USF vs Oregon: Brute Sun Bowl First look

The Bulls have begun preparations for their third straight Bowl game, and now's the time to take a look at the Bulls December date in El Paso.

It's December, and the Bulls have begun preparations for their third Bowl straight game. With that said, now's the time to start looking at the Bulls late December date. Over the next three weeks we'll be breaking down the game, but for now here's a first look.

In just its 11th season of football competition USF is already playing in its third consecutive bowl game. This time it's the 74th annual Sun Bowl, the second oldest bowl in existence behind the Rose Bowl.  The first Bowl game USF played in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2005, and the Bulls won their first bowl game at the Papajohns.com Bowl in 2006.

What is the Sun Bowl? The Sun Bowl which is the second oldest bowl was first played on January 1, 1935. It started as a fund-raising event, to benefit underprivileged children and to finance improvements to the El Paso High School Stadium. The early games pitted the champion of the Border Conference (an NCAA-affiliated founded in 1931 that included nine schools in the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas before being disbanded after the 1961-1962 season) against an at-large opponent. The Brut Sun Bowl currently matches the Pac-10 Conference against either the Big 12 Conference, Big East Conference or the University of Notre Dame from 2006-09

Where's it played? The game which has grown into El Paso's number one national attraction is played in Sun Bowl Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso. The first three were played at El Paso High School Stadium (1935-37), and then switched to Kidd Field until the present stadium was completed in 1963. Sun Bowl Stadium seats a capacity of 50,246.

When is it played? The Sun Bowl will be played on December 31 at 2:15 eastern time. The game will also be nationally televised by CBS Sports and will be viewed by millions on center stage.

Who are they playing? In their third ever bowl game the Bulls will face the Oregon Ducks, a member of the Pacific 10 Conference. This will be the first Pac-10 opponent that the Bulls will have ever faced.

What are the teams Sun Bowl history? This is the first ever time in the Sun Bowl for the Bulls and the fourth appearance in the Brut Sun Bowl for Oregon, that last appeared in El Paso in 2003. The Ducks were also in 1999 and 1963 games. The Bulls are also the first-ever BIG EAST Conference team to play in the prestigious bowl, and only the third team from the State of Florida, Florida State (1955 and 1966) and Florida (1977).

Opponents snapshot.  Amazingly, at one point in the season, both the Ducks and the Bulls were both ranked No. 2.

How they finished the season. Oregon, 8-4, finished the regular season with a 38-31 double-overtime loss to Oregon State, after jumping out to an 8-1 start and vaulting as high as second in the country in the BCS standings. But season-ending injuries to no fewer than six major players, highlighted with the loss of standout quarterback Dennis Dixon, contributed to the team's struggles down the stretch.

The Bulls started strong going 6-0 and a No. 2 ranking. The Bulls then suffered a three skid to Rutgers, Connecticut, and Cincinnati, before finishing strong and winning their last three games

First look at the USF Bulls.  USF finished the regular season No. 21 in the BCS rankings and finished the regular season with a 9-3 overall record and 4-3 in the BIG EAST. At one point USF was ranked as high as No. 2 during the 12-game regular season schedule and tied a program record with nine victories with a chance for the first ever 10-win season.

The USF was lead by its defense, one of the best in college football.  The Bulls forced 41 turnovers this season, an average of more than three per game which leads the NCAA. The Bulls 23 interceptions and 18 fumbles recovered also lead the NCAA. USF comes into the game ranked third in tackles for loss with 8.9 per game. USF is 19th in the country in rushing defense (112.0 avg.) and 26th in scoring defense (20.7 avg.)

The USF may be identified by the defense, but the offense has been outstanding this season. The Bulls offense has scored a program record 430 points this season, while averaging 35.7 per outing.  The Bulls also have averaged 43.4 points and 474 yards over the last four games and has been putting up record yardage totals all season.  The 2007 offense is the first in 11-years of football to produce 5,000 yards of total offense and they still have another game to add to the total of 5,059.  It has produced an average of 421.6 yards per game, which is nearly 13 yards better than the previous record of 408.9 by the 1998 team.

First look at the Ducks. Oregon finished the regular season with an 8-4 overall record and a 5-4 Pac-10 record. They come in having dropped its final three games of the season after winning eight of its first nine. Only Kansas and West Virginia has the satisfaction of saying a ranked opponent beat them at the No. 2 spot. The Ducks did have wins over five bowl-bound teams, including Michigan in Ann Arbor, USC and Arizona State.

The Ducks have the Pac-10's top offense – and an offense that is ranked No. 12 in the nation – that averaged 462.1 yards per game and recorded 55 touchdowns on the year. In addition, Oregon also had the league's top rushing attack, and the eighth best in America, rumbling for 243.25 yards per game, and 31 rushing TD's. 

Oregon leads the nation in tackles for loss at 9.3 per game. The Oregon defense has been solid in the red zone with opponents only converting 67 percent of their chances inside the 20-yard line.

First look at the Bull players. The Bulls defense is lead by stars - CB Mike Jenkins, LB Ben Moffitt, DE George Selvie and CB Trae Williams - are all serious contenders for post multiple post season awards. Mike Jenkins is rated as the top senior CB by most NFL draft experts and has lived up to the billing with three interceptions and 12 pass breakups this year.   Ben Moffitt has four interceptions, 12 tackles for loss and exactly 100 tackles as the leader of the stout Bulls defense.  Selvie has led the country all season in tackles for loss and enters the bowl game with 31.5 TFL, not to mention 14.5 sacks.  He needs just half a TFL to tie the NCAA record.  Trae Williams has six interceptions this season and 13 over the last two seasons, which is more than any player in NCAA FBS.  He has also returned his last three interceptions for touchdowns.

Sophomore QB Matt Grothe and Florida's Tim Tebow are the only players in NCAA FBS to have rushed for 850 yards and pass for 2,400 yards.  Grothe has set USF quarterback records for single rushing yards (832), rushing TD (10), 100 yard rushing games (3) and total offense (3,305).  Freshman RB Mike Ford has 12 TD this season, which is just one shy of the USF single season record, while fellow rookie WR Carlton Mitchell has established rookie records with 37 receptions and 537 yards

First look at the Duck players. Heisman Trophy candidate Dennis Dixon is out for the year with a torn ACL suffered in the loss to Arizona on Nov. 15 in Tucson. Even without Dixon the ducks are dangerous. In a loss to Oregon State, quarterback Justin Roper threw for 144 yards on 13-for-25 passing and two touchdowns, and threw one interception

The Duck rushing attack is lead by Jonathan Stewart, the Pac-10's leading rusher, who was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association. Stewart, who averages 122.4 yards per game,  also finished the regular season ranked No. 10 in the nation in rushing with a school-record 1,469 yards rushing with 10 touchdowns. Stewart also rushed for 163 yards on 39 carries in the Oregon State loss.

The ducks defense is led by Patrick Chung who finished with 110 tackles including 65 solo. Nick Reed also paces the team in tackles for loss with 21.5, a total that also includes a team-high 11 sacks. Kwame Agyeman is second in TFL with 10.5 and Jerome Boyd is third recording 10 on the season for the Ducks.

What's the Bowl story line? Back in September, this could've been considered a possible BCS match up for the two schools, but in the NCAA things change quickly. The game is still huge for the USF football program, and it will be the biggest, oldest, most viewed, and best bowl game ever played in by the Bulls.

 

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