Guide to Big 12 bowls: Texas vs. Oregon State

Valero Alamo Bowl

(8-4) #23 Texas vs. (9-3) #13 Oregon State 5:45 CT Saturday, Dec. 29 | Alamodome – San Antonio, TX

Texas: Win four, lose two, win four, lose two. In that order. That’s the Texas Longhorns’ season in a nutshell. Once again, quarterback was a question most of the season, and after 12 games there are few answers. The Texas offense ran 826 offensive snaps in 2012, and David Ash was under center for roughly 80% of those. Case McCoy basically split time with Ash against TCU, then ran the UT offense with a solo effort against K-State – the Big 12’s top two defenses, while the Wildcats played at home and vied for a share of the conference championship.

Luckily, the Horns were saved all season long by an effective running game led by Jonathan Gray and Joe Bergeron, respectively 10th and 11th on the chart of league rushers. Gray was the one in search of daylight, and had 10 rushes of 12 yards or longer, including a season-long 49-yarder against West Virginia. Bergeron was the bruising red zone closer responsible for 16 rushing touchdowns, second-best in the Big 12 behind Collin Klein’s 22.

Defensively, Texas went the wrong way in 2012. Last year UT allowed 22.2 points per game, the second-best mark in the conference. This year, the Horns allowed more than a full touchdown and PAT better – 29.4. Texas had the worst red zone defense in the league, allowing opponents to convert 48 of 53 possessions into points.

Longhorns in Bowls: This will be the Longhorns’ 51st bowl game, which is second-most in college football history behind Alabama’s 59. Texas is 26-22-2 in bowls, one of just three Big 12 programs with a winning bowl record. More recently, UT has won six of its last seven post-Christmas games. Under Mack Brown the Horns are 9-4. This is just the second appearance by Texas in the Alamo Bowl, also playing in 2006 and beating Iowa, 26-24. This is the Longhorns’ first trip to a bowl game in the state of Texas without ‘Cotton’ in the name since coach John Mackovic beat Mack Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels in the 1994 Sun Bowl.

Alamo Bowl:
The game celebrates its 20th anniversary, and has been a part of the Big 12 bowl lineup since the conference’s first season. The Big 12 is 3-0 in its current Alamo Bowl arrangement against the Pac-12, after going 5-8 the previous 13 years against the Big Ten. Last year’s 67-56 win by Heisman Trophy winner RG3 and Baylor over Washington was one for the record books, as never in the history of college football had a regulation four-quarter bowl game seen 17 combined touchdowns and 123 points.

If that was more entertaining than dramatic, consider that the 2011 game broke a string of five straight Alamo Bowls that had been decided in the game’s final two minutes. In 2010, the hype of the game centered around Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach having just been fired. The Red Raiders played Michigan State in what still stands as the most-watched bowl game ever televised by the 4-letter network with a 5.6 national Nielsen rating, equating to more than 7.8 million homes.

Oregon State: Finished 3rd in the Pac-12 North Division. At 9-3 overall, two of its losses were by four points or fewer before arch-rival and 5th-ranked Oregon blew its doors off on Thanksgiving weekend. The Beavers were 2-2 against Top 25 teams, with wins over UCLA and a season-opening 10-7 win over eventual Big Ten champ Wisconsin. “USA Today” Sagarin Rankings has Oregon State with the third toughest schedule in the nation. OSU has allowed just 21.3 points per game, which, if it holds, would be the second-best mark in school history.

Offensively, the Beavers are another team that has had trouble settling on a quarterback. Sean Mannion started the year under center, but underwent a knee surgery at mid-season. Junior Cody Vaz ably filled in, going 3-1 in four starts, but a speedy recovery by Mannion had him back in the lineup by season’s end, starting the final three games.