Las Vegas Bowl: BYU-Oregon State Is a Must-See Non-BCS Bowl

Mark WellingCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Max Hall #15 of the Brigham Young Cougars drops back to pass against the Oklahoma Sooners at Cowboys Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Dec. 22 Las Vegas Bowl match-up of BYU and Oregon is one of the best non-BCS games of the bowl season.  The match-up of the Beavers and the Cougars has all the makings of an entertaining instant-classic.

Both BYU and Oregon State are filled with offensive weapons.  Both are teams with efficient senior quarterbacks and 1,000-yard rushers, and are loaded with a talented stable of pass catchers.

BYU ended the season ranked No. 14 in the BCS and Oregon State finished at No. 18; however, both teams had opportunities this season to go to bigger and better places. 

Oregon State ended the season a mere four points from taking Oregon’s place in the Rose Bowl.  BYU, after upsetting then highly ranked Oklahoma, was in National Championship conversations.  That was until Florida State came to Provo and humiliated the Cougars on their home field. 

Both teams have something left to prove in the Las Vegas Bowl. 

Even though both BYU and Oregon State have 1,000-yard running backs, both move the ball primarily through the air.  The offensive stats for both teams are very similar.

BYU is ranked 18th in total offense, averaging 437.08 yards per game, with 148.17 yards per game coming on the ground (ranked 60th) and 288.92 yards per game coming through the air (ranked 12th).  Oregon State is ranked 28th in total offense, averaging 419.42 yards per game, with 144.17 yards per game rushing (ranked 64th ) and 275.25 yards per game passing (ranked 21st ).

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Although BYU is ranked higher nationally, the teams’ numbers are virtually identical.  The proportion of passing offense to rushing offense is shockingly similar. 

On defense the similarities between the two schools continue.  Both teams are much better at stopping the run than the pass.  BYU is ranked 23rd in rushing defense, allowing 112 yards a game, but ranked 65th in passing defense, giving up 219.08 yards a game.  Oregon State is ranked 25th in rushing defense, holding teams to 114.25 yards per game, but ranked 87th in passing defense, allowing 238.67 yards per game through the air.

Again BYU is ranked slightly higher nationally in both categories, but the actual numbers are remarkably similar for both teams. 

The Las Vegas Bowl won’t be the first time these teams have played at Sam Boyd Stadium.  Both teams faced off early in the season against UNLV.  The Beavers needed a late field goal, after a game-saving pass interference call, in order to best the Rebels 23-21.  The Cougars, on the other hand, rolled to an easy 59-21 victory over UNLV and had 611 yards of total offense. 

While using the UNLV game as a comparison of the two schools is convenient and accepted in college football, the use of a common opponent is fallacious argument.  BYU played UNLV after the Rebels were decimated by in-state rival Nevada.  When the Rebels played BYU, it was clear UNLV gave up on the game early in the second quarter. 

On paper it looks like the Las Vegas Bowl should be a hard-fought and high-scoring game between two offensive powers.  But for BYU this game is not only important to the school, but also to the Mountain West Conference’s claim to legitimacy. 

Beginning last summer, the Mountain West Conference has made a big push, claiming they play a high enough level of football to be considered a BCS-caliber conference. 

BYU is the second-place team in the Mountain West Conference.  In order to validate the conference’s claim to belong among the BCS conferences, BYU must beat Oregon State, a third place (after tie-breakers) Pac-10 team. 

The Beavers come into the game with less pressure.  They are the underdogs according to the rankings and can play without the pressure of going against the BCS system. 

The game should be a fun one to watch.  The Las Vegas Bowl pitting two ranked teams against each other, for the first time in the bowl’s history, is easily one of the three best non-BCS bowl match-ups on paper—if not the very best non-BCS bowl match-up.

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