Pac-12: LeSean McCoy
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Superlatives from the bowl season. In both directions.
|Charles Baus/Icon SMI|
|Mark Sanchez completed 28 of 35 passes, setting the Rose Bowl record for completion percentage.|
Best performance by a leading man: USC quarterback Mark Sanchez accounted for five touchdowns -- four passing -- and completed 28 of 35 passes for 413 yards in the Trojans 38-24 blitzing of Penn State in the Rose Bowl. After being blamed much of the season for USC's inconsistent offense, Sanchez turned in the day's most spectacular performance, one that might have proved he's NFL-ready.
Best defense: With its offense struggling without James and Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State's defense throttled Pittsburgh to secure a 3-0 victory in the Sun Bowl. The Beavers had five sacks and held the Panthers to just 178 yards and 10 first downs and limited All-American running back LeSean McCoy to just 85 yards on 24 carries. Pittsburgh's deepest penetration was the Beavers' 36-yard line. This is the same unit that gave up 65 points and 694 yards to Oregon in the regular-season finale.
Worst start: Oregon's defense looked, well, defenseless to start the Holiday Bowl against Oklahoma State, giving up 199 yards and 17 points in the first quarter. Cowboys quarterback Zac Robinson and receiver Dez Bryant hooked up seven times for 89 yards and a touchdown in the first frame. The Ducks, however, would surrender 270 yards and 14 points over the final three quarters.
Best defensive play: With the score tied and 3:28 left in the Emerald Bowl, California linebacker Zack Follett caught Miami quarterback Jacory Harris from behind and slapped away the football. Cal recovered on the Hurricanes' 2-yard line, setting up the game-winning touchdown pass from Nate Longshore to Anthony Miller. It was Follett's second sack of the game, but the savvy play was the cornerstone of the Bears' 24-17 win.
Worst way to set a record: Arizona receiver Mike Thomas had a great career but he didn't have a good Las Vegas Bowl. He entered the game needing just three receptions to eclipse former Arizona State great Derek Hagan's Pac-10 career record of 258. He broke the record on a 3-yard pass on the final play of the game, during garbage time when the Wildcats' victory was well in hand.
Best hit, quarterback class: Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli set the Ducks physical tone in the second half of the Holiday Bowl by running over Oklahoma State safety Quinton Moore on a 41-yard touchdown run. Masoli finished with three rushing touchdowns and one passing.
Best Heisman Trophy showcase: California running back Jahvid Best was spectacular while rushing for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against Miami in the Emerald Bowl, accounting for well over half of the Bears' offense on the evening. The sophomore had runs of 42, 32, 28 and 25 yards, and probably earned a spot on most short lists for the 2009 Heisman Trophy.
Worst fourth quarter: USC probably lost a couple of potential No. 1 votes when it went to sleep in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl and gave up 17 points and 159 yards to Penn State. While the Nittany Lions deserve credit for fighting until the end, college football fans -- and pollsters -- were reminded how indifferent the Trojans can look at times.
Best way to go out as a record-setting senior: Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama rewrote the Wildcats' passing record book but never led his team to a bowl game, much less a bowl victory, until the final game of his four years as a starter. And he saved his best for last, completing 24 of 35 for 325 yards and two touchdowns, leading Arizona to its first bowl win in a decade. He also ran six yards for a score.
Best bowl records (tie): Oregon State's Mike Riley improved to 5-0 in the postseason as the Beavers' coach. While you can't argue with perfection, it's hard to ignore that USC's Pete Carroll improved to 6-2 in bowl games since he took over at USC, including a 6-1 mark in BCS bowls.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
|AP Photo/LM Otero|
|Oregon State's Slade Norris celebrates with his teammates after the Beavers defeated Pittsburgh, 3-0, in the Sun Bowl.|
Anybody want to help me out with a scoring summary for Oregon State's win over Pittsburgh in the Brut Sun Bowl?
The best offense in this one, a 3-zip Beavers victory, was the 10 sacks split between the teams.
Make no mistake, though: No. 24 Oregon State (9-4) was way better -- WAY -- better than 18th-ranked Pittsburgh (9-4).
The Beavers, playing without Jacquizz and James Rodgers, who supplied more than 50 percent of their offense this year, outgained the Panthers 271 yards to 178 and got zero points on a pair of first-and-goal situations.
Pittsburgh's deepest penetration was the Beavers 36-yard line.
While the Beavers offense struggled to find a consistent rhythm, coordinator Mark Banker's defense, led by ends Slade Norris and Victor Butler, redeemed itself for the Civil War debacle.
The same unit that gave up 65 points and 694 yards to Oregon, surrendered just 10 first downs to the Panthers. It held touted Pitt tailback LeSean McCoy to 84 yards on 23 carries.
