In what has become a holiday tradition for BYU and its fans, this year's edition of the Las Vegas Bowl (I need to add MAACO in there somewhere) is going nontraditional. Two ranked teams, and hopefully two teams that really care to be there. We know Max Hall and the rest of the seniors want to go out with a win, and we're keeping our fingers crossed the Beavers show just as much interest.
The powers-that-be at ESPN rated this the 7th-best bowl game this year, ahead of two BCS games, and if it lives up to that kind of hype we should a doozy on our hands--in a good way.
In every position on offense, BYU holds a pretty substantial edge against the Beavers' defense. Oregon State's passing defense ranks 87th nationally (6th in Pac-10), giving up 237 yards in the air, and that was with their starting CB, Tim Clark, who won't be playing due to a broken leg he suffered against Oregon. The biggest reason to such weak pass coverage numbers is their front seven rarely put pressure on the quarterback (15 sacks on the season). These numbers, along with a patched secondary that also gave up 20 TDs, and you've got Max Hall in a candy store all night long. It's a pretty good bet 10 Cougars could have receptions in this game, and Harvey Unga will run for at least 80 yards.
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As for the Cougar defense stopping Oregon St., the focus will have to be on Jacquizz Rodgers. BYU struggles against speed, and that's exactly what he is. Rodgers averages 115 a game, can break a play wide open at any time, and will line up behind center in the wildcat formation. He will be a true test for BYU's big, physical D-line. If BYU can make them one-dimensional, the Cougars will have a pretty good shot at beating OSU.
However, if BYU stops the run, that doesn't guarantee a win. Here's why: Jacquizz's twin brother, James Rodgers. He's got 87 catches for 1004 yards this season. He's small, but he's a great route-runner and the fastest guy on the team. Logan and Bradley will have their hands full, and they will need help from the safeties.
The key to the Beavers' passing game is their senior QB, Sean Canfield. He's thrown for more than 3100 yards this season, has 21 TDs and only 6 INTs. However impressive these are, he really shines with his completion percentage (70%). BYU's going to have to fluster him (though a senior, it's his first year playing), get him out of the pocket, or sack him before he can deliver it. If he completes 70% against BYU, it could be a very long night.
In the Beavers four losses this year, they have given up at least 36 points. BYU is certainly capable of scoring that many points, and should they jump on OSU early and often, they'll have won their 3rd bowl game in 5 years.
I saw a computer simulation (not video game) with the outcome of 1,000 games between OSU and BYU. The simulation took into account nearly every circumstance, stat, etc. The final average score was 25-24, Oregon State. These teams are so evenly matched I wouldn't be surprised if it goes down to the final drive.
BYU 31, Oregon St. 28
Offense NCAA Rankings:
Total Yards Per Game:
OSU: 419 (28th); BYU: 437 (18th)
Passing Yards Per Game:
OSU: 294 (16th); BYU: 299 (13th)
Rushing Yards Per Game:
OSU: 144 (64th); BYU: 148 (60th)
Points Scored Per Game:
OSU: 32 (23rd); BYU: 34(13th)