ALAMO BOWL: BF.C Keys to the Game

ALAMO BOWL: BF.C Keys to the Game

THE 2012 ALAMO BOWL brings an intriguing matchup and two programs on completely opposite paths from a fanbase perspective: The Beavers smiling through a dream season and the Longhorns grumbling through one of their biggest disappointments in recent history. Yet the two teams also share a great deal of commonality.

Both teams have dealt with uncertainty at the quarterback position. Beaver fans are familiar with the QB controversy between Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion, with both players battling through and being sidelined by injuries this season. Texas QB David Ash started the first 11 games before being benched in favor of Case McCoy during the loss to TCU on Thanksgiving.

Both teams had an open competition as bowl preparation took place, with Texas settling on former starter David Ash and Oregon State settling on former backup Cody Vaz.

(Note: On Friday afternoon, ESPN reported that McCoy and Jordan Hicks were suspended and sent home by Mack Brown for breaking team rules. Earlier, two unnamed Texas players were reported as being investigated due to a sexual assault claim in San Antonio.)

Where the teams are different: Texas has established their identity on offense, while their defense has struggled. Oregon State by and large this season has been uneven on offense and stout on defense.

The Beaver defense is tied for sixth most interceptions in the country at 19 and with 11 fumbles recovered, the Beaver defense ranks No. 12 in the country for turnovers forced. Their 30 takeaways doubles the margin created by the Longhorns defense. Part of that formula has to do with Texas' ineffectiveness at stopping the run -- The Horns are giving up almost 200 yards per game on the ground. Teams haven't needed to put the ball in the air against them.

In terms of a matchup, Oregon State has been as uneven with their running game as Texas has been at defending it. On one hand, it should be easier for OSU to find success running the ball than it was against say Oregon and Stanford. However, on the flip side of the coin Texas fans are breathing a bit of a sigh of relief that they aren't facing a juggernaut rushing offense either.

Earlier this week defensive coordinator Mark Banker told the Gazette's Cliff Kirkpatrick that what he saw when looking at the Texas offense on film was….. Boise State – only bigger and faster.

The reason for that similarity? Texas hired Bryan Harsin away from Boise, where he served as the offensive coordinator for the Broncos from 2006 until 2010. Harsin installed parts of the offense known in Boise State circles as "Pete's Poison" and looking at Boise State's stat sheetit looks a lot like what Boise does. Spread the ball around to a lot of different targets.

A few years ago, Smartfootball.com did a nice little piece about what makes "Pete's Poison" work, and why Banker is concerned. The good news is that Harsin is gone, having taken the Arkansas State head coaching position – and so Major Applewhite has to take the training wheels off and run the offense by himself. Applewhite is a bit of a green offensive coordinator, so this puts the advantage in Mark Banker's corner – theoretically speaking.

Now, on to the Keys to the Game:

1. Play Banker Ball on Defense. Banker's best defenses all have the same thing in common: They stuff the run. Against Texas, this is Job One for the game, because this Texas team cannot win if they don't rush the ball effectively. David Ash has a 71 percent completion rate, but if you take play action out of his tool set, he becomes drastically less effective. It is no coincidence that Texas' four losses have been their four lowest rushing totals of the season.

2. Commit to Storm. This is not necessarily a matchup item – simply put, if OSU has a 100 yard rusher, they win football games. Texas is soft against the run and without their best linebacker in the injured (and now suspended) Hicks the job gets a little easier. Where Woods really shines is when the offensive line can consistently get him to the second and third level. He's a slasher with a top gear and if you give him daylight, he has the burst to break open a big play, suck up the safeties, and get the play action going.

3. Break Their Spirit. At times Texas has looked like they were sleepwalking – UT fans have complained all season long about the lack of heart for this team. That's systemic, it's a leadership thing and a lot of it comes from not having an identity or leader on either side of the ball. Keeping them from making big plays, converting third and long, and finally putting a dagger through their heart by converting when OSU forces a turnover will take the wind out of their sails and put OSU in the driver's seat.

What a ride it has been..

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