2008 Holiday Bowl Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 12/23/2008
No. 15 Oregon vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State
Conference Matchup: Pac-10 vs. Big 12
Date: 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 30
Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA.
Odds: Oklahoma State -3.0; Total 77.0
If you're looking for a clinic in how to run the spread offense then the Holiday Bowl is the game for you.
Oregon used the spread to get within a single game of the national championship game last year and have relied on their quack attack to produce a solid 9-3 mark this season out of the Pac-10. Oklahoma State is also an offensive force that relies on a similar spread assault. They also managed a 9-3 season in the overwhelming Big 12 and finally have seemed to reach the potential they have shown over the past few seasons.
So judging by the total of 77.0 in this one, defense is optional.
Oregon managed a stellar 41.9 points per game this season while Oklahoma State managed 41.6 of their own. And while most fans correlate the spread offense with wide-open passing assaults, both the Ducks and Cowboys were prolific on the ground. Both clubs rampaged their way for over 3,000 total rushing yards this year and were paced by prolific 1,000-yard running backs.
The Ducks won its last three games, and five of its last six to secure their place as one of the hottest teams in the country heading into bowl season. They blasted rival Oregon State, 65-38, in their regular season finale to deny the Beavers a trip to the Rose Bowl and it looks like the Ducks are getting healthy at just the right time. They have been decimated at the quarterback position this year - using four different signal callers - but youngster Jeremiah Masoli will be under center in this one and seemingly has no problem leading the Ducks. Oregon averaged 51.7 points in its last three games of the year with Masoli running point.
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti proved once again that he is among the nation's best while guiding this club to another marquee game in December. Bellotti's teams are 5-3 against the spread in their last eight bowl games, including a stellar 5-1 ATS as bowl underdogs.
On the opposing sideline will be Mike "I'M A MAN!" Gundy. After a tumultuous 2007 that provided one of the all-time great press conference meltdowns along with a slew of sluggish performances from the Cowboys, OSU rebounded in 2008 with a quietly dominating season. Their only losses came at Texas, at Texas Tech and against Oklahoma. Oh, yeah, and those three teams all just happen to be ranked in the top six in the country. But other than that their average margin of victory was a solid 26.2 points per game.
Junior quarterback Zac Robinson rang up 2,738 yards and had a 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio for the Cowboys. And if you haven't seen OSU wideout Dez Bryant yet, do your self a favor and get your popcorn ready.
Because both teams can seemingly score at will, whichever team's defense performs the best will likely take the cash.
Oklahoma State lost its defensive coordinator, Tim Beckman, when Beckman took the head job at Toledo. The Cowboys are 27th in the country against the rush, but were just 111th in the nation against the pass. However, it's tough to really gauge what that number means since they A) come from the pass-wacky Big 12, and B) were way ahead in most of their games, forcing other teams to throw.
Oregon is just 108th in the country against the pass and were hit for 26 or more points in seven of their last 10 games. This is a veteran defense, however, with eight starters back from the squad that laid a 56-21 ass kicking on South Florida last year in the Sun Bowl.
Because both teams are so proficient at point scoring the spread here seems incidental. If you are an Oklahoma State backer then the three points is nominal against a scoreboard that will light up seven points at a time. But if you like the Ducks here I would say don't even bother with the spread and work Oregon on the money line, because I think that this one is a double-digit victory one way or another.