Texas hopes to defend its Alamo Bowl title after defeating Oregon’s in-state rivals, Oregon State, last season 31-27, but the Longhorns will have to dig deep if they wish to repeat last season's success.
After spending the majority of the season ranked No. 2, the Ducks enter the game 10-2 after losses to eventual Pac 12 champs Stanford, and thorn-in-the-side Arizona. Oregon, famous for their high-octane offense under old skipper Chip Kelly, have enjoyed similar success under first-year head coach Mark Helfrich. Helfrich, who was offensive coordinator under Kelly, stepped in as head coach after Kelly left for the NFL.
The Ducks are led by sophomore QB Marcus Mariota, who touts a very impressive 167.5 QB rating. Mariota has thrown for 30 TDs this season to only four interceptions. The second-year QB averages 9.4 yards per attempt. To put this in perspective, Mariota has 3,412 yards through the air on 360 attempts. Case McCoy and David Ash have combined for 2,645 yards on 399 attempts.
However, it’s not just the pass Texas’ improved defense must concern themselves with. Oregon’s ground game is equally effective.
After star running back De’Anthony Thomas injured his ankle Sept. 28, the Ducks relied on sophomore Byron Marshall for the majority of the year. The Ducks’ leading rusher, Marshall, is sure to break the 1,000 yard threshold after collecting 995 yards in his first 11 games. Marshall has averaged 6.4 yards per carry and amassed 14 touchdowns for the Ducks this season. Despite an injury in their loss to Arizona, Marshall is cleared to play against Texas.
The Ducks average 46.8 points per game, which is good enough for third in the FBS. Possessing a well-balanced offensive attack, Oregon is ranked 9th in rushing yards and 20th in passing yards.
Texas will need to use its great pass rush, ranked 13th in the FBS, to force Mariota into tight situations. If the Longhorns are successful at applying pressure, the Longhorns could win the turnover battle, which is key to an upset victory.
Though the game pits two titans of college football against one another, Mack Brown’s announcement that this will be his final game as head coach at Texas has dominated the headlines. After nearly capturing the conference title despite an 8-4 record, Texas hopes to give Brown his 11th bowl victory as the Longhorns’ head coach.
After significant injuries to starting QB David Ash and RB Johnathan Gray, the Longhorns are led by senior QB Case McCoy and junior RB Malcolm Brown.
A similarly well-balanced offensive attack, the Longhorns average 225 passing yards per game and 198 rushing yards. McCoy has passed for 1,885 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Brown has rushed for 774 yards and nine touchdowns. As it is with every game, if the Longhorns get their run game going early, it could open things up for McCoy to connect with Texas’ star receivers.
Texas’ biggest win of the year came under similar circumstances when the Longhorns, two touchdown underdogs, handed rival Oklahoma a loss in the Red River Shootout.
The Longhorns look to repeat this feat and give their legendary coach one final victory at Texas.
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