Bowl breakdown: Texas-Oregon State

Texas S Kenny Vaccaro

Our Texas and Oregon State publishers give you players to watch, keys to victory and more for the Alamo Bowl.

Editor's note: For selected games during bowl season, our Scout.com publishers will go head-to-head to break down the game, giving you the players to watch, reasons to believe in each team and more.

Alamo Bowl

No. 23 Texas vs. No. 13 Oregon State
Saturday, 6:45 p.m. ET (in San Antonio, Tex.)
CFN's Alamo Bowl prediction

Texas Longhorns

By Kevin Flaherty, LonghornDigest.com

Three players to watch

David Ash, QB -- Ash led Texas to an 8-2 mark as a starter heading into the TCU game. But Ash, who suffered a rib injury against Iowa State, no-showed in a loss to the Horned Frogs, then didn't play at all in a loss to Kansas State. For all the flak Texas has taken for not having a great quarterback, heading into that TCU game, Ash had a quarterback rating of 161.68 and had passing statistics that generally compared favorably with top sophomore and redshirt freshman quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, and yes, eventual Heisman winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. He's healthy and ready to go.

Carrington Byndom, CB -- Arguably the Big 12's top cover cornerback a year ago, Byndom had a bit of a frustrating start to the year before coming on a bit late. Now, he'll find himself matched up against Markus Wheaton, one of the country's best wide receivers. Byndom has the size, athleticism and cover skills to stick with Wheaton, and if he can do so, it would be a huge check in Texas's favor.


A healthy David Ash is a big advantage for Texas.

Kenny Vaccaro, S -- Few players across the country are asked to do as much as Vaccaro does. On one play, he might play an outside linebacker role, on another, he might be a deep safety, and on yet another, he'll line up over the slot in man coverage. That skill set has led most to tab Vaccaro as a first-round pick in April's NFL Draft, and he's the heart-and-soul of the Texas defense, along with its best leader. He'll again have to fill a variety of roles against a balanced Oregon State offense that puts up 33 points per game.

Three strengths

When David Ash is on. Ash had three games in which he struggled: Oklahoma, Kansas and the aforementioned TCU game when he played while injured. In the other eight, he was sublime, hitting on 162-of-219 passes (74.0 percent) for 2,178 yards (272.3 per game) and 17 touchdowns to just one interception.

Running the ball. Despite missing top back Malcolm Brown for five games (and Brown not playing other full contests), Texas was an outstanding running team in 2012, ranking 10th nationally in S&P+, an advanced metric measuring success rate of plays, while each of the top six non-quarterback runners averaged at least 4.6 yards per carry. Brown, true freshman Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron had a combined 1,564 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns. And when Texas gave the ball to speedsters Daje Johnson, D.J. Monroe and Marquise Goodwin around the edge, they averaged 7.9 yards per carry.

Tackles for loss. According to the NCAA, Texas ranks 18th nationally in tackles for loss with 70 solo tackles and 31 assisted tackles in the backfield. The good news is that Texas can use those plays to put opponents behind the chains. And when facing passing downs (second down with eight or more yards to go, or third or fourth down with five or more yards to go), Texas ranks 17th nationally in S&P+, per FootballOutsiders.com.

Important thing you may not know

Texas' primary strength aligns with Oregon State's weakness. Texas is 10th in rushing S&P+, and Oregon State's stingy defense ranks just 37th in rushing defense, per S&P+.

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And while Texas might be in a disadvantageous spot up the middle with center Dominic Espinosa (generously) listed at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds taking on massive Beaver nose tackle Castro Masaniai (6-foot-3, 354 pounds), the Beavers can be had by Texas' speed to the edge.

What Texas must do to win

The Longhorns can't allow themselves to be run on. Oregon State enters the contest averaging 3.8 yards per carry, though most teams have been able to find success running the ball against Texas this year.

If the Longhorns can put the Beavers into passing downs, they have the personnel to close out the Oregon State offense. Offensively, Texas has to use its speed to get to the edges and soften up the middle for guys like Gray, Brown and Bergeron.


Oregon State Beavers

By Barry Bolton, BeaverFootball.com

Three players to watch

Storm Woods, RB -- The Pflugerville, Texas, native very much want to put on a big show in front of friends and family in San Antonio -- and Mike Riley would like to run him more than he has in the latter half of the season. Woods is slippery and Texas has had trouble stopping the run, so Woods could be in line for a big day.

Cody Vaz/Sean Mannion, QBs -- Vaz has been tabbed the starting quarterback for the game, but Riley has shown this season he's not hesitant about pulling one guy and putting in another. Either way, the Beavers QB will need some good touch to fit passes into what are expected to be tight windows.

Jordan Poyer, CB -- The newly crowned All-America pick could either serve as a rover or match up one-on-one to try and take Texas' best receiver out of the mix. How defensive coordinator Mark Banker decides to use him could tell a lot about how aggressive Oregon State will be in their pass rush and blitz packages.


The speedy Storm Woods should present a challenge to Texas' run defense.

Three strengths

Run defense. Oregon State ranks No. 28 in the nation against the run -- and linebackers D.J. Alexander and Michael Doctor have been strong in run support in large part because the defensive line has set the tone up front. Defensive end Scott Crichton has drawn more and more attention as the year has gone on which has allowed others up front to emerge.

Yards after the catch. Senior wide receiver Markus Wheaton has racked up 88 receptions for 1,207 yards this season and a big chunk of that green has come after the catch. Wheaton has a burst defenders have a hard time defending. Along with Brandin Cooks, a deep ball threat who is as fast as they come (64 receptions, 1,120 yards), Oregon State has one of the better receiving tandems in all of college football.

Offensive line play. Oregon State's offensive line has emerged again this season after two subpar years, with the improvement primarily seen in pass protection. Mike Cavanaugh is one of the more under-appreciated line coaches in the game, and true freshman starting center Isaac Seumalo is one of the best kept secrets outside the West Coast.

Important thing you may not know

Mike Riley took over the play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf at the start of the season. Although Riley would like 50-50 balance and has consistently talked about his desire to run, Oregon State has played to their strengths and thrown 475 passes this season with 400 rushing attempts.

What Oregon State must do to win

The 2012 campaign is already a success with Oregon State tied for the biggest turnaround in the nation, going from 3-9 in 2011 to 9-3 this season.

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But if Oregon State wants to get to 10 wins, they need to take away Texas' ability to run and force the Longhorns to try and beat them through the air. Statistically, Oregon State doesn't have a great secondary, but the numbers are deceiving. Poyer, fellow corner Rashaad Reynolds and safety Ryan Murphy have at times been stellar this season.

Where Oregon State has been hurt has been the underneath routes that opponents have turned into longer gains. But if the Beavers dial up the pass rush, they should be in good position at the end of the game.

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