Oregon and California's bowl opponents are among the bowl teams with the most to prove this bowl season, according to ESPN.com's Brock Huard.
While Cal probably feels like it's got a score to settle with Texas, the Longhorns have their own issues. As in they need to rediscover their mojo as a national power.
The pressure is squarely on Texas on Dec. 28, as [Mack] Brown doesn't want to enter 2012 spring ball having lost four out of five to end the previous season, with the lone win coming in a game that had more to do with the Texas A&M Aggies' losing than the Longhorns' winning.
Will UT be able to turn it around next season? The Horns' performance against Cal could go a long way toward providing the answer.
Theories abound in Austin as to what has turned a program that was riding such an incredible wave of consistent success into a .500 team in the past 24 months. Is it a lack of toughness, a false sense of entitlement, improved talent and coaching in the Big 12?
One thing it's clearly not is recruiting, as the Longhorns perennially have the pick of the litter in talent-rich Texas (they currently sit No. 1 on ESPN's 2012 class rankings) and have the recent NFL draft picks to show for it.
As for Oregon, Huard writes:
The recurring theme, save USC, is that Kelly and the Ducks can be vulnerable if an opponent has time to prepare. To be fair, the six opponents skewed the theory of excess time by also being some of the best teams in all of college football when the Ducks faced them, but as said above in the Notre Dame section, perception can often become reality in this sport.
You can be sure that if the Badgers run over the Ducks and slow their prolific offense (ranked third at 45 points per game) in the way that the Broncos, Buckeyes and Tigers did before them, the articles will be written and the theory strengthened. And if the Ducks are to make the leap from Rose Bowl champion to BCS title champion, they'll need to prove they can win big games after long layoffs.
I suspect most Ducks fans agree.