Preview: Valero Alamo Bowl

One of the highest profile bowl games kicks off Saturday evening as Oregon State returns to a bowl game with a trip to San Antonio. Head coach Mike Riley is quite familiar with the area as he recruits Texas heavily, once coached in the area and owns an offseason house not too far away.

It should be an interesting matchup as Texas is looking to get back on the right track to their big winning ways against a blue collar group from Oregon State intent on hitting the double-digit win mark in 2012.

 

[Related video: Mike Riley really is a nice guy]

 

The Rundown

Who: Texas (8-4, 5-4 Big 12) vs. Oregon State (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12)
What: Valero Alamo Bowl
What Valero is: Oil refiners and operators of Valero and Diamond Shamrock gas stations.
When: Saturday, Dec. 29. 3:45 p.m. PT
Where: San Antonio, Texas
Where to watch: ESPN with Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Chris Spielman (analyst) and Quint Kessenich (sideline)
Where to listen: Beaver Sports Network (Newradio 1190AM KEX in Portland), ESPN Radio

 

The Series

All-time record: Texas 2-0
Last meeting: Sept. 26, 1987 (Texas won 61-16)

 

Stat matchup

Rushing offense
Oregon State: 126.17 ypg (99th in NCAA)   Texas: 176 ypg (49th)

Passing offense
Oregon State: 316.50 ypg (15th)                Texas: 265 ypg (39th)

Scoring offense
Oregon State : 33 ppg (37th)                     Texas: 36.08 ppg (24th)

Rushing defense
Oregon State: 130.50 ypg (28th)                 Texas: 199.58 ypg (100th)

Scoring defense
Oregon State: 19.75 ppg (22nd)                   Texas: 29.42 ppg (72nd)

 

How they got here

Oregon State

What an amazing season it has been for the Beavers as they completed the largest one-year turnaround in school history in 2012, leaping from 3-9 to 9-3 with a chance for a 10th win in the bowl game. Things started out on a rocky front as Hurricane Isaac forced the opener against Nicholls State to be moved to December. Oregon State kicked off the season on the right note, however, upsetting a heavily favored Wisconsin team in Corvallis before heading down south and following it up with a victory over eventual Pac-12 South Division champ UCLA. Wins over Arizona, Washington State, BYU and Utah ran Oregon State's record to 6-0 and had them flying high in the rankings until hitting the road in late October and getting upset at Washington.

The team sandwiched a win over Arizona State to start November off before dropping a close, tough game at Stanford that wound up partially determining the fates of both teams with regards to the North Division race. A blowout win over Cal was followed by a loss to rival Oregon in the Civil War to round out the Pac-12 slate.

Texas

High expectations were in full effect once again on the 40 Acres as the Longhorns started 4-0 with wins over Wyoming, New Mexico, Ole Miss and a last-minute comeback victory over Oregon State pushing them up in the polls. Things came back to reality, however, when the defense was exposed by West Virginia in a 48-45 shootout loss at home that was just the lead-in to a Red River rout at the hands of Oklahoma. Another wild game against Baylor resulted in a win at home, but Texas needed a fourth-quarter drive to escape lowly Kansas as October wound down. The team knocked off Texas Tech and Iowa State before ultimately dropping their final two to TCU and Kansas State.

 

Coaching matchup

One of the most experienced coaching matchups out of any of the bowl games this season, both squads feature coaches that have been there, done that. There are 316 wins between Mike Riley and Mack Brown, the third highest mark out of any of this season's bowl games. Both are folksy, have taken their programs to heights rarely seen at each place and have won consistently over a number of years.

One subplot to the game resides on the Longhorns' sideline, however, as former playcaller and co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin left to become the head coach at Arkansas State, putting lots of pressure on former UT star Major Applewhite.

 

Key players

Oregon State

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks – The Beavers have one of the top receiving duos in the country and Cooks is one half of the reason why. For example, he averaged nearly 40 yards after the catch per game this season.

Wide receiver Markus Wheaton – Second on the team with 32 career starts, the speedy wideout is 12th in the country in receiving and one of the main go-to players no matter where he is on the field.

Cornerback Jordan Poyer – The All-American is one of the top ball hawks in the nation and somebody that forces quarterbacks to throw the other way from the onset. He's tied for second in the country with seven interceptions.

Texas

Running back Johnathan Gray – The freshman was among the most decorated backs ever coming out of high school and has consistently gotten better as the season has gone on, increasing his share of the carries in the Longhorns' rushing attack.

Quarterback David Ash – The quarterback derby has been quieted for the bowl game as Saturday will be all about the young signal-caller. He's 19th in the country in passing efficiency and can move the ball with his legs, but has been inconsistent as of late.

Defensive end Alex Okafor – One of the few bright spots on an otherwise struggling defense, Okafor is a constant presence in the backfield and can play the run equally as well as he can the pass.

 

Stat pack

- The current Beaver football team has five players from the state of Texas. Running back Storm Woods was high school teammates with Texas defensive end Alex Okafor.

- This is just the 11th game Oregon State has played in the state of Texas.

- The offensive numbers are nearly identical, as OSU averages 442.8 yards (tied for 34th in nation) per game while Texas is at 441 yards (37th).

- Oregon State has won six more games this year than all of last season (3-9), the biggest one-year improvement in school history and tied for the most in the FBS.

- The Beavers are just three touchdowns away from setting a school record for total touchdowns.

 

Keys to the game

How motivated is Texas to play in a bowl game just down the road from campus in yet another disappointing  (by their standards) season? That will be key as to whether the team shows up for a physical Oregon State team that has been hot and cold down the stretch but has proven they can go toe-to-toe with just about anybody. The Beavers have beaten several ranked teams, including Rose Bowl participant Wisconsin, and look hungry to justify their higher ranking with a fairly young team on hand.

Adding to the complications for Mack Brown and company, two Longhorns (both former or current starters) were sent home after an off-the-field incident after curfew prior to the game. Texas has the clear talent advantage, but that hasn't translated into wins as of late down in Austin, and they'll be in for a fight against a Pac-12 foe. Mike Riley will have to deal with questions about his quarterback - Cody Vaz will start over Sean Mannion - but otherwise the team is statistically better than their Big 12 opponent in most categories as well as based on play this season. Turnovers will play a key part in determining the eventual winner, as neither fares very well with a negative turnover ratio, along with hitting some big plays down the field to stretch the defenses out.

It should be an intriguing game as the two programs look to use the Alamo Bowl as a springboard into a 2013 season with plenty of expectations.

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