Mike Riley improved to 5-0 in bowl games as the Beavers coach.
The Pac-10 also improved to 4-0 this bowl season with three victories over ranked teams and victories over three different BCS conferences.
The rest of the college football nation is free to draw its own conclusions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Advice of the day: Hydrate if you plan to imbibe this evening.
- Oregon just beat up Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl. So will coach Mike Bellotti step aside as the man who built the program into a consistent winner?
- The media is split on how the Sun Bowl between Oregon State and Pittsburgh will play out. The Beavers will need to run and stop LeSean McCoy.
- UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker is now the head coach at New Mexico State.
- How focused is USC? Is there a fine line between loose and sleepy?
- Summing up California's season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Oregon State tries to bounce back after its dispiriting Civil War loss to Oregon but will be without the services of the Rodgers brothers, James and Jacquizz.
Who to watch: Oregon State quarterback Lyle Moevao
The absence of the Rodgers brothers due to shoulder injuries means 50 percent of the Beavers' offense is on the sidelines. Who will pick up that slack? Well, that process will start with Moevao, who became the consistent leader of the offense this season. It figures he'll have to throw more without Jacquizz and James providing the punch and slash to the rushing attack.
What to watch: Oregon State's front seven vs. Pitt RB LeSean McCoy
McCoy is the Panthers offense. The Big East Offensive Player of the Year rushed for 1,403 yards and caught 31 passes for 299 yards. Stop him and you stop the Panthers. Of course, the Beavers' defense may have lost its mojo after Oregon rolled up 65 points and 694 yards in the Civil War. Will this game give the Beavers redemption?
Why to watch: While the Rodgers brothers returning to Texas and Jacquizz going head-to-head with McCoy didn't work out as Sun Bowl angles, this still figures to be an interesting matchup. For one, will the Oregon State team that won eight of nine before the Civil War show up, or will it be the one that got stomped by Oregon? Also, it's another opportunity for the Pac-10 to redeem itself after a perceived down season. Beating the nation's No. 18 team would look good on the ledger.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Three more showdowns before the Granddaddy.
California 33, Miami 24: Cal has a big advantage playing what amounts to a home game, while Miami is 3,500 miles and three time zones away from its tropical climate. But most important: This is a veteran Bears squad that should be able to handle a talented but young foe. Cal running back Jahvid Best could stake a claim as a leading 2009 Heisman Trophy candidate with a big game against a struggling Miami run defense.
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Oregon 40, Oklahoma State 38: Go back and forth on this one because the Cowboys high-powered offense is a little more balanced than the Ducks high-powered offense, but just get the feeling a faster, more physical Pac-10 foe will be a shock to the Cowboys system. Oregon will start fast, OSU will rally and then the Ducks will wear them down with a steady dose of LeGarrette Blount in the fourth quarter.
Brut Sun Bowl
Pittsburgh 27, Oregon State 24: The Beavers would be the pick if both the Rodgers brothers were healthy, but both running back Jacquizz and receiver/scatback James are out with shoulder injuries, meaning 50 percent of the offense won't be available. Plus, there's the question about how Oregon State will respond after the Civil War blowout loss to Oregon and the stunning end to its Rose Bowl run. The Beavers have won four straight and five of six bowl games, but a steady dose of LeSean McCoy and some offensive struggles will make the difference.
Ten things to consider, underline or anticipate from the upcoming Emerald, Holiday and Sun Bowls.
California will do its Best against Miami's run defense: As the intrepid Heather Dinich pointed out, Miami's run defense, solid much of the year, went belly-up at season's end, surrendering an average of 345.5 yards over the final two games, which, not surprisingly, were defeats. California, the Hurricanes' Emerald Bowl foe, averaged 184 yards rushing per game, and speedy running back Jahvid Best might be the most explosive running back in the nation. He busted up Washington for 311 yards -- in just 2 1/2 quarters -- in the season finale and is capable of going yard every time he touches the ball.
Which D takes a Holiday? Culturally, Oregon and Oklahoma State couldn't be much more different. It will be amusing to see the fans mixing in San Diego's Gaslamp District before the Holiday Bowl. But, statistically, the teams are very similar. Both have top-eight offenses: Oregon ranks seventh in points per game (41.92) and eighth in yards per game (478.17). OSU ranks eighth in points per game (41.58) and seventh in yards (489.25). The defensive numbers also are nearly identical -- mediocre. The scoreboard figures to be churning in this one -- only Ball State-Tulsa has a higher over-under -- but at some point the winner will get one or two more big plays from its defense.
