Big 12: Cody Vaz

We're counting down the 10 best individual games for any Big 12 player in 2012. Bowl games and nonconference play count, but these are the performances that topped them all at the end of the season.

No. 3: Texas DE Alex Okafor vs. Oregon State

Date: Dec. 29, 2012

Why it's on the list: Oh, poor Cody Vaz. He wasn't without fault (get rid of the ball, son), but there was zero help from his supporting cast on the sideline and the coaching staff. The running game was abandoned and they refused to offset Okafor's dominance with screen passes or other quick-release plays. Instead, Okafor went crazy with the single-most dominant defensive performance in the Big 12 this past season. Oregon State's offensive line looked lost and hopeless against the Longhorns senior playing in his final game. Without him, especially in the second half, Texas doesn't come back to beat Oregon State 31-27 in the Alamo Bowl. He finished with eight tackles, but grabbed the Big 12 sack title after notching 4.5 and five tackles for loss against the Beavers. He also forced a fumble. Beavers coach Mike Riley had to be upset by the end of this one, but it's been awhile since we've seen one player frustrate an entire team as impressively as Okafor did, completely wrecking Oregon State's offense in the second half.

The rest of the list:

SAN ANTONIO -- Texas has been a team searching for any sort of tangible evidence that the program was at least starting to turn around after two-plus seasons that were subpar by the program's standards. Saturday night's 31-27 win against Oregon State might have done just that. While the Beavers are not exactly a juggernaut in college football, any win against a BCS-ranked team for Texas is valued and pouted at as proof that better things are on the horizon.

It was over when: Texas quarterback David Ash went up top to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left in the fourth. The touchdown gave Texas its first lead of the game at 31-27.

Game ball goes to: Texas was down to just one viable option at quarterback with Ash following the suspension of backup Case McCoy. The sophomore started slowly but came through in the end. Ash finished 21-of-33 for 241 yards with two passing touchdowns against one interception. He also rushed for another touchdown on an 11-yard run.

Stat of the game: Texas' defense posted an Alamo Bowl-record 10 sacks for minus-81 yards. Alex Okafor led the charge with a bowl-record 4.5 sacks. While Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz spent much of the game on his back, Ash was his team's second-leading rusher with 22 yards and a touchdown.

Stat of the game, part 2: Texas had 23 yards in the first quarter and failed to get a first down. In the fourth quarter, the Longhorns (9-4) had 165 yards and scored 14 points.

What it means for Texas: The Longhorns will be spared months of questions about the direction of the program and who the quarterback of the future might be. Ash was able to take control of the game when it mattered and should be the clear favorite as Texas heads into spring practice.

What it means for Oregon State: The Beavers (9-4) still had one of the top turnarounds in college football, going from a three-win season to a nine-win season, but they lacked a signature win in 2012. No doubt the solid showing against the Longhorns in Texas will help coach Mike Riley pull more players out of the state.

Pregame: Valero Alamo Bowl

December, 29, 2012
12/29/12
10:00
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Oregon State (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) versus Texas (8-4, 5-4 Big 12):

Who to watch: It took weeks for both teams to name their respective starting quarterbacks. Now that they have -- David Ash for Texas and Cody Vaz for Oregon State -- all eyes will be on the two to see whether they can live up to the expectations. Ash was benched for the final game of the regular season after committing three turnovers against TCU. In the past three weeks, he has had to not only climb back into the starter role but also get accustomed to a new quarterbacks coach in Major Applewhite. Applewhite took over the role following the departure of Bryan Harsin to Arkansas State.

As for Vaz, he has been stellar in four games as a starter and only lost that role after suffering an ankle injury in the Stanford game. Vaz has 11 touchdowns to one interception. But if he struggles at all, Oregon State has a very capable backup in Sean Mannion.

What to watch: The running game production for both teams should be crucial. While Oregon State prefers to throw the ball, it cannot drop back 40 or 50 times because of the potential pressure of the Texas defensive line. So the Beavers' best move could be to attack up the middle, where Texas is at its weakest. The Longhorns have allowed 199 rush yards per game, and at one point during the season, in five consecutive weeks, Texas allowed five different rushers season highs. Oregon State running back Storm Woods is from just outside Austin -- Pflugerville -- and undoubtedly will have a chip on his shoulder, as he was not recruited by the Longhorns.

