Monday's Night Action
December 30, 2013
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Matchup: Texas Longhorns (8-4) vs. Oregon Ducks (10-2)
Location: San Antonio, TX
Time/TV: 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Sportsbook.ag Opening Line: Oregon -13 ½, Total: 67
The Mack Brown era at Texas will come to an end on Monday night as the Longhorns play No. 10 Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.
Texas will be looking to send head coach Mack Brown out on a positive note as it faces an explosive Oregon offense. The Horns had big aspirations heading into the season, but were wildly inconsistent. They looked terrific at times, winning seven straight Big 12 games, but also struggled losing consecutive games to BYU and Ole Miss that ended their national title dreams early in the season. Texas (5-6-1 ATS) is coming off a game against Baylor, where it scored just 10 points with 217 total yards, but was able to hold the explosive Bears to only 30 points. That game will be a good preparation for the Longhorns as they go up against Marcus Mariota and the impressive Oregon offense.
Like Texas, the Ducks had dreams of making the national title, but were unable to reach that game after losing to Stanford followed by a shocking 42-16 loss to 19.5-point underdog Arizona. However, there is still a lot of firepower on the Ducks (7-5 ATS), but they must get their offense clicking back at the early season pace. Oregon is 0-4 ATS in its past four games, where it averaged only 29 points per game.
Mack Brown is 10-4 in bowl games in his tenure at Texas, including 7-1 in the past eight bowls, with the only loss coming in the BCS National Championship game following the 2009 season. Texas struggled on the offensive end, ranking 36th in rushing (198 YPG), 56th in scoring (31.2 PPG) and 72nd in passing (225 YPG). One of the biggest reasons for its struggles has been the inability to get consistent play from the quarterback position. Quarterback Case McCoy (57% completions, 1,885 passing yards, 11 TD, 11 INT) showed his ability to be good at times, but also really struggled at times with five interceptions in late season losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor.
The backfield of the Longhorns could not consistently stay healthy all season, but RB Malcolm Brown (774 rush yards, 9 TD) showed that he can be the star running back on a team. After Johnathan Gray (780 yards and 4 TD) went out to injury a month ago, Brown averaged 111.3 rushing YPG, while facing eight or nine defenders in the box. The Longhorns must get a big game from WR Mike Davis, (49 catches, 715 yards and 8 TD), as his big-play ability can help open up rushing lanes for Brown and the Longhorns. While the offense needs to play well, this game is going to be decided on whether or not the Longhorns can slow down the Ducks offense. The defense is led by LB Steve Edmond (73 tackles, two interceptions and one sack), but he is doubtful after lacerating his liver in the game against Texas Tech. Safety Adrian Phillips (71 tackles and two interceptions) has proven to be a very talented player, but the Ducks offense is as good as the Longhorns have seen all year.
Oregon ranks third in the nation in scoring (46.8 PPG), ninth in rushing (278 YPG) and 20th in passing (295 YPG). Quarterback Marcus Mariota (3412 pass yards, 30 TD, 4 INT) is one of the top players in the country. He also does a lot with his legs, rushing for 582 yards and nine touchdowns. His ability to make plays all over the field makes him nearly impossible to slow down on defense. His favorite receiver all season has been WR Josh Huff (57 catches, 1,036 yards and 11 TD). Huff has terrific speed, and is able to get behind the defense for the big gain at any moment. Oregon has a lot of guys that can run the ball, as Byron Marshall (155 carries, 995 yards and 14 TD), Thomas Tyner (109 carries, 689 yards and 9 TD) and even De’Anthony Thomas (93 carries, 581 yards and 8 TD) are all threats to score any time they touch the ball.
However, the Oregon defense has been terrific this season as well, ranking 25th in the nation in scoring defense (21.6 PPG). Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (78 tackles and 3 INT) is a lockdown cornerback that has the ability to completely take the opposing team's best receiver out of the game. Look for him to match up with Davis through most of the game, in what should be a terrific battle. This game has a chance to be the best non-BCS game, as the Longhorns players have talked about how much they want to win this game for Brown. If they are able to control their emotions early and not get down when the Ducks offense scores, then Texas has a great chance to win the game.
