Monday, December 30: Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, TX at 6:45 pm EST
#10 Oregon Ducks (10-2) vs. Texas Longhorns (8-4)
Pre-season, one would have thought that an Oregon-Texas bowl game might have been the national championship, or at least the Fiesta Bowl. Instead, the Alamo Bowl will be Mack Brown's last stand.
Vegas line/spread: Oregon by 13 1/2 (over/under 67)
Oregon is a very solid favorite by the oddsmakers; the line was two touchdowns early and has dropped only by 1/2 point in the last two weeks.
|Game-comparisons||win %||vs. Spread
Despite their 2 losses, Oregon still ranks #3 in the All-Division Strength power rating, while Texas is a humble #30. Comparing their game performances, we see Oregon winning about 4 of 5 contests; against the spread they still take a majority. We are giving Texas nearly full home field advantage for playing in-state, as they will have a solid majority of fans in San Antonio.
Strength power rating: Oregon 41, Texas 25 by Median rating: Oregon 43-23
Oregon scoring offense: #3 vs. Texas scoring defense: #32
Oregon scoring defense: #16 vs. Texas scoring offense: #39
Oregon is a 16-point favorite by the Strength power rating, and that includes home field advantage for the Longhorns. Oregon's scoring offense is #3 in the nation and their defense is top-25 worthy. Texas is good on both offense and defense but great at neither.
Yardage analysis: Oregon 46, Texas 24 per-play: Oregon 45, Texas 21
Yardage differential: Oregon #2 vs. Texas #38
Oregon total offense: #2 vs. Texas total defense: #38
Oregon total defense: #21 vs. Texas total offense: #47
Things get even worse if we just look at the yards-from-scrimmage situation. Here, the gulf between the teams looks even wider than it does from a points perspective. It's basically more of the same though with the Ducks a heavy favorite.
Adjustments to yardage estimate: Oregon 44, Texas 25
- Interceptions: Marcus Mariota went almost the whole season without throwing a pick, so it's no surprise we give the edge here to Oregon, but fewer than 2 points as interceptions aren't expected to affect either team very much.
- Forced fumbles: Oregon does fumble the ball quite a bit; luckily they offset this by forcing fumbles on defense. Still, Texas gets an edge here of nearly 2 1/2 points.
- Sacks: Texas should win this battle, too, on average. We give the Longhorns about 1 1/2 points.
- Red zone%: Texas' red zone play on offense and defense is surprisingly superior to Oregon's; we add a point for Texas and dock Oregon over 2 points.
- 3rd-down%: The Ducks should have a slight edge on 3rd down conversions, adding just over a point.
- Special Teams: Oregon has the #40 special teams according to ESPN advanced stats and Texas ranks #57; this adds 1.15 points to Oregon and 0.29 to Texas.
Summary: Texas gained a little bit of ground on the Ducks but not enough to change the forecast at all.
When Oregon has the ball
|Oregon rushing offense: #10
||Texas rushing defense: #73
Oregon ended up with four players over 500 yards: Byron Marshall (995), Thomas Tyner (689), quarterback Marcus Mariota (582), and De'Anthony Thomas (581) who missed the middle part of the season. The four totalled 40 touchdowns. Texas' rushing defense has been a problem and was exposed dramatically in the early loss to BYU when they gave up 550 yards.
Since that game they've been a lot better; the 272 by Ole Miss in the next game was the highest total until Baylor ran for 221 in the final game. Along the way they held K-State to 115, Oklahoma to 130, TCU to 45, West Virginia to 109 and Texas Tech to 94. But most of those teams are passing teams anyway; Oregon is closest to BYU in rushing, and while 550 yards is not expected, the Ducks should pick up around 280.
|Oregon passing offense: #15||Texas passing defense: #13 per att: #26|
|Oregon interceptions thrown ranking: #14||Texas interceptions picked ranking: #87|
|Oregon quarterback protection rank: #28||Texas pass rush rank: #12|
Oregon has a true dual-threat offense run by a dual-threat quarterback. Marcus Mariota passed for 3,412 yards and 30 touchdowns this year with just 4 interceptions. Josh Huff was the leading receiver with 1,036 yards and Bralon Addison had 842. Texas has a much better pass defense than rushing defense and could hold the Ducks to just over 250 yards.
