NCF Nation: Las Vegas Bowl first take

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl

December, 6, 2009
Oregon State (8-4) vs. BYU (10-2)

Dec. 22, 8 p.m., (ESPN)

Oregon State take by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller:
The MAACO Las Vegas Bowl matches a pair of ranked teams that wish they were somewhere else.

Early in the season, BYU thought it was a BCS-buster when it beat Oklahoma. But the Cougars got pushed around by Florida State and trounced by TCU, which ended those dreams.

Oregon State lost its season finale at Oregon, the rivalry game defeat costing the Beavers the Rose Bowl for a second-consecutive season.

BYU will be playing in its fifth-consecutive Las Vegas Bowl, and the Cougars are 2-2 vs. the Pac-10 in the bowl. So this is sort of a rubber match.

The game features a pair of outstanding quarterbacks. BYU’s Max Hall is third in the nation in passer rating and has thrown 30 touchdown passes. Oregon State’s Sean Canfield is 15th in the nation in passing rating and has competed 70 percent of his throws.

Canfield gets a lot of help from the Rodgers brothers, running back Jacquizz and receiver James. Hall gets a boost from burly running back Harvey Unga and tight end Dennis Pitta

BYU has slightly better numbers on defense, and pass rush may be a key. Neither team has been great at getting to the opposing quarterback – the Beavers have only 15 sacks – and neither is great at pass protection.

BYU take by Independent and others blogger Graham Watson: For BYU, playing in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas is déjà vu all over again.

The Cougars have played in Las Vegas five consecutive seasons, the longest consecutive bowl streak for the Cougars since they played in seven consecutive Holiday Bowls from 1978-1984.

However, BYU will be making history this season as the highest-ranked team to ever appear in the Las Vegas Bowl. BYU is ranked No 14 in the BCS standings.

This is also the first time the bowl has hosted two ranked teams. Oregon State comes into the game ranked No. 18 in the BCS standings after losing its season finale to Oregon.

Both BYU and Oregon State have talented quarterbacks with good arms. BYU's Max Hall is the school’s all-time leader in wins, and Oregon State's Sean Canfield nearly led his team to a Rose Bowl berth.

Both teams' passing games and offenses are among the best in the country, which lends itself to a high-scoring game. Both defenses are talented, but haven’t fared well against other offensively successful teams.

The Cougars' defense will need to be ready for running back Jacquizz Rodgers and his brother, receiver James Rodgers, who are two of the best players in the Pac-10.

Dec. 20, 8 p.m., (ESPN)

Arizona take by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller: Based on the records, this looks like a mismatch. But is it?

BYU, winners of three consecutive Las Vegas Bowls, started the season talking about perfection and a BCS bowl berth and rolled to a 6-0 start. But the Cougars fell well short in their two biggest games, getting drubbed by 25 and 24 points at TCU and Utah.

On the other hand, the Wildcats and Cougars have three common opponents: New Mexico, Washington and UCLA. BYU beat all three, while Arizona lost to New Mexico. Both blew out UCLA, though the Cougars' 59-0 drubbing of the Bruins was one of the season's most shocking thrashings.

Arizona manhandled Washington, but the Huskies were playing their first game without quarterback Jake Locker. BYU slipped by the Huskies, 28-27, when Locker, you may recall, was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for flipping the ball into the air after scoring what appeared to be a last-second, game-tying touchdown, pending the PAT, which was subsequently missed after an extra 15 yards was tacked on.

BYU's defense struggled over the second half of the season, giving up 32 or more points in four of its last six games. The BYU offense leans on quarterback Max Hall, who has thrown 60 touchdown passes over the past two seasons, finding receiver Austin Collie and tight end Dennis Pitta, but the Wildcats' defense probably should be just as worried about running back Harvey Unga. The Wildcats, who lost 20-7 to BYU in 2007, have struggled against power backs, and the 239-pound Unga, who's rushed for 1,061 yards and 10 TDs, certainly fits that bill.

BYU take by non-BCS blogger Graham Watson: This isn't the game BYU envisioned itself in when the season began, especially after it started the year 6-0 with a big win over UCLA on national television. But the Cougars lost handily to the two best opponents on their schedule, keeping them out of the BCS and snapping their string of consecutive conference titles and consecutive undefeated conference seasons.

But there's still a chance to will 11 games for the third consecutive season.

Although quarterback Max Hall had the worst performance of his career against Utah in the final regular season game of the year, he's still considered one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Hall has thrown for 3,629 yards and 34 touchdowns this season, more touchdown passes this season than any quarterback from the Pac-10, ACC, Big East, Big Ten or SEC.

BYU receiver Austin Collie leads the nation with 118.25 receiving yards per game and finished the season with a record nine consecutive 100-yard receiving games. He's fast and elusive and not unlike some of the receivers in the Pac-10.

Defensive speed has been the main question for BYU especially on the edges. That will be a point of emphasis against an Arizona team that averages 164 rushing yards per game.