Why watch: Explosive plays and players. Texas, with a new playcaller in Applewhite, should be more committed to getting the ball to three of the fastest players in college football -- Daje Johnson, Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe. Any time any of the three touches the ball, it could result in a touchdown. Oregon State has one of the top receivers in the country in Markus Wheaton. The Beavers' all-time leading receiver could give the Texas secondary fits.

Prediction: Oregon State’s pass defense might be too much for Texas and Ash to overcome. The sophomore quarterback has struggled against strong pass defenses, and the Beavers are No. 16 in pass efficiency defense. Of the teams Texas has played, only Oklahoma is better, and the Sooners beat Texas by 42. Oregon State 33, Texas 28.

Saturday Big 12 bowl predictions

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
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We'll be rolling out the bowl predictions piece by piece this year, so here's who I'm taking in the Big 12 tripleheader on Saturday.

Week 14 record: 3-1 (.750)
Overall: 55-20 (.733)

NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL

West Virginia 41, Syracuse 38: Geno Smith finally gets the best of the Orange after going 0-2 in his career and the Big 12 finally gets a win in snowy New York City. Stedman Bailey catches a pair of touchdowns and Tavon Austin rushes for 100 yards and tops 100 yards receiving to help outpace a 350-yard passing day from Ryan Nassib. This wasn't where WVU wanted to finish its season -- in chilly NYC or against a Big East team -- but it gets a satisfying end to an unsatisfying first season in the Big 12.

VALERO ALAMO BOWL

No. 13 Oregon State 27, No. 23 Texas 23: Oregon State continues to wildly fluctuate between overrated and underrated. Texas might lean toward the latter; the Longhorns fall victim to the "Who wants to be here most?" factor. The Beavers have gone two years without a bowl game. Texas' BCS dreams crashed and burned with a Thanksgiving night loss to TCU. David Ash plays OK, but not well enough, and the Longhorns didn't have a running back go over 100 yards. Cody Vaz shrugs off the pressure to get the Beavers a big win in San Antonio.

BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL

TCU 21, Michigan State 17: The Frogs' defense was the Big 12's best this season and even though its strength is in the secondary, the front seven plays well. Chucky Hunter, Kenny Cain and Joel Hasley slow down Le'Veon Bell enough, who reaches 100 yards but it'll take 30 or more carries to get there. TCU's offense makes enough plays and the defense proves its opportunistic nature with a couple of forced turnovers to set up a game-deciding score.

Take 3: Pac-12 vs. Big 12

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
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The Pac-12 and Big 12 have three bowl games coming up -- including a BCS showdown in the Fiesta Bowl between a pair of top-five teams. David Ubben of the Big 12 blog and Ted Miller and Kevin Gemmell of the Pac-12 blog break down which of the three they are most looking forward to.

Ted Miller: It's not just that the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl matches top-five teams. And it's not just Oregon's and Kansas State's star power, with Wildcats QB Collin Klein, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and All American LB Arthur Brown on one side, and Ducks All-American RB Kenjon Barner and QB Marcus Mariota, a future Heisman finalist, on the other. Nor is it just the two coaches, old school Bill Snyder and new old school Chip Kelly, who many feel is headed to the NFL after this game.

Nor is it only that Pac-12 vs. Big 12 bragging rights hang heavily in the balance.

It's that you've got to love a game that has karmic significance.

Oregon and Kansas State were supposed to play this year. They had a home-and-home game contract. But then Oregon had a chance to play LSU to open the 2011 season and, well, then folks go all interpretive. Oregon fans see Kansas State as the Fraidy Cats, who took an opportunity to run away from a series instead of re-working it. Kansas State folks see logistical complications that forced their hand and, heck, it was the Ducks that first asked for an adjustment anyway.

Oregon is more than a touchdown favorite. You look at the two rosters, and it's not difficult to see a Ducks victory. And yet … who does karma favor?

Will the trash talk -- who me? -- between the fan bases come back to haunt Oregon? Will the Wildcats be vindicated? Let's just say the winner will provide more than the usual raspberries toward the other after the game.

