Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3)
Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET (ESPN)
About the Longhorns: For the second consecutive season, Texas failed to live up to the expectations levied on it to start the year. The Longhorns just couldn't beat the good teams. Still, there were bright spots. Quarterback David Ash, who won a quarterbacking duel over Case McCoy, started 11 games and played well, completing 67.7 percent of his passes for 2,458 yards, 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. But in this game, the concern won’t be offense or defense, it will be Texas’ mental state. Earlier in the week a San Antonio news station reported that two Texas players had been accused of sexual assault. No names were released, but shortly after the news broke, McCoy and injured linebacker Jordan Hicks were sent home for a violation of team rules. So, it will be interesting to see whether Texas comes into this game a little distracted.
About the Beavers: No team has had a better one-year turnaround than Oregon State, which was 3-9 a year ago. The Beavers are a fun team to watch because they play a gritty, physical style of defense and is balanced on offense thanks to quarterback Sean Mannion and running back Storm Woods. Also, receiver Markus Wheaton, who averages 100.6 yards per game, could have a big game against a suspect Texas secondary. Oregon’s defense will give Ash some fits. It has 19 interceptions this season, which is sixth-most in the country and has forced 30 turnovers overall. The Longhorns, who lost their last two games, had seven turnovers in those losses, including five interceptions.
Key number: 5-1
Oregon State has lost just one bowl game under coach Mike Riley and that was a loss to BYU in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl, the Beavers last bowl appearance.
The breakdown: There’s been a misconception that this Texas team is better than it actually is. After its third consecutive season without a BCS bowl appearance, it’s time to acknowledge that the Longhorns are just an average team. On the other hand, Oregon State is a good, balanced team and is right up there with the likes of Oklahoma and Kansas State, two teams that hammered the Longhorns. Oregon State also had its ups and downs, especially in the later half of the season, but two of the Beavers' three losses were by three points. This is an Oregon State team that’s played a fairly tough schedule, beaten its fair share of ranked teams and is ready to notch its first 10-win season since 2006.
Frank Schwab: Oregon State 28, Texas 20
Oregon State has been a good team on both sides of the ball all season, and will want to finish on a positive note. Texas hasn't looked good against the better teams on its schedule, with its quarterback inconsistency and defensive problems. Oregon State is the better team, and there's no reason it won't get the win.
Graham Watson: Oregon State 35, Texas 21
Oregon State is the better team on the both sides of the ball and I think the off-field distractions might take a little of the Longhorns’ focus away. There’s nothing Texas could throw at Oregon State that it hasn’t already seen this season and I think the Beavers take David Ash out of his comfort zone.
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