2008 Holiday Bowl Preview - Ok St vs. Oregon
OSU's Zac Robinson & Oregon's Max Unger
OSU's Zac Robinson & Oregon's Max Unger
Posted Dec 29, 2008

The Holiday Bowl is almost always fun, and this year's version should be no different as Zac Robinson leads the high-powered Oklahoma State offense against Max Unger and the Oregon running game. Check out the CFN 2008 Pacific Life Holiday Bowl Preview & Prediction.

2008 Pacific Life Holiday Bowl

Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Oregon (9-3)
Dec. 30, 8:00 p.m. ET, NFL Network

Payout: $2.2 million   Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego CA

2008 Holiday Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More

National Rankings
Oklahoma St Oregon
Total Offense
 7th  489.25 ypg 8th  478.17 ypg
Total Defense
86th  392.25 ypg 80th  383 ypg
Scoring Offense
8th  41.58 ppg 7th  41.92 ppg
Scoring Defense
69th  26.92 ppg 77th  28 ppg
Run Offense
7th  256 ypg 4th  277.83 ypg
Run Defense
26th  123.75 ypg 23rd  119.42 ypg
Pass Offense
44th  233.25 ypg 73rd  200.33 ypg
Pass Defense
110th  268.5 ypg  108th  263.58  ypg
Turnover Margin
34th  0.42  34th  0.42
Oklahoma State
Wash. St W 39-13
Houston W 56-37
Missouri St W 57-13
Troy W 55-24
Tex A&M W 56-28
at Missouri W 28-23
Baylor W 34-6
at Texas L 28-24
Iowa St W 59-17
at Tex Tech L 56-20
at Colorado W 30-17
Oklahoma L 61-41
Washington W 44-10
Utah St W 66-24
at Purd W 32-26 2OT
Boise St L 37-32
at Wash St W 63-14
at USC L 44-10
UCLA W 31-24
at Ariz St W 54-20
at California L 26-16
Stanford W 35-28
Arizona W 55-45
at Oreg St W 65-38
Position Ratings
relative to each other
OSU 5 highest
1 lowest
4.5 Quarterbacks 3
5 RBs 5
5 Receivers 2.5
5 O Line 5
3.5 D Line 5
3 Linebackers 3.5
2.5 Secondary 3
5 Spec Teams 4
4 Coaching 4

When it comes to throwing around the “nobody respects us” cliché, all the statements teams and conferences are looking to make during the bowl season, and separating the real deals from the no deals, no bowl, traditionally, has been more of a litmus test than the Holiday. 

More often than not, it’s the third or fourth best team from Big 12 and the second best team from the Pac 10 in a combustive battle. Sometimes, one of the teams sulks when it believes it should’ve been somewhere bigger and better, like the 2003 Texas team that got tagged 28-20 by Washington State. Last year, Texas wanted to come in and change around its overall attitude, and it crushed Arizona State with a physical style and tough defense the program had been missing. The Longhorns used that win to set the tone for their huge 2008.

This year, Oklahoma State and Oregon are each coming in with 2009 on their brains. Both teams are loaded with weapons, both teams will be among the hottest teams going into next year, and both are going to play this like a BCS game.       
Oklahoma State lost its three games to Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech, meaning that it’s theoretically possible that it’s the fourth best team in the country, and not just the fourth best in its own conference. The tone was set for the big season with five blowout wins including blastings of Houston, Troy and Texas A&M, and then the team was legitimized with a Mike Gundy-era defining (other than the Bobby Reid rant) win at Missouri. However, that was the last win of any real significance, meaning the Cowboys haven’t won a truly big game since October 11th. The Ducks won a truly big game just a few weeks ago.
Oregon takes the prize for being the nation’s most resurgent team after suffering a dizzying array of quarterback injuries and after a rocky start. Mostly because of inconsistent quarterback play, the Ducks survived a two-overtime win over a bad Purdue team and lost to Boise State the week after. However, the offense started click more and more as the season went on, and while the defense struggled, the wins started to come with five in the final six games highlighted by the destruction of Oregon State in the Civil War to end the Beavers’ Rose Bowl dream.
Now, can Oregon shake its recent reputation of being a poor closer? The program had lost its final game of the year, and usually a lot more late, from 2001 to 2006, and then came last year with a 56-21 win over South Florida in the Sun Bowl. However, that win came after losing three straight. A win for Oregon would be a tremendous victory for the much-maligned Pac 10 and could go a long way to shaping the perceptions of the pollsters.