And that is great fun.

David Ubben: I don’t know how you boys do it on the West Coast, but here in Big 12 country, we love offense. I didn’t put West Virginia 70, Baylor 63 on my best games of the year on accident. The last time Baylor got together with a Pac-12 team, I seem to remember all kinds of awesome stuff happening.

When Baylor and UCLA tangle in the Holiday Bowl, we can expect some similar fireworks, and some of them will even come courtesy of a player Pac-12 folks are surely familiar with: Lache Seastrunk. Baylor committed to him as its featured back down the stretch and he looked the part of the Big 12’s best back over the last month of the season, rushing for 693 yards and five touchdowns in his last five games. Everybody knows about Nick Florence (the nation’s leader in total offense) and Terrance Williams (the nation’s leading receiver), but this game may very well be about Seastrunk breaking out on a national scale. I’d like to see that. With apologies to offensive lineman Cyril Richardson, Seastrunk’s probably going to beat out receiver Tevin Reese as the best returning piece of this powerful offense.

Baylor doesn’t have a Heisman winner like RG3 who joined Terrance Ganaway in running away with that memorable Alamo Bowl win over Washington, but Seastrunk says he’s going to win it in 2013. I’m not going to be the one who says he can’t. UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin and Brett Hundley will be pretty fantastic foes for the Bears, but I can’t wait to see this showcase of offense.

Kevin Gemmell: Yes, David, we love our offense too. In fact, so much so that one of the most prominent offenses in football is named after the West Coast (which several Pac-12 teams run). But we can also play defense. And that is going to be the difference when Oregon State and Texas square off in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

The "Who's Going to Play Quarterback Bowl" finally has its starters -- Cody Vaz for the Beavers and David Ash for the Longhorns. But despite the fact that Oregon State has one of the most explosive wide receiver duos in the country in Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks -- I believe it's going to be the defense that carries the day for the Beavers. We know that Ash has had his troubles. And a struggling quarterback against an Oregon State secondary that ranks sixth nationally in interceptions doesn't bode well. Cornerback Jordan Poyer leads the way with seven picks this year -- that's second nationally.

Only two teams allowed more tackles for a loss this year than Texas and Oregon State is allowing opponents to convert third downs at just 29 percent. Say bonjour to Scott Crichton and Michael Doctor.

Yes, these two other games will be very offensive-centric. And that's going to make for a heck of a lot of holiday fun. This game will likely lack the offensive sizzle of the other two. There are no Heisman Trophy finalists (or players declaring they are going to win the Heisman next year). And that's OK, because there are those of us on the West Coast who still enjoy and appreciate a little bit of defense. And Oregon State's is nasty.

A closer look: Valero Alamo Bowl

December, 14, 2012
12/14/12
11:00
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As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order.

VALERO ALAMO BOWL

Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3)

Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

When: Saturday, Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

About Texas: No team in the Big 12 has been on a wilder ride this season than Texas. The Longhorns looked like they were back with a 4-0 start and hanging around the top 10. Then came a two-game losing streak capped by a beatdown in Red River. Everybody gave up on the Horns and more than a few fans were ready to be rid of Mack Brown. Then Texas won four consecutive games and revived its BCS and Big 12 title hopes. Then it got solidly beaten on its home field and nobody believed in Texas anymore. This wasn't the 10-win season or BCS bid Texas hoped for when the year began, but this team is built to win big next year if it gets more consistent play at quarterback. Can it start with a bowl win against a top-15 opponent?

About Oregon State: The Beavers feel Texas' pain when it comes to quarterback issues. A midseason injury sent Sean Mannion to the bench, but even when he returned, a four-interception outing against Washington had OSU turning back to Cody Vaz. The loss to Stanford, though, opened the door back for Mannion, who took back the starting spot after an ankle injury to Vaz and kept the job through a rout of Nicholls State in the season finale, rescheduled from earlier in the season. OSU began the season 6-0 and ascended to No. 7 in the polls, but the Beavers were brought back to earth with three losses in their final six games.

