2009 Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl Preview
#24 Oregon State (8-4, 6-3; Pac Ten) vs. #25 Brigham Young (10-2, 7-1; Mountain West)
December 22nd, 2009 @ 8:00 PM (EST) – ESPN – Las Vegas, Nevada
The Las Vegas Bowl was first played in 1992 and this year’s edition will be the 18th renewal of postseason football in Sin City. Matching teams from the Mountain West and Pac Ten conferences, the Las Vegas Bowl represents the first appearance by a BCS conference during bowl season.
Oregon State continued their run of success under Mike Riley this year, earning their 6th bowl bid in the past seven seasons. Riley’s second stint as Oregon State’s head coach has produced a 56-32 mark and his teams are 5-0 in the postseason! This year’s team began the season in typical fashion, losing two of their first four games before closing the season on a 6-2 run. Oregon State lost out on a Rose Bowl berth on the season’s final day for the 2nd consecutive season, falling to archrival Oregon in a de-facto conference championship game.
The Beavers were prolific on offense this season and their 32.4 points per game average was the 22nd best in the country. This was largely on the strength of their 21st ranked passing offense because they were no better than average in rushing at 64th. One major consideration in their scoring success: OSU’s 96.3% scoring rate in the red zone was the best in the country and their touchdown rate ranked in the top ten. With a multiple offense that features the dynamic talents of the Rodgers brothers (who have combined for 31 touchdowns) and stud lefty quarterback Sean Canfield, Oregon State has become one of the country’s best at piling up points.
Oregon State was nowhere near as good defensively. They allowed opponents to score an average of 23.4 points per game, 51st in the country. The Beavers were solid against the run at 25th nationally but their pass defense was brutal, finishing 87th! With the loss of one of their top cover corners on the season’s final day and a lowly 105th national rank in sacks, their aerial defending will be an even bigger concern in this game against BYU’s solid passing attack.
Brigham Young is making their 5th consecutive appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl. During that time period, BYU is 2-2 against the Pac Ten, the most recent result being a 31-21 loss against Arizona last year. 2009 was a great year for the Cougars, who beat Oklahoma on opening day and capped of a great year with an overtime win against archrival Utah. Bronco Mendenhall is in his 5th season coaching BYU and this season marks the 4th consecutive year that he has led the Cougs to a ten win campaign. An interesting subplot: Mendenhall played his college football at Oregon State!
BYU features a dominant offense that scored an average of 34.8 points per game, good for 12th in the country. Led by star senior quarterback Max Hall, their passing game was supposed to be dominant and they didn’t disappoint with their 12th ranked finish. The running game was more concerning as it finished 60th nationally, though Harvey Unga did break the 1,000 yard mark. Despite their struggles on the ground, this is a very dangerous offense capable of scoring on anyone.
The Cougars were also solid defensively, holding opponents to 21.7 points per game, good for 34th in the country. The strength of their defense was their 23rd ranked rush defense but they struggled against the pass, finishing with a below average 65 th ranking. The Cougars did notch 26 sacks this year but that only placed them 44th in the country. In short, the Cougars have some work to do through the air.
Breaking this game down, an interesting statistic emerged: Oregon State finished +6 in turnover margin while only giving the ball up 8 times. Meanwhile, BYU actually finished -1 thanks to 22 turnovers so that seems to indicate that Oregon State will have an edge. As one of the key tenets of football is to win the turnover battle, that seems like a very promising statistic for the Beavers.
These are two similar teams: They both are strong through the air on offense but struggle through the air defensively. However, a few factors seem to favor Oregon State. They’re the superior team at protecting the football, they’re much better in the red zone and they’ve played a much tougher schedule. Finally, they have an excellent postseason track record while I have some serious questions about BYU’s motivation after spending half of a decade playing in the Las Vegas Bowl. I expect BYU to keep this game close but the Beavers will be too much to contain on offense and that will be the difference in Oregon State’s 6th consecutive bowl victory.
Las Vegas Bowl Pick: Oregon State 34, BYU 27
by Matt Baxendell
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