It’s safe to say that this years’ bowl schedule is one of the least inspiring in recent memory. However, there are a few diamonds in the rough that should provide some panache to the otherwise lackluster slate of games. Oklahoma v. Clemson in the Orange Bowl, North Carolina v. Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl, and Houston v. Florida State in the Peach Bowl should all provide some serious electricity to a 40 game schedule in need of a charge. The crown jewel of the bunch for true college football junkies though has to be the final bowl game of the season before the national championship: The Valero Alamo Bowl between Oregon and TCU.
The Alamo Bowl is like a giant wedge of cake waiting for you at the end of a plate of boiled, limp vegetables that your mother makes you eat before you can have desert. This contest has everything you could ask for as a football fan (we’ll get to the reasoning behind that claim shortly). One could argue Oregon v. TCU is being played a year too late as this was a very possible match-up in last years inaugural College Football Playoff.
Both TCU and Oregon were victims of seasons derailed by injuries to the most important player on the field in their quarterbacks. Vernon Adams Jr. suffered a broken finger in the Ducks season opener against Adams’ old team Eastern Washington and struggled through the next few games before being shut down to fully recover. Trevone Boykin suffered a mid-season ankle injury against Kansas that saw him miss a game and a half. He then returned to face Oklahoma State–possibly before being 100%–where he played his worst game of the season throwing four interceptions in the 49-29 loss. In addition to losing their quarterbacks, both teams lost other key contributors as well: TCU lost their number one receiver and highly touted NFL prospect, Josh Doctson to a wrist injury in the Oklahoma State game–his return is still in question for the Alamo Bowl–and the Ducks lost utility man Byron Marshall for the season early in the year to a broken leg against Utah. The injuries and shortcomings of these two programs are an integral part of setting this game up to be rebranded as the ”What Could Have Been” Bowl.
Offense, Offense, and Just a Little More Offense
Oregon and TCU have been college football’s poster boys for scoring points in the last few years and this year is no exception. Both teams scored 50 or more points in four contests this year–all of TCU’s 50 plus point games came in consecutive weeks and the Ducks have broken the 60 point barrier in three of their four 50+ point contests. Not to state the obvious but this game has serious scoreboard busting potential. Both Oregon and TCU have offenses that rank in the top 10 in the FBS in scoring. The Ducks rank 6th at 43.2 points per game and the Horned Frogs are right behind them at 8 with 41.7 points per game.
Pair those offensive numbers with two defenses that leave a lot to be desired and those video game numbers are all but guaranteed. The Oregon faithful are more than familiar with the Ducks struggles in the secondary which is dotted with young, inexperienced players that make up FBS’s 126th ranked passing defense. Boykin and a healthy Doctson could have a field day in the Alamodome on January 2 if the Ducks don’t do some serious game planning to account for that connection. Doctson racked up 1,327 yards on only 79 receptions on the year; good for an average of 16.8 yards per catch.
The TCU defense has faired a good deal better this year compared to the Ducks but that bar is set exceptionally low. TCU is giving up over 180 yards per game on the ground this year and never faced an elite running game save for Oklahoma who have the über talented running back duo of Semaji Perine and Joe Mixon; throw in the Texas running game that ranks 20th to be fair. In their match-up with Oklahoma, Perine rushed for 188 yards and a touchdown which by all accounts is a great game by an exceptional running back. If a talent like Perine can have that kind of game against the Horned Frogs, Royce Freeman has the potential to absolutely take this game over. The Ducks might be best served using their running game as an extension of their defense by killing clock and extending drives to keep the Horned Frogs explosive offense off the field entirely.
Battle of the Not-So-Pro-Caliber Quarterbacks
Both of the starting quarterbacks in this game are coming into their final contests with massive chips on their shoulders. Adams and Boykin both have been told throughout their collegiate careers that they are not good enough. Whenever athletes are competing for a trophy there’s already a lot of incentive there, but when you add in the factor of outside authority figures doubting your abilities that can take things to a whole new level; it’s personal.
For Adams it started in high school when he went unrecruited by the FBS and landed in Cheney, Washington at the FCS’s Eastern Washington University. He proved the doubters wrong by annihilating FCS competition and earning his shot in the FBS at Oregon. After overcoming early season injuries, Adams has ended this season on an absolute tear by completing 68.1% of his passes for 21 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the last six games. In an interview with The Register-Guard, Adams said he’s looking to put together one more impressive outing for NFL scouts to up his draft stock. “I try not to look at it like that, but deep down I think it is. If our team plays well, and I do pretty good in this game and hopefully the East-West Shrine Game, hopefully I get an invite to the combine or something.”
TCU’s Boykin, similarly, has not been given a whole lot of attention in terms of taking his talent to the pro level–at least at the quarterback position. Bucky Brooks of NFL.com and a former NFL scout said of Boykin, ”He and Braxton Miller are in the same category, kind of a hybrid. Most people will take those guys and make them receivers, just because the transition is easier.” Boykin has been prolific as the Horned Frogs signal caller for the past two seasons throwing for 64 touchdowns and rushing for another 17. but according to Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole Boykin has already embraced his seemingly fated position change. “What Boykin wants to avoid is the pratfall that Terrelle Pryor went through at Ohio State.” If Boykin is playing in his last game ever as a quarterback he is likely going to want to go out with a bang.
Surprisingly Clutch Defense
Before you jump the gun and attack the comment board for hyping defense after I just got through saying how lacking these two defenses are give me a moment to explain. Yes, reiterating what I stated before, these two defenses both rank in the bottom half of the FBS in terms of overall defense but that doesn’t mean these defenses didn’t step up and make one big play when it mattered most.
The Ducks defense was the cause of a lot of ire from Oregon fans throughout the first half of the season. However in the final six weeks the Ducks defensive unit helped ice multiple wins; most notably Joe Walker‘s game sealing pass breakup on a potential game tying two point conversion against Stanford, Chris Seisay closed out a double OT victory with a game ending interception against Arizona State and the entire defensive unit staved off multiple final drives that would have won or tied the game against both Washington and Oregon State.
TCU earned a massive revenge win against instate rival Baylor in the middle of a monsoon in week 12 of the season. Linebacker Ty Summers burst into the Bears backfield on a 4th and one situation in double OT to cap off a muddy old school style win. The Horned Frogs also staged multiple comebacks against Texas Tech and Kansas State which relied on the defense to stop the bleeding in order to give their prolific offense a shot at the W.
Top Photo Credit: Gary Breedlove