The No.10 Oregon Ducks and the Texas Longhorns will face off in San Antonio on Monday night to close out their respective 2013 seasons. Despite both programs' lofty hopes of playing in a BCS bowl game, each had to settle for a trip to the Valero Alamo Bowl.
However, a victory over their high-profile opponent would serve as a respectable consolation prize.
For most of the season, the Ducks were one of the top contenders to play in the BCS National Championship Game. Oregon, along with Alabama and Florida State, went undefeated into November and made a case to be recognized as the best team in college football. That changed on Nov. 7 when Stanford upset Oregon, dashing the Ducks' national title hopes. Two weeks later, Oregon's chances of winning the Pac-12 title were swept away when they were blown out by Arizona.
The Longhorns were a top 15 team to start the year, but got off to a slow start, losing two of their first three non-conference games. They turned things around in Big-12 play and had a chance to win the conference championship on the final day of the regular season. Texas came up well short in a 20-point loss to Baylor.
Despite a disappointing conclusion, Oregon proved to be much better than Texas in 2013. The Ducks lost two games, including one to the No.5 team in the country, and were dominant in their 10 victories. Oregon beat two ranked opponents, and won nine times by at least 21 points. The Longhorns had a big win against Oklahoma, but lost to three ranked teams, falling short to superior competition. As a result, the Ducks are favored by more than two touchdowns.
Oregon struggled down the stretch, in large part due to the play of Marcus Mariota. As the team went unbeaten for eight games, the quarterback was one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy. He didn’t make many mistakes, failing to throw his first interception until Nov. 23, and was making plays with his legs and his arm. His production, however, dropped noticeably in the last month of the season. During that time, he registered three of his five worst passer ratings in 2013 and was picked off four times.
The extended time off, though, could prove to be beneficial for Oregon and their starting signal caller. Mariota was bothered by injuries down the stretch of the season, which may have contributed to his struggles. The extended rest could also hurt the Ducks, who haven’t stepped on the field in 31 days.
If the Longhorns can contain Mariota, they’ll look to use their running game to give themselves a chance. Case McCoy threw 11 interceptions and 11 touchdowns when an injury to David Ash made him the full-time starter. He’s been able to win games with a strong running game that averages 197.6 yards on the ground per game. Malcolm Brown’s 774 yards are just six shy of Johnathan Gray, who went down for the season with three games left on the schedule.
The bowl game marks the last contest for coaches on both sidelines at their respective school. Head coach Mack Brown will be stepping down from Texas after 16 years with the Longhorns. In his last game, Brown could decide to throw caution into the wind and take lots of chances for a Texas squad that is expected to play inspired football.
Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti is set to retire after the game. Aliotti has been with Oregon since 1999.
Player To Watch: Marcus Mariota
Time: 6:45 p.m. Monday
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Odds: Oregon by 14.5
Prediction: Oregon over Texas, 47-27