Texas doesn't get many interceptions and Mariota doesn't throw them, so the Longhorns' best bet is to pressure on passing downs where their pass rush can do its thing. Jackson Jeffcoat has 12 sacks and Cedric Reed has 9 on the year.
When Texas has the ball
|Texas rushing offense: #42
||Oregon rushing defense: #57
Johnathan Gray (780) is still the team's leading rusher though he was lost for the year after 9 games. Set to take over the #1 spot soon is Malcolm Brown (774 yards, 9 TDs). Oregon's rushing defense is vulnerable as Stanford and Arizona showed, and Texas could manage around 180 yards.
|Texas passing offense: #54||Oregon passing defense: #10 per att: #8|
|Texas interceptions thrown ranking: #60||Oregon interceptions picked ranking: #56|
|Texas quarterback protection rank: #34||Oregon pass rush rank: #48|
Case McCoy, sort of a perennial co-starter anyway, took over for the injured David Ash early in the season, and has struggled as he always has, completing 57% with 11 touchdowns and 11 picks. Ash had 720 yards and a 7:2 ratio in the first few games. Receivers Mike Davis (715 yards) and Jaxon Shipley (581) have led the team for three years now. Oregon's pass defense is very good and should hold the Longhorns below 200 yards.
Oregon's chances for interceptions could be underestimated given that McCoy throws more than Ash, but his totals make the majority of stats. He's actually less sack-prone than Ash this year, too.
Oregon's season (10-2)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (5)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (1)
Losses (2) to losing teams (0)
- Nicholls St W 66- 3
- @ Virginia W 59-10
- Tennessee W 59-14
- California W 55-16
- @ Colorado W 57-16
- @ Washington W 45-24
- Washington St W 62-38
- #17 UCLA W 42-14
- @ #5 Stanford L 20-26
- Utah W 44-21
- @ Arizona L 16-42
- Oregon St W 36-35
Oregon's season—at least the first two-thirds of it—was pretty incredible. They won their opener 66-3 against Nicholls State, then scored 59 in beating BCS conference teams Virginia and Tennessee, then 55 and 57 against Pac-12 teams Cal and Colorado. None of those teams finished with a winning record, but then they beat bowl teams Washington (45-24), Washington State (62-38), and UCLA (42-14).
The Ducks were unstoppable until they went to Stanford, and several blown opportunities left them scoreless after three quarters. Still, they nearly made a game of it in the end before falling 26-20. After beating Utah 44-21 they were crushed inexplicably by Arizona, 42-16. They barely beat faltering rival Oregon State 36-35 to finish 10-2. The defense and the offense can share blame for Oregon's late troubles.
Texas's season (8-4)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (3)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (1)
Losses (4) to losing teams (0)
- New Mexico St W 56- 7
- @ Brigham Young L 21-40
- Mississippi L 23-44
- Kansas St W 31-21
- @ Iowa St W 31-30
- = #11 Oklahoma W 36-20
- @ TCU W 30- 7
- Kansas W 35-13
- @ West Virginia W 47-40 OT
- Oklahoma St L 13-38
- Texas Tech W 41-16
- @ Baylor L 10-30
Where can we start? In a season where Texas was supposed to be "back" once again, the BYU loss was such a debacle that the "fire Mack Brown" camp charged in high gear. The subsequent loss to Ole Miss seemed inevitable. But then the team managed to beat K-State, lucked out a win over Iowa State, and most shockingly of all, upset and even dominated Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout.
