2007 Holiday Bowl - Arizona State vs. Texas
Texas RB Jamaal Charles
Texas RB Jamaal Charles
Posted Dec 19, 2007

It's always the first really big game of the bowl season with a top Big 12 team facing off against the No. 2 team from the Pac 10. Jamaal Charles and Texas will try to end the season on a high note in the 2007 Pacific Life Holiday Bowl against Arizona State.

Texas (9-3) vs. Arizona State (10-2)

Dec. 27, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

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2007 Holiday Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More

There one consistency in the brief history of the BCS: the non-USC Pac 10 teams always gets hosed.

Go over the years, and for whatever reason, the number two Pac 10 team always gets passed over, and it happened again this season as Arizona State, who finished 11th in the BCS rankings, didn't actually deserve a spot in the big money games, but at some point, the Pac 10 should get a little bit of a break. On the plus side, the glossing over of the league usually means a star team gets a spot in the traditional first big bowl game of the seasons. However, that hasn't always meant the Pac 10 has been able to come through and prove it belonged in a bigger spotlight.

National Rankings
Texas Arizona State
Total Offense
 13th  462 ypg 52nd  406.67 ypg
Total Defense
54th  374.83 ypg 27th  334.42 ypg
Scoring Offense
19th  36 ppg 34th  32.17 ppg
Scoring Defense
45th  24.58 ppg 22nd  20.08 ppg
Run Offense
25th  199.83 ypg 67th  146.58 ypg
Run Defense
10th  99.33 ypg 13th  100.92 ypg
Pass Offense
36th  262.17 ypg 38th  259.08 ypg
Pass Defense
109th  275.5 ypg  69th  233.50  ypg
Turnover Margin
79th  -0.25  24th  0.58
Ark. St W 21-13
TCU W 34-13
at UCF W 35-32
Rice W 58-14
Kansas St L 41-21
Oklahoma L 28-21
at Iowa St W 56-3
at Baylor W 31-10
Nebraska W 28-25
at Okla St W 38-35
Tex. Tech W 59-43
at Tex A&M L 38-30
Arizona St
SJSU W 45-3
Colorado W 33-13
SDSU W 33-14
Oregon St W 44-32
at Stanford W 41-3
at Wash St W 23-20
Washington W 44-20
California W 31-20
at Oregon L 35-23
at UCLA W 24-20
USC L 44-24
Arizona W 20-17
Position Ratings
relative to each other
T 5 highest
1 lowest
4.5 Quarterbacks 4.5
5 RBs 5
5 Receivers 3
4 O Line 4.5
3.5 D Line 3.5
3.5 Linebackers 4
4 Secondary 3
5 Spec Teams 4
4.5 Coaching 4

California blasted Texas A&M last year, but the Pac 10 has only beaten the Big 12 four of the nine years the two leagues have played in what's usually been one of the best games of all the non-New Year's Day bowls. This season, the Pac 10, which suffered an ugly death over the second half of the year when Oregon and Cal stunk it up and UCLA got injured, could use a big win over a Texas team that needs a win to get the Mack Brown era back on track.

Yeah, Texas came agonizingly close to playing for the Big 12 title last year and yeah, it won last year's Alamo Bowl over Iowa, and yeah, it won nine games this year, but this isn't the juggernaut many thought it'd grow into after winning the 2005 national championship. The defense has gone bye-bye, the offense has been inconsistent, and Oklahoma has won the last two Big 12 titles. Brown isn't on a hot seat of any sort, but a loss to ASU would get the Longhorn faithful grumbling a bit and would make 2008 more pressure packed than most seasons in Austin.

Arizona State was always tantalizingly close to doing big things under Dirk Koetter but couldn't get over the hump. Dennis Erickson came in and applied a word to the Sun Devil program not seen in several years: overachiever.

This isn't an ultra-athletic ASU team, but it's been able to fight its way through rough start after rough start to be one of the nation's better second-half teams while coming up with the first double-digit win season since the Jake Plummer-led 1996 squad. This is a confident, relatively loose team that's playing beyond its capability to be on the cusp of the BCS. The same can't be said for Texas.