Matchup: Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (10-3)
Venue: Qualcomm Stadium
Location: San Diego, CA
Time/TV: 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Sportsbook.ag Opening Line: Arizona State -14, Total: 71
After losing the Pac-12 Championship at home, Arizona State attempts to finish its season strong against slumping Texas Tech in Saturday's Holiday Bowl.
The Red Raiders started the season off in spectacular fashion, winning their first seven games SU and going 5-2 ATS. They then went on to face a brutal schedule and finished 0-5 (SU and ATS) in their final five games when they were outscored by 20.6 PPG and turned the ball over three times in all five defeats. However, Texas Tech has won a bowl game in each of the past three seasons SU, including a 34-31 victory in last year’s Meineke Car Care Bowl versus Minnesota as a 13.5-point favorite. But they have gone only 1-3 ATS in their past four bowl games.
The Sun Devils put together a tremendous season, eventually ending with them hosting the Pac-12 Championship game, but losing 38-14 against a tough Stanford team. They went 8-1 SU (6-3 ATS) in regular season games against conference opponents, with big wins against USC (62-41) and UCLA (38-33). Last season, ASU defeated Navy by a score of 62-28 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, their first bowl win since 2005. These two programs have played only once since 1992, when Arizona State defeated the Red Raiders 31-13 back in 1999. With QB Baker Mayfield leaving the team, freshman QB Davis Webb will once again be under center for Texas Tech while star HB Marion Grice (foot) will be a game-time decision for the Sun Devils.
Texas Tech has been one of the top passing teams in the country and averaged 392.0 passing YPG (2nd in nation) this year. QB Baker Mayfield made news when he became the first walk-on true freshman to start a season opener for a BCS school, but has since decided to enroll at Oklahoma and attempt to walk-on to their team next season. In the wake of his decision, QB Davis Webb has reclaimed the starting job where he's done quite well, throwing for 2,315 yards (7.2 YPA) with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions over nine games played. He threw for 400+ yards in three different games on the season, but did not play the last two as Mayfield reclaimed the starting job before leaving the team. HB Kenny Williams (480 yards, 8 TD) split time with fellow HB DeAndre Washington (399 yards, 4 TD) who is questionable for this matchup with an undisclosed injury.
The running game was certainly not the focal point for Texas Tech as it ranked 107th in the nation (121.3 YPG) on the ground. NFL hopeful TE Jace Amaro caught 98 passes for 1,240 yards (12.7 avg.) and 7 TD on the season while putting together four games in the middle of the season where he went over eight receptions and 115 yards in each game. WR Eric Ward also had a big season with 904 yards on 80 catches (11.3 avg.) and eight touchdowns. The defense gave up 31.2 PPG to their opponents (90th in nation) and allowed 48.6 PPG over their five-game losing skid to finish off the regular season.
The Sun Devils were lightning in a bottle all season thanks to an offense that averaged 276.8 YPG through the air (29th in nation) and 184.0 YPG on the ground (47th in FBS) while scoring 41.0 PPG (10th in nation). QB Taylor Kelly was the provider of much of this offense as he threw for 3,510 yards (7.7 YPA) with 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while also adding 473 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. His performance slowed down after the Halloween game versus Washington State though, as he averaged only 199.8 passing YPG and five total touchdowns through the air in his last five games, including the Pac-12 Championship Game loss to Stanford.
HB Marion Grice should be able to start on Monday. He ran for 996 yards (5.2 YPC) and 14 touchdowns despite missing the last two games of the regular season. He added a lot to the passing game as well with 438 receiving yards on 50 catches (8.8 avg.) and six touchdowns. WR Jaelen Strong (1,094 rec. yards, 7 TD) had seven games of 100+ yards on the season, but had only two catches for 27 yards in the Pac-12 title game. Arizona State boasts two of the better defenders in the upcoming NFL draft with DT Will Sutton (46 tackles, 4 sacks) and LB Chris Young (103 tackles, 7.5 sacks), but did not do great in the high-octane Pac-12, allowing 25.8 PPG to their opponents on the season.