By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
The NCAA post-season kicks off December 19th, with 33 games being played in a three-week span. Seniors will get their last hurrah, and teams will attempt to end their season on the winning side in the hopes of improving recruiting that follows afterwards. The Sportmeisters will preview each of the 33 games that lie ahead, and provide our predictions as well. Let’s get to it!
Las Vegas Bowl, December 22nd, 8:00 PM, Las Vegas, Nevada
No. 14 Brigham Young University (10-2) vs. No. 18 Oregon State (8-4)
About Brigham Young : A promising opening-season win against then No. 3 Oklahoma spelled BCS Spoiler for the Provo, Utah University. However, those wheels were derailed in a home upset against Florida State, and then the Mountain West Conference hopes were demolished with a loss to TCU. Nevertheless, they ended their season on a four game winning streak, including an overtime rivalry win against Utah.
The Cougars have an offense based off of an aggressive passing game, starting with senior quarterback Max Hall (3368 passing yards, 30 touchdowns). His 288.92 yards per game is 12th in the NCAA FBS and first in the MWC. The passing game helps them score at a tremendous rate (34.75 points per game, 12th in FBS).
However, this team is more than just passing. Junior RB Harvey Unga keeps the defense honest with his churning rushing attack (1016 yards, 10 touchdowns, 5.52 yards per carry average). As long as these two are on top of their game, BYU is an unstoppable force through air or ground.
About Oregon State : After starting 2-2, things looked bleak for the Beavers. However, they reeled off six wins in seven games to force a winner-take-all Pac-10 match-up against their rival Oregon in the Civil War. Unfortunately for Oregon State fans, Oregon prevailed, and instead of a January trip to California, Beaver fans will join up here in Las Vegas.
Sophomore RB Jacquizz Rodgers will garner Heisman hype next season, thanks to his 1900 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns (20 rushing, one throwing, one receiving). Senior QB Sean Canfield is the arm behind the 21st ranked passing offense with 3103 yards, 21 touchdowns, and a mere six interceptions. His primary target is the other Rodgers, Junior WR James Rodgers, who leads the squad with 1004 yards and nine touchdowns on 87 catches.
Much like their opponent, Oregon State will combine both the rushing and passing game to move the ball down the field and score.
The Matchup : BYU is 9-17-1 and one in bowl games and is currently on a five-game bowl appearance streak. Coincidentally, all the games in their streak are the Las Vegas Bowl, where they are 2-2, all against Pac-10 teams.
Oregon State is 8-4 in their bowl appearance history, riding a five game bowl winning streak and a four year appearance streak. They last played in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2003, where they won over New Mexico 55-14. In the past nine years of MWC versus Pac-10 match-ups, the MWC holds a 5-4 advantage.
BYU holds advantages in points and total offense rankings, but they are minimal at best. The real difference will come from which team can improve on their glaring weaknesses. BYU has turned the ball over 22 times on the year (including 14 interceptions from Hall), while forcing only 21. Oregon State only averages 1.25 sacks per game, a glaring 106th in NCAA FBS. Improving on deficiencies such as these, could be the “X” factor in deciding the winner.
The Prediction : BYU owns Las Vegas, ironically, and wins their fifth straight bowl game their 33-30.