The Beavers take on a disappointing Texas team just down the road from Austin in what could be the closest of all the Pac-12 bowl games this year.
Who, What, When, Where and Why?
Oregon State (9-3) vs. Texas (8-4)
Saturday, December 29, 3:45 p.m. PT/5:45 p.m. CT
San Antonio, Texas
Second place Pac-12 vs. third place Big 12
Why to watch?
The two teams come in after having very opposite overall regular seasons. The Longhorns are a young team that didn't fulfill expectations while the Beavers are a veteran-heavy squad that very much exceeded expectations. However, both struggled down the stretch with the Beavers losing three out of their last six and the Longhorns dropping their last two games in disappointing fashion, so both teams will be desperate to turn around their season with a bowl win.
The location also adds a ton of intrigue as this will virtually be a home game for the Longhorns with Austin a less than two hour drive away along with assuredly having a huge fan base in San Antonio. The Beavers may look like the stronger team, but how will they be able to handle a potentially hostile environment?
Who are the stars?
Jordan Poyer Sr. CB Oregon State
Poyer was named an All-American by a number of publications and widely considered to be one of the best cornerbacks in the nation. A ball hawk, Poyer finished second in the nation with 7 interceptions and will likely lock down the Longhorn's leading receiver Mike Davis. Also, Poyer is a strong tackler who really helps in run defense.
Alex Okafor Sr. DE Texas
A big (6'5 260) and athletic top NFL prospect, Okafor is a balanced defensive end that is tough against the run but also has the ability to get after passers. Okafor finished near the top of the Big 12 with 8 sacks and he can really hamper the Beaver's offense if he can get after their quarterbacks who are prone to interceptions.
Markus Wheaton Sr. WR Oregon State
One of the fastest players in the Pac-12, Wheaton is a big play threat that can really stretch the field and even keep you honest with fly sweeps. Wheaton finished with more than 1,200 yards receiving and grabbed 11 touchdowns and even added 2 more on the ground while averaging more than 7 yards-per-carry.
Others to watch
Kenny Vaccaro Sr. S Texas
Scott Crichton So. DE Oregon State
Trey Hopkins Jr. G Texas
Texas' pass defense against Oregon State's quarterbacks
Mike Riley is taking his time in announcing who will be his starting quarterback, but whether it is sophomore Sean Mannion or junior Cody Vaz, the Longhorns number one focus on defense has to be getting in his head. Mannion threw 13 interceptions this year, with most of them coming down the stretch of the season and if he starts, the Longhorns can immediately have everyone questioning him if they grab a pick early. Vaz is more careful with the ball with only 1 interception this season, but will be looking over his shoulder at Mannion if he isn't affective early on.
Oregon State's offensive line against Texas' defensive line
The Beavers will likely want to take the pressure off of their quarterback and pound running back Storm Woods and their others backs early, opening up big plays through the air and they have to be excited about facing a Texas run defense that gave up an average of nearly 200 yards per-game. The Longhorns are weak up front outside of Okafor after the loss of star defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat earlier in the season and the Beavers offense might be impossible to stop if they can push Texas around up front.
You're a Pac-12 fan... why do you want Oregon State to win?
Riley is one of the most likeable coaches in the country and the Oregon State's surprising turnaround after two bad seasons is a great story. The Beavers are also always kind of a perpetual underdog and everyone loves the underdog. This is probably Riley's best team ever in Corvallis and it would be nice to see the Beavers win the biggest bowl game they have been in since the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.
Also, the conference has not done well in the Alamo Bowl since it got a tie-in a couple of years ago with Arizona getting bashed by Oklahoma State in 2010 and Washington giving up 67 points to Baylor last year. A Beavers win will go a long way in proving the Pac-12 prowess against top-level teams.
This might be the toughest call of all of the Pac-12 bowls for me. I think the Beavers are a good team, but the almost home field for the Longhorns makes this game much tougher than it should be and despite their record and recent disappointments, the Longhorns are still a very talented team.
I like the match-up that the Beavers have here though. They will be able to control the game with the run and hit Wheaten and Brandin Cooks deep once the Longhorns suck in for the run. The Beavers also have a very stout defense that should be able to limit big plays by a Texas offense that really lacks playmakers. It won't be easy because of the crowd, but I expect the Beavers to make control a close game just enough and hold on late.
Oregon State 28 Texas 24