2008 Sun Bowl Preview - Oregon St vs. Pitt
OSU's Jacquizz Rodgers & Pitt's Scott McKillop
OSU's Jacquizz Rodgers & Pitt's Scott McKillop
Posted Dec 29, 2008

Oregon State vs. Pitt - The 2008 Sun Bowl Preview & Prediction

2008 Sun Bowl

Pittsburgh (9-3) vs. Oregon State (8-4)

Dec. 31, 2:00 p.m. ET, CBS

$1.9 million   Location: Sun Bowl, El Paso TX

National Rankings
Oregon State Pitt
Total Offense
26th  418.25 ypg 63rd  356.17 ypg
Total Defense
31st  323.33 ypg 30th  320.83 ypg
Scoring Offense
25th  32.83 ppg 40th  29.33 ppg
Scoring Defense
61st  25 ppg 46th  23 ppg
Run Offense
47th  164.58 ypg 63rd  143.25 ypg
Run Defense
47th  134.75 ypg 35th  127.83 ypg
Pass Offense
26th  253.67 ypg 60th  212.92 ypg
Pass Defense
33rd  188.58 ypg 40th  193 ypg
Turnover Margin
50th  0.17 79th  -0.33
Oregon State
at Stanford L 36-28
at Penn St L 45-14
Hawaii W 45-7
USC W 27-21
at Utah L 31-28
Wash St W 66-13
at Wash W 34-13
Arizona St W 27-25
at UCLA W 34-6
California W 34-21
at Arizona W 19-17
Oregon L 65-38
Bo Green L 27-17
Buffalo W 27-16
Iowa W 21-20
at Syracuse W 34-24
at USF W 26-21
at Navy W 42-21
Rutgers L 54-34
at N D W 36-33 4OT
Louisville W 41-7
at Cincinnati L 28-21
W Virginia W 19-15
at Conn. W 34-10
Position Ratings
relative to each other
OSU 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 3
4 RBs 5
4 Receivers 4
3.5 O Line 2.5
4 D Line 4
4 Linebackers 4
4 Secondary 4
3 Spec Teams 4
4 Coaching 3

By Richard Cirminiello 

As late as the end of November, Pittsburgh and Oregon State were still aiming for a BCS bowl berth before dropping pivotal games and falling out of contention. All things considered, the Sun Bowl, which always seems to create interesting matchups, is not such a bad consolation prize.

The Beavers, in particular, will need to have short memories in order to remain focused on the task at hand. Just a win away from their first Rose Bowl in over four decades, they got trampled by Oregon in the Civil War, 65-38. Those professing that time heals all wounds were not in Corvallis that afternoon. Whether the 2008 season is deemed a success or a disappointment will hinge on how well Oregon State closes. A second straight loss will erase the memory of that stunning September upset of USC and magically improbable run toward Pasadena. A fifth bowl win in-a-row, however, will be a show of resiliency that puts a smiley face on an otherwise difficult situation.

While it took a few years and some tenuous moments, the Panthers are finally enjoying a breakthrough season with Dave Wannstedt on the sidelines. After missing out on the postseason the last three years, this is not your ordinary bowl game for the Panthers. It’ll be a long-awaited celebration for a school that has a chance to win 10 games in a season for the first time in more than a quarter-century. In RB LeSean McCoy and LB Scott McKillop, the program has a McAll-Star on each side of the ball. McCoy has rushed for 1,403 yards and 21 touchdowns, his second consecutive banner year in the Steel City. McKillop is a warrior in run defense, piling up a Big East-best 126 tackles, 16.5 of which were behind the line of scrimmage. Pitt’s last bowl win? Six years ago over Oregon State in the Insight Bowl.    

Players to watch: Some in the Sun Bowl community are hailing this as the return to Texas of Oregon State’s Rodgers brothers. While they’ll physically be in El Paso, neither may be physically able to perform. WR James Rodgers is definitely out with a broken collarbone, while Jacquizz Rodgers is questionable with a strained right shoulder. If Quizz is a scratch, it’ll be up to redshirt freshman Ryan McCants to provide the balance for the offense. It’ll also put more pressure on QB Lyle Moevao, WR Sammie Stroughter, and the rest of the Beaver passing game to make more plays through the air. A playmaker on offense and special teams, Stroughter’s importance mushrooms without the big-play ability of the Rodgers boys. He’ll be tested throughout the game by Aaron Berry, Pittsburgh top cover guy at cornerback.

Pittsburgh better establish McCoy early because it’s not easy throwing on an Oregon State defense that harbors four defensive backs on the All-Pac-10 team. If the Panthers do challenge the Beavers through the air, Bill Stull ought to take a long look for No. 82, true freshman WR Jonathan Baldwin. Don’t be deceived by this year’s modest numbers of 18 catches for 404 yards and three touchdowns. He’s a budding superstar, who creates match up headaches with his 6-6 frame and leaping ability. Given a chance to make plays, Baldwin could have his coming-out party in El Paso. Defensively, Pitt has a bookend along the defensive line to combat Oregon State’s Victor Butler and Slade Norris. Sophomores Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard are high energy, explosive types, who’ve combined for 22.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. Moevao is just 5-11, and prone to having passes batted down by determined rushers, like Romeus and Sheard.     

Pittsburgh will win if... the pass defense doesn’t go AWOL. When the Panthers had problems this season, it was usually because the secondary was getting exposed. In the loss to Bowling Green, the Falcons threw two touchdown passes. In the loss to Rutgers, Mike Teel had a record day. In the loss to Cincinnati, Tony Pike was almost perfect. In fact, Pitt is 7-0 when it yields no more than one touchdown pass. The Beavers are constantly striving for offensive balance. It’s up to Phil Bennett’s defense to make sure they don’t achieve it.      

Oregon State will win if... it keeps McCoy from taking over the game. The Beavers’ overall numbers in run defense are a bit deceiving. Drilling down a little further reveals that this unit was vulnerable in all four of its losses to Stanford, Penn State, Utah, and Oregon. In that game with the Ducks, Oregon State was shredded for 385 yards and three scores on the ground. It has to build a fence around McCoy, forcing Stull to overachieve as a passer. That’s not likely to happen. For the year, Panther quarterbacks have thrown just 10 touchdown passes while getting picked off 13 times.      

What will happen: Even the suggestion that Jacquizz Rodgers won’t be 100% is enough to alter the outlook of the Sun Bowl. Think back to the four games when the freshman wasn’t the focal point of the offense. The Beavers lost to Stanford, Penn State, and Oregon, and managed just 19 points in a narrow escape at Arizona. This is a totally different team when he’s not zigzagging through defenses. Without a healthy Rodgers, Oregon State will have problems moving the ball on the stingy Pittsburgh defense. McCoy will do his part for the Panther offense, grinding out 125 yards and two scores in a meaningful postseason win for the program.        
Line: Oregon State -2.5 ... CFN Prediction: Pittsburgh 24 ... Oregon State 21