Can Oklahoma State show that this really is one of the nation’s top teams going into next year, and that it’s ready to be a true challenger to the big guns in the South? The Cowboys have relied all year on a steady and wildly effective offense and a defense that does just enough to get by. However, there’s still that question mark about being one of the Big 12’s true elite. While a win wouldn’t answer the question, it would certainly crank up the respect factor for the Big 12.

The Big 12 has won seven of the 11 Holiday Bowl matchups with the Pac 10 since 1996.  Even if the trend continues for Oklahoma State, that doesn’t necessarily mean Oregon will be a loser overall. This is a measuring stick; a learning experience. OSU played against the best, and battled well. Oregon got blown out by the best, USC, and can show it has the chops to hang toe-to-toe with anyone if this stays close … or if it’s a Duck win. As always, the Holiday Bowl will make as much noise as any non-BCS bowl.
Players to watch: Both teams have devastating running games thanks to tremendous backs, but it’s the quarterbacks who make the good attacks special. Oklahoma State junior Zac Robinson was an afterthought in the whole Bobby Reid debacle of last year, but as it turned out, he became really, really good. While he’s an accurate passer who doesn’t make a slew of big mistakes, it’s his mobility that sets him apart. His rushing numbers are nice, with 1,499 career yards and 17 scores, but more importantly, it’s his ability to make plays on the move when there’s nothing there. The offensive line is great as is in pass protection, and with a smart, tough quarterback who can move like Robinson, the excellent receivers are able to run deeper patterns.
Oregon sophomore Jeremiah Masoli was thrown to the wolves early on, getting his feet wet from the start, and then he had to take over the full-time gig once injuries decimated the rest of the Duck quarterbacks. While he has been wildly inconsistent throwing the ball, there have only been four picks with three coming in two of the losses. He ran for 612 yards and seven scores with 170 yards against UCLA and three rushing touchdowns against Arizona, however, the offense becomes special when he’s throwing well. Over the last two games, when Oregon hung 120 points on Arizona and Oregon State, Masoli completed 32-of-43 passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Leading the way for the respective offenses are two of the nation’s best all-around blockers and two players on ever NFL scouts’ radar: Oregon’s Max Unger and Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung. The 6-5, 300-pound Unger has been one of the Pac 10’s premier centers for the last four years with quick feet and the versatility and talent to potentially play tackle at the next level. The quarterback up front, he was one of the steadying forces when the quarterback problems hit early on.
Okung stepped in as a true freshman and grew into a brick wall of a pass protector. An athletic 6-5 and 300 pounds, he can play either tackle position, is great on the move, and he might have just scratched the surface on what he can do; he has room to get bigger and stronger. If he wants to leave early, he might be one of the top five tackles taken. This will be a showcase game for him whenever he matches up on Nick Reed, a First-Team All-Pac 10 selection after making 12 sacks and 50 tackles.

Oregon will win if... the secondary plays night-and-day better than it did throughout the season. It’s not like Oregon played in the Big 12 South, yet its secondary struggled way too much against mediocre passing games. Granted, some offenses needed to throw to try to keep up the pace, or try to get back in games, but for the most part the secondary was a disappointment. Oklahoma State’s bread is buttered with its running game, but the offense puts teams away once all-star WR Dez Bryant starts making big plays. Bryant will require the constant attention of at least one safety, which should open things up for Brandon Pettigrew over the middle. If the secondary can handle Bryant and the linebackers only have to focus on the OSU ground game, allowing a safety to deal with Pettitgrew on a regular basis.
Oklahoma State will win if
... it makes Masoli run and takes away the Duck running backs. The Cowboys can live with Masoli running for over 100 yards, but they’ll have problems if Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount start rumbling. Sam Bradford was fantastic against OSU, but it was the running of DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown that put the game away for Oklahoma. Texas struggled on the ground, but it had Colt McCoy to scramble when needed to go along with his 391 passing yards and two scores. Masoli isn’t going to throw like McCoy. Oklahoma State will get its yards and its points, but the defense isn’t going to get into the backfield on a regular basis. Instead, the linebackers will sit back and wait for Johnson and Blount to come to them.
What will happen: Dez Bryant. Oregon will get its yards on the ground, and Masoli will have his moments through the air, but Oklahoma State will maintain its balance throughout. It’ll be a fun battle with plenty of big plays with the Cowboys coming up with a few more on both sides of the ball. Be shocked if this isn’t a mega-watt shootout.

Line: Oklahoma State -3 ... CFN Prediction: Oklahoma State 45 … Oregon 40      

2008 Holiday Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More