Longhorns to watch: Texas' defense was disappointing, but showed promise at times late in the season. When you're not watching the theatrics between Case McCoy and David Ash, keep an eye on defensive end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro can lower the boom on anybody, and Okafor's remained productive, despite losing his partner in crime, Jackson Jeffcoat, for the season with a pectoral injury. Johnathan Gray led the Longhorns in rushing this season, but fellow backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron should both be back healthy.

Beavers to watch: No, Jacquizz Rodgers is not still there. The spectacularly named running back Storm Woods is, though. The freshman rushed for more than 800 yards, but the biggest threat Texas will have to stop is receiver Markus Wheaton. Despite the revolving door of injuries and benchings at QB, he racked up 1,207 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Only USC's Marqise Lee, the Biletnikoff Award winner, had more of either this season in the Pac-12.

Did you know? Oregon State's only played a Big 12 team in a bowl game once, but it was a memorable one for the Corvallis Woodchuckers, and one the Big 12 would like to forget. Missouri held a two-touchdown lead with just over six minutes to go, but Oregon State rallied and appeared to tie the game in the final seconds. However, coach Mike Riley went for two and the win, and the Beavers got it to take home the Sun Bowl trophy back in 2006.

Valero Alamo Bowl

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
9:40
PM ET
Texas Longhorns (8-4) vs. Oregon State Beavers (9-3)

Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET, San Antonio (ESPN)

Texas take from LonghornNation's Carter Strickland: The Longhorns stumbled down the stretch, losing their last two games to finish the regular season third in the Big 12.

While most projections called for Texas to finish right around third in the conference -- second was a possibility but thought to be a distant one -- the 8-4 overall record is looked at as a disappointment because of who the Longhorns lost to and how they lost.

Oklahoma and Kansas State, the top two teams in the Big 12, beat Texas by a combined 60 points, but the fact that the Longhorns most likely were going to lose to both of those teams had been accepted prior to the start of the season.

The other two losses -- to TCU and West Virginia -- were seen more as swing games. Texas lost those two by a combined 10 points. That both losses were at home didn't exactly thrill the fan base.

Now Texas is at a loss as to which quarterback, David Ash or Case McCoy, should lead the team. Ash started the first 11 games but was pulled twice due to inconsistent play and turnovers. McCoy started the final game against Kansas State and threw for 314 yards with 17 straight completions at one point. But McCoy had two costly interceptions as well.

On defense, Texas was one of the most porous in both the conference and the nation. But a month of bowl practice may help heal defensive end Alex Okafor and build confidence in replacement linebackers Tevin Jackson and Peter Jinkens.

Texas needs one more win to finish one game better than last season's record of 8-5. If the Longhorns can do that it might lend slightly more credibility to Texas coach Mack Brown's continued stump speeches about the Longhorns having improved from last year.




Oregon State take by Pac-12 blogger Kevin Gemmell: Oregon State head coach Mike Riley has a decision to make. OSU's regular-season finale against Nicholls State was as much an open quarterback tryout between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz as it was a quest for a ninth win. Both have had highs and lows throughout the season, so it will be interesting to see which way Riley goes in the postseason as the Beavers look for their first Bowl win since a 3-0 victory against Pittsburgh in the 2008 Sun Bowl.

Both quarterbacks looked outstanding against Nicholls State -- granted, it was against a one-win FCS team. Yet both made their cases with efficient performances.

But the true stars of Oregon's State's team this year have been seniors Markus Wheaton (receiver) and Jordan Poyer (cornerback). They were catalysts for one of the best turnarounds in college football in 2012. Last season, the Beavers were 3-9 and many questioned whether Riley's job was secure.

Wheaton is one of the most dangerous, yet underappreciated receivers in the country. He's not only made his quarterback better with his sure hands and blistering speed, but his presence also helped give rise to up-and-coming receiver Brandin Cooks. The duo went for more than 1,000 receiving yards each, so they'll test the Texas secondary.

Across the field, Poyer, an All-American, comes in with a Pac-12 best seven interceptions. He's supported by an outstanding defense that was second only to Stanford in points allowed per game. Scott Crichton (nine sacks, 15 tackles for a loss) headlines a front seven that was one of the tougher groups in the conference this season.

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