Bowl practices start today at Oregon State and the Beavers may well be short Rudolf Fifita, Mana Rosa and Dyllon Mafi, pending Mike Riley's decision of what to do with the two d-linemen and linebacker after a recent run-in with Corvallis Police at a local bar early on Saturday morning.
The last thing Riley and Co. needed going into their first Alamo Bowl appearance was questions regarding the depth of their defensive line.
At the same time, whatever the outcome is it might take a while to be felt. The bulk of the 15 bowl game practices typically feature a strong focus on the youth of a program. To what degree OSU goes that route should be revealed today.
But eventually thoughts will turn to the bowl game and one thing is for certain, the state of Texas is known for turning out big time running backs. And stopping the run will be highly integral to OSU leaving San Antonio with an Alamo Bowl victory.
Will Dylan Wynn, Scott Crichton, Michael Doctor and Feti Taumoepeau lead the charge and shut down Texas on the ground?
Or should onlookers anticipate another defensive performance like that displayed during the Civil War, where the Beavers couldn't buy a TFL and running backs dominated the flats on both sides of the field?
ON BALANCE, Texas has had a strong year at 8-4, despite being in the midst of season that lacks the former success of seasons past.
Longhorns coach Mack Brown (145-40 career with Texas) is in control of a very well balanced football squad – their success has been predicated on being able to run the football.
A Beaver victory in this one will come only if the defensive front seven can bring the house all game long. For all the kvetching by the Texas media on the running game woes, the unit is quite capable of picking up 70 yards a quarter if a team shows a lapse in concentration. It will be a game played close to the line for OSU.
Between Jonathan Gray (683 yards, three TD's) and Joe Bergeron (565 yards, 16 TD's), Texas is toting two major weapons on the ground. They are complemented by a Texas offensive line that is big, fast, and nasty. Will the Beavers be able to handle them?
Oregon State is ranked No. 28 in total rush defense. They struggled to perform against Stanford and Oregon but crushed the opposing offensive lines of UCLA and Wisconsin.
Similar to Mike Riley, Brown's playbook is designed around clock control and pushing the opposing defense around. The aforementioned tailbacks are key cogs.
On the Texas offensive line, you have players like Dominic Espinosa and Josh Cochran who have helped Bergeron pick up key TD's in the red zone, bolstering the Longhorn red zone conversion percentage to 85 percent on the season (good on 51-60 attempts).
Flip the script, and you have an OSU defensive line that has, all stats aside, practically carried this OSU football team to a 9-3 season.
Where there is a will, there is a way and undersized and underappreciated, guys like Wynn, Crichton, Fifita, Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai have been the driving force behind keeping powerful Pac-12 offenses at bay and producing W's this season.
The same might well hold true later this month in San Antonio.
What the Beavs are up against vs. Texas
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