Three wins later Texas was 7-2 and there was sentiment that Brown could hold onto his job. But the big losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor put an end to that talk; soon rumors were swirling and Brown indeed resigned just hours before this writing.
Marcus Mariota was slowed by injury during the 2nd half of the year when Oregon (relatively) struggled; with time off, he should be at full running strength for the bowl game. Leading rusher Byron Marshall is questionable for the game (now upgraded to probable), but Oregon has DeAnthony Thomas back. The Ducks are dinged at tight end with Colt Lyeria and Pharoah Brown gone but have others to cover there.
For Texas, the running back picture has been bleak since leading rusher Johnathan Gray was lost for the year, and now #3 Joe Bergeron is questionable. But the worst news is the academic suspension of three players including starting offensive lineman Kennedy Estelle and top kick returner Daje Johnson. The Longhorns also might be short a couple of linebackers.
Psychology/Motivation - Some (unscientific) factors that may come into play during the game:
- Oregon's season: -1 win; Texas's season: +0 wins
- Oregon's momentum: -2 wins; Texas's momentum: +0 wins
- Oregon won final game: YES; Texas won final game: NO
- Oregon glad to be there? no; Texas glad to be there: no
- Oregon time zones from home: 1; Texas time zones from home: 0;
- Oregon coaching situation: stable; Texas coaching situation: coach resigned
Both teams expected better things. Texas knew early on it wasn't going to get them, but Oregon was certain until around a month ago that they would be playing for the national championship. So while Oregon had a much better year than Texas, their letdown is probably greater—especially considering that fans felt they should have been selected for a BCS bowl.
The main factors in this game will be overconfidence on Oregon's part and emotional response on Texas' part to Mack Brown's resignation.
Coupled with the letdown factor, Oregon could come out sluggish as they know they should dominate Texas—just like Oklahoma knew they would dominate Texas in October. Will the Ducks be motivated? And will they take Texas seriously? If either question can be answered "no" the game will be closer than expected, and if both are "no" the Ducks are ripe for upset.
The other factor could affect Texas in either direction. Mack Brown will be coaching his last game, and the team may be extra motivated to give him a win. But the flipside is this: Texas has had some of the best recruiting of any team over the years; were those players just not motivated to win for Brown over the last several underachieving seasons? Can they just "turn it on" now to give him a going-away win, and do they really want to?
The numbers all say Oregon in a landslide, that much is clear. But the numbers never would have pointed to Arizona beating Oregon 41-16, or Texas beating Oklahoma 36-20. Both those games happened because of particular circumstances mostly due to psychology, and this game is full of possibilities.
The Mack Brown factor can probably be discounted, we think, for reasons we denoted above. The team surprised Oklahoma because the Sooners assumed they would win, not because Mack Brown was embattled. I'm sure they'd like to send him off with a win, but I don't think they players view him with the love that say, USC's players felt for Ed Orgeron. They've been underachieving under Mack Brown for several seasons.
Which brings up a good point—the talent level at these two schools is actually pretty similar. Texas could be as good as Oregon, and has shown moments of it, though few and far between. If Oregon thinks this game is going to be easy, they could be in a trap. Overconfidence really could kill the Ducks.
Lack of motivation, too. Texas will at least be somewhat motivated to win. Oregon will be playing another game. Texas is a prominent enough opponent that Oregon won't sleepwalk through the game, but it's safe to say they aren't fired up for this bowl game considering they seemed a shoo-in for the BCS not long ago.
When the Mack Brown matter was still unresolved, this looked like a clear three-touchdown win for Oregon. With the uncertainly resolved, that takes a load off the team's mind, and could even give some motivation. Playing near home against an overconfident Oregon, they now have a chance. But the team is without its #1 quarterback and #1 rusher and is coming off a 20-point loss to an Oregon analogue, Baylor. They'll give it the old college try but I think they still come up short.
Prediction: Oregon 31, Texas 23
More previews, odds, and predictions: View the complete 2013-2014 bowl game schedule.