Thursday, January 11|
High-powered offenses clash
By Mel Kiper
Friday, Dec. 29 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Oregon (9-2) vs. Texas (9-2)
After losing to Stanford the second game of the season and then being destroyed by Oklahoma 63-14 on Oct. 7, it's a credit to Mack Brown and his staff that the Longhorns were able to regroup and work their way back to a 9-2 record and a spot in the Holiday Bowl against the 9-2 Oregon Ducks.
Texas had to deal with a QB controversy involving Major Applewhite and Chris Simms, as well as the lingering high-ankle sprain suffered by senior DT Shaun Rogers. Fortunately for the Longhorns, Simms seemed to really turn the corner with his brilliant effort against Texas A&M in the regular season finale and Rogers enjoyed several fine showings in November as he worked his way back closer to full strength.
A huge plus for Simms is the presence of exceptional true-freshman wideout Roy Williams. The incredibly talented 6'4", 213-pounder has already drawn comparisons to Randy Moss, coming off a 2000 campaign that saw him total 40 receptions for a whopping 20.2 yard average and 10 TDs. And he wasn't the only first year performer to contribute at receiver for the Longhorns. B.J. Johnson added 41 catches for a 17.0 yard average, Sloan Thomas averaged 23.1 yards on nine receptions, and Artie Ellis finished with eight catches.
The key performer up front is mammoth LT Leonard Davis who could end up in the early portion of round one in the NFL Draft. With Davis overpowering defenders at the point, senior RB Hodges Mitchell was able to find plenty of daylight, finishing with over 1100 yards. For the year, Mitchell averaged 5.0 yards per carry and scored eight rushing TDs, while also hauling in 37 receptions swinging out of the backfield.
For Oregon, everything revolves around QB Joey Harrington and RB Maurice Morris. When you have quality play at both those positions, it should come as no surprise that the Ducks were tough to beat. Just ask the Washington Huskies. Their only loss of the season was to the Ducks by a score of 23-16 on September 30.
The Oregon defense provided a solid performance in most games and the same was true of Texas. However, with so many talented skill position athletes on both sides, the stop troops for Oregon and Texas will both be severely challenged.
|Joey Harrington will lead a high-octane offense against the Lonhorns.|