Who steps up for the Rodgers Brothers? With playmakers James and Jacquizz Rodgers out of the Sun Bowl with shoulder injuries, Oregon State will face a good Pittsburgh defense without 50 percent of its offense. That means other guys are going to have to step up. Big time. First, 236-pound running back Ryan McCants, who looked like budding star in the preseason before the Jacquizz Juggernaut began, will shoulder the rushing load with Jeremy Francis and keep the running threat alive. Second, receivers Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales and quarterback Lyle Moevao will have to make plays downfield to keep the Panthers from ganging up against the run.
The Bears need to pressure the true frosh QB: Miami will start true freshman quarterback Jacory Harris in the Emerald Bowl because starter Robert Marve was suspended for missing classes. That sounds worse than it is. Harris has been a better quarterback than Marve much of the year. Harris finished the regular season with 10 touchdown passes, one more than Marve, completed a higher percentage of his passes (60.8 vs. 54.5) and threw interceptions at a better rate than Marve. But three of Harris' six picks came in the final two games. Cal, meanwhile, finished third in the nation with 23 interceptions while recording 33 sacks. The Bears could make things easy on themselves by rattling a young quarterback and forcing the Hurricanes to make mistakes.
D-Boyz vs. Zac & Dez: If there is a difference between Oregon and Oklahoma State, it's that the Cowboys are a better passing team -- 233 yards per game vs. 200 -- with All-American receiver Dez Bryant and solid quarterback Zac Robinson. In the preseason, the Ducks secondary was widely touted as among the best in the nation -- the unit even gave itself a nickname, "D-Boyz". But results weren't terribly good. The Ducks yielded 24 touchdown passes -- tied with Washington for most in the Pac-10 -- and allowed opposing offenses to complete 58 percent of their passes. The Ducks also only grabbed 14 interceptions. While All-American end Nick Reed led the conference's best pass rush -- 38 sacks -- the D-Boyz need to prove their "D" doesn't stand for debilitated, decrepit or delicate.
Stop LeSean, who's the real McCoy: Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy might be the best running back in the nation. He rushed for 1,403 yards and 21 touchdowns while averaging nearly five years per carry. He's he engine of the Pitt offense. Oregon State had a highly ranked run defense until Oregon rushed for 385 yards in the Beavers Civil War bloodbath. If the Oregon State defense doesn't regain its run-stuffing form, it could be a long day for the Beavers.
How tasty is homecooking? Miami is crossing the country to play in the Emerald Bowl. California is crossing a bridge. The Hurricanes are 3,500 miles from home. The Bears are sleeping in their own beds. The crowd at AT&T Park figures to be hugely pro-Cal. How much will all this work in the Bears favor? Or will the Hurricanes, who've been known to enjoy wearing black hats, be inspired by playing the incorrigible house guests?
Cowboys may want to Duck: Folks have been talking about fancypants offenses in the Big 12 this season, but that's mostly inspired smirks on the West Coast, where if your offense is simple -- you know, like the Big 12 almost every previous season -- you can't survive. Now, Oregon's offense? It just plays at a higher level because coordinator Chip Kelly is smarter than nearly every defensive coordinator. The only team that stopped the Ducks rushing attack was USC. The Cowboys aren't USC. In fact, not a single player on their defense would start for USC. And they've not seen a team that combines scheme, speed and physical play like the Ducks. Oklahoma State needs Oregon to make mistakes because that's the only way it will slow down the Ducks.
Are the Beavers still pining for Roses? Oregon State coach Mike Riley is great at preparing his team for the post-season, see a 4-0 record in bowl games. But his Beavers were sniffing roses most of the season, and the Sun Bowl is a bit of a let down. Big time. Toss in the dispiriting defeat in the Civil War and the absence of the Rodgers brothers, and there are plenty of reasons for the Beavers to be down. Or, perhaps, highly motivated to prove themselves anew.
Will the Pac-10 vindicate itself? Win or lose the Rose Bowl, USC doesn't need to prove anything. Every college football fan with a brain knows what USC is: The nation's best program. But when folks criticize the Pac-10, they mostly take shots at USC's competition, and the Pac-10 struggled this year against perhaps the toughest nonconference schedule in college football history -- 2-8 in games vs. the top-18 of the final BCS standings. But the conference already posted a decisive win over a ranked team to open the bowl season -- Arizona whipping BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl -- and three more ranked teams remain ahead. Only Oregon is an underdog -- by three points -- and a 5-0 or 4-1 b
owl record is not inconceivable. Such a tally could slam a glass of shutup down the throats of the Pac-10's critics.
2:00 PM ET Hawaii Colorado 3:30 PM ET Utah Michigan 6:00 PM ET Georgia State Washington 10:00 PM ET California Arizona 10:30 PM ET 2 Oregon Washington State 10:30 PM ET San Diego State Oregon State