It's not just that Texas lost to Texas A&M for the second straight year, it's that the team needed to scramble to get by Nebraska and Oklahoma State late in the season while it struggled early on to get by Arkansas State and UCF. Give credit to the Longhorns for finding ways to win despite not being tremendously flawed, but that's not exactly what the UT fans are looking for while Kansas and Oklahoma are in the BCS and Missouri was BCS worthy. The Holiday Bowl might be one of the elite non-BCS bowls, but this is the program's fourth trip to San Diego since 2000; that's not considered a positive.

Can Texas establish its dominance and make a statement going into 2008? Will Arizona State be able to prove that it deserved to be one of the big five bowls and that the Pac 10 really wasn't all that bad after all? This game can be used as a jumping off point, or an indictment. It'll also be the most important non-New Year's Day game.

Players to watch: Considered a major disappointment last season, Texas RB Jamaal Charles came back roaring as the best back in the Big 12 this season with 1,458 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was having a nice season, and then he roared against Nebraska with 290 yards, highlighted by an epic 216-yard fourth quarter, followed up by a 180-yard, three touchdown day to beat Oklahoma State. His breathtaking speed was never a question, but this year he showed off more toughness along with the ability to carry the team on his back. Now he'll have his biggest test of the season against a run defense allowing just 101 yards per game.

This isn't a star-studded ASU defense, but it's been tremendously effective led by sophomore DE Dexter Davis, who finished second in the Pac 10 with 10.5 sacks. He's not huge, but he's a blur into the backfield and needs to get consistent pressure on Texas QB Colt McCoy. Slowing down Charles will largely up to senior Robert James, who went from being a promising reserve to the team's top tackler. Only around 230 pounds, he uses his quickness on the outside to be the team's steadiest defender against the run, while also doing a decent job in pass coverage.

In the end, the winner of the game will probably come down to which quarterback plays better. McCoy has had a fantastic season considering he lost his number one receiver, Limas Sweed, early on and didn't get a whole bunch of help from the rest of his receivers. He wasn't as efficient as efficient as last year, and he threw 18 interceptions, but he threw for 200 yards or more in every game but one and showed decent decision-making ability under fire.

Arizona State junior Rudy Carpenter settled down after a rough 2006, relaxed, and threw 23 touchdown passes and eight interceptions despite being knocked around as much as any quarterback in America. He was tough, accurate, and relatively consistent, especially in the second halves of games. With only one interception thrown over the final five games, he didn't hurt his team while doing a good job of spreading the ball around with the onus of the offense falling on the passing game.

Arizona State will win if... it can keep Carpenter upright. Texas doesn't have much in the way of a steady pass rush, but that hasn't mattered against a porous ASU offensive line that gives up sacks in bunches allowing 51 on the year, along with 61 tackles for loss. If Carpenter can get a little bit of time, he should be able to light up the porous Longhorn secondary like a Christmas tree. With little help from the defensive front, the UT defensive backs have been under pressure and the they haven't come through allowing 276 yards per game. As long as Carpenter doesn't get knocked out, he should be able to throw for at least 300 yards on a group that allowed an average of 393 yards per game and 13 touchdown passes over the last four including 362 to Texas A&M.

Texas will win if... it wins the fourth quarter. ASU has been a notoriously slow starter all season long having found ways to win late. Texas has had some of the same issues and has been particularly fantastic in the fourth quarters scoring 94 points in the last five (an average of 18.8 per quarter). The Sun Devils likely won't be able to run the ball and will try to win with midrange passes while getting the ball out of his hands as soon as possible. The Texas Tech game will be a blueprint, so Texas will have to get ready for a bit of a shootout, and with better parts than ASU will be happy to get the offense moving.

What will happen: This should be an entertaining four quarter battle with ASU able to bomb away on Texas and the Longhorn offense able to use its balance to keep up the pace. Both teams will be fired up, but neither team is really all that great with gaping holes that will be exploited throughout. ASU's running game will go absolutely nowhere while Charles, after being bottled up for most of the game, will hit at least two home runs to get Texas ahead in the second half just enough to hold off a late Carpenter scoring drive.

Line: Texas -1 ... CFN Prediction: Texas 34 ... Arizona State 27

2007 Holiday Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More