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December 21, 2009
Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon State vs. BYU
MORE: Bowl schedule/results
LAS VEGAS BOWL: WHO GETS THE EDGE?
BYU run offense vs. Oregon State run defense: BYU's strength on offense is the passing game, but the Cougars can run the ball when necessary. Harvey Unga is the Mountain West's leading rusher. Three of the Beavers' four losses have come against teams that can establish the run - Stanford, USC and Oregon. DT Stephen Paea is the key to the Beavers' run defense. If he can cause problems in the middle, the Cougars will have to win the game in the air.
BYU pass offense vs. Oregon State pass defense: This is where BYU can do some damage. Cougars QB Max Hall is third in the nation in pass efficiency, with 3,368 yards and 30 touchdowns. After throwing 10 interceptions in the first five games of the season, Hall settled down over the last seven and threw just four more. BYU should be able to pick up some yards against Oregon State, mainly because of the Beavers' struggles to rush the passer. Oregon State is 106th in the nation in sacks.
Oregon State run offense vs. BYU run defense: This is the first bowl appearance for Beavers sophomore Jacquizz Rodgers; he was injured for Oregon State's Sun Bowl against Pittsburgh last season, but the Beavers still won 3-0. Rodgers rushed for 1,377 yards this season, scoring at least one touchdown in all but one game; he has 20 rushing TDs this season. Have opposing defenses caught up with junior James Rodgers' signature fly-sweep play? He rushed for a career-low 289 yards on a career-high 54 carries. BYU has been solid against the run this season. Aside from a loss to Florida State and a win over Air Force, the Cougars have held their opponents' rushing attacks in check. Six opponents rushed for fewer than 100 yards and 10 rushed for less than 128.
Oregon State pass offense vs. BYU pass defense: After alternating starting quarterback duties with Lyle Moevao, Sean Canfield took ownership of the job this season and became one of the surprises in the Pac-10. Canfield led the conference in passing and pass efficiency (3,103 yards, 21 touchdowns, six interceptions). The Rodgers brothers have been just as dangerous in the passing game as with the running game. James led the Pac-10 in receiving yards and Jacquizz led the nation's running backs with 74 catches. BYU SS Andrew Rich has four interceptions this season, and DE Jan Jorgensen can be a standout pass rusher.
BYU special teams vs. Oregon State special teams: What can't James Rodgers do? He's also Oregon State's primary punt returner (11.3-yard average) and kickoff returner (23.3 yards). Justin Kahut is a standout kicker, making 22-of-27 field-goal attempts, including 10 of more than 40 yards. P Johnny Hekker has been solid. The Beavers' punt coverage unit is good, the kickoff coverage excellent. BYU does not have a touchdown in the return game this season, though O'Neill Chambers was second in the Mountain West in kickoff returns. Mitch Payne is 9-for-13 on field goals, and freshman P Riley Stephenson has been adequate. The punt coverage has been fine, but the kickoff coverage has been shaky.
BYU coaches vs. Oregon State coaches: It's tough to argue with the success of Mike Riley and his staff in bowl games. The Beavers are 5-0 in the postseason under Riley. Both Oregon State coordinators - Danny Langsdorf on offense and Mark Banker on defense - have been on the staff together for the past five seasons. Bronco Mendenhall has done a nice job getting BYU back on an even keel, though - unlike MWC foes TCU and Utah - the Cougars haven't been to a BCS bowl yet. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae does a nice job getting a lot of players involved.
X-factor: BYU has been good under Mendenhall and behind the play of this senior class, in particular. But BYU has not always been able to get over the big-game hump. The Cougars lost big this season to TCU and also struggled in the spotlight, falling apart in a 54-28 loss at home to Florida State two weeks after the win over preseason No. 3 Oklahoma. BYU showed signs of reversing that trend by defeating archrival Utah in overtime in the regular-season finale. How will Hall, Jorgensen and the rest of the senior class react in their final game of their careers?
BYU will win if: The Cougars' defense needs to shut down Oregon State's running game. The Beavers have won 19 of their past 21 games with a 100-yard rusher, and Jacquizz Rodgers has hit triple digits in seven games this season. BYU is a physical group in the front seven, and keeping Rodgers in check greatly increases the Cougars' chances for a victory.
Oregon State will win if: The secondary is the key. Hall has thrown 30 TD passes and at least two in all but one game this season. The lone exception was an ugly game for BYU - the 38-7 loss to TCU.