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2008 Brut Sun Bowl Preview

#18 Pittsburgh (9-3, 5-2 Big East) vs. #22 Oregon State (8-4, 7-2 Pac Ten)

December 31st, 2008 @ 2:00 PM (EST) – CBS – El Paso, Texas

The Sun Bowl features two of the country’s top tailbacks: Pittsburgh’s star sophomore LeShaun McCoy and Oregon State’s Pac Ten Freshman of the Year, Jacquizz Rodgers. The Panthers and Beavers are fairly similar teams in many regards. Both play solid defense and rely on a steady ground game to put up points.

Oregon State was very close to becoming the country’s Cinderella team after they upset then #1 USC in late September. The Beavers opened the year with two road losses but rebounded to win 8 of the next nine games and were sitting a win over archrival Oregon away from their first Rose Bowl in forty years. Unfortunately, the Beavers had no answer for Oregon’s strong ground attack and to make matters worse, they lost star receiver James Rodgers for the bowl game because of a broken collarbone. Still, Oregon State played very good defense until the debacle against Oregon. However, the Beavers are definitely going to be a disappointed team after being so close to the Rose Bowl and their ability to win this game will be directly tied to how well they can forget about their near-miss with the Tournament of Roses.

Pittsburgh used a season-ending upset of archrival West Virginia last season to springboard a huge turnaround year. The Panthers play excellent defense and are a very physical team. Over their last five games of the season, Pitt’s opponents averaged less than 17 points per game. Meanwhile, star tailback LeShaun McCoy ran for over 1,400 yards and is one of the country’s best at his position. This is also Pitt’s first bowl game under Head Coach Dave Wannstedt.

The key to this game is the running game. Which team can get their star cranked up? Both teams’ quarterbacks are more in the game manager mold (though OSU’s Lyle Moevao is by far the better of the two) so establishing a running game will be critical. I expect this to be an exciting, hard fought game between two like teams but I think that Oregon State will be hindered by two major factors: The loss of star receiver and return man James Rodgers and the hangover from losing their chance at the Rose Bowl. Rodgers made a huge number of big plays on return teams and was also a threat in the running game and was easily the Beavers’ most versatile player. Losing him really hurts. Furthermore, this will be the first bowl game for most of the Panthers and they will be very fired up to play whereas I’m not certain about Oregon State’s motivation. I think that Pitt is also tougher against the run and I think that their defense will do a good job forcing Moevao to beat them. In fact, Pittsburgh has a win over another very similar team: Iowa. Pitt’s 21-20 win over the Hawkeyes (who also feature a great tailback and a very strong defense) could be a carbon copy of how this game will play out. In the end, I think that this game will be close and I’m picking the Panthers to knock off the Beavers in what should be an excellent Sun Bowl.

Sun Bowl Pick: Pittsburgh 26 - Oregon State 23


by Matt Baxendell Staff Writer

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