moving it forward."
Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich on excitement to play in the Alamo Bowl
"We're very excited to compete against them (Texas). As I started watching film on these guys, that's not fun. They're big, fast and physical. But our players, coaches and families are ecstatic to get down here (San Antonio) and compete against Texas."
Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite on Oregon's defense
"They've got great guys outside and a lot of man coverage. They're multiple in the back end, they'll play man or zone and match patterns. They do a lot of things up front in terms of the front game and disguising their blitzes. Those guys are difficult to get ahold of."
Oregon defensive end Tony Washington on the Texas offense
"With so many personnel groups, they can give us a bunch of different looks. The past couple of weeks, our guys have been focusing on all possibilities, different styles of plays, runs, passes, all different things. We just have to be prepared for everything. They're great at running it and great at throwing it. We have to be great in all phases."
As memorable as it would be for the Longhorns to upset the Ducks and end Mack Brown's career in Austin with a win, the odds are stacked up high against Texas.
Oregon was a BCS title contender heading into November, but had two slipups that doomed the Ducks' national championship hopes. And Texas' title hopes were doomed from Week 2.
Barring Oregon coming into the Alamo Bowl unprepared and expecting to steamroll Texas, it's difficult to predict anything except the Ducks demolishing the Longhorns.
Oregon 42 Texas 28
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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