Fiesta Bowl Preview
Glendale, AZ - Texas coach Mack Brown thinks his team should be playing for the national championship, but he's done talking about the BCS system.
After all, he has to prepare for an Ohio State program that's appeared in the last two title games.
The third-ranked Longhorns try to put all the controversy surrounding their non-selection to the BCS championship game behind them when they take on No. 10 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5 in Glendale, Ariz.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made Texas –9 point spread favorites for the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Current College Fooball Public Betting Information shows that 70% of more than 12,081 bets for this game have been placed on the Texas -9.
Texas (11-1) looked like it was on its way to earning a spot in the national title game on Nov. 1 when it was the No. 1 team in the nation and led then-No. 6 Texas Tech 33-32 with 1:29 left in the game.
The Red Raiders, though, scored a touchdown with 1 second remaining to hand the Longhorns their only loss, 39-33. Still, Texas felt it was in good shape because it had three victories over ranked teams on its resume, most notably a 45-35 win over then-No. 1 Oklahoma on Oct. 11.
The Longhorns finished in a three-way tie with the Sooners and Red Raiders in the Big 12 South, but were denied a spot in the conference title game because Oklahoma won the tiebreaker with a higher BCS ranking - even with its loss to Texas.
The Sooners went on to defeat Missouri in the Big 12 championship game, earning a chance to face Florida for the national title on Jan. 8 in Miami.
"It's time for us to put behind us all the BCS stuff and move forward and look forward to a great game," Brown said. "The BCS doesn't satisfy everybody. We've been on the positive side of it a few times. We've been on the negative side a few times."
The Longhorns were on the positive side after the 2005 season, when they beat Southern California 41-38 in the Rose Bowl to win the national championship. Vince Young had a dominating performance in that game for Texas, which is now led by another outstanding quarterback.
Heisman Trophy finalist Colt McCoy just finished one of the best regular seasons in Texas history, setting school records with 3,445 yards and 32 TDs to go along with an NCAA-record 77.6 percent completion rate. He also leads the Longhorns with 576 rushing yards and is second on the team with 10 rushing touchdowns.
"He's been the heart of our offense," Brown said. "He means to this team what Vince Young meant to the one in 2005. ... I can't imagine a player that means more to his team than Colt does to ours."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is well aware of what McCoy and the Longhorns can do on the field.
"They've just been very steady, very consistent," said Tressel, whose team finished 10-2 and earned a share of its fourth straight Big Ten title. "They were a top, top team this year and that's what we're going to face."
The Buckeyes are used to facing top teams in a BCS game. They'll be playing in a BCS bowl for the seventh time in the 11-year history of the system, tying USC and Oklahoma for the most appearances.
Ohio State, though, doesn't have fond memories of its last two BCS games.
The Buckeyes were outplayed in losing the national title game two years in a row, falling 41-14 to Florida following the 2006 season and 38-24 to LSU last season after winning their first four BCS games.
"To be honest, we don't try to think about it too much," star linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We're going to get asked that question over and over and over until you win one of those games."
The Buckeyes were the No. 2 team in the AP preseason poll and had a chance to take over the top spot on Sept. 13, but were outclassed by then-No. 1 USC 35-3.
That defeat led Tressel to make a switch at quarterback, installing true freshman Terrelle Pryor as the starter over senior Todd Boeckman. The move paid off as Pryor led Ohio State to an 8-1 finish, with the only loss coming by a touchdown against Rose Bowl-bound Penn State on Oct. 25.
Pryor completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 1,158 yards and threw 12 TDs and four interceptions over those nine games. He also rushed 99 times for 424 yards and five scores during that span, finishing as the second-leading rusher (553) on the team behind Chris "Beanie" Wells (1,091).
Defensively, both teams finished in the top 20 in the nation in scoring defense, as Ohio State allowed 13.1 points per game and Texas gave up 18.6. The Buckeyes, however, were eighth in total defense, allowing 279.3 yards per game, while the Longhorns ranked 50th (339.9).
Ohio State limited opponents to the sixth-fewest passing yards per game (164.3), but Tressel knows it's going to be a different story against McCoy and the Longhorns, who were 11th in the nation with 299.5 yards in the air.
"They have tremendous execution, they're good at every spot," he said. "I think sometimes statistics are misleading. Our guys will get ready to go and I hope we do a great job against them.
"Ohio State against Texas, I don't know, it doesn't get much better than that."
This is just the third all-time meeting between the Buckeyes and Longhorns, but they'll be playing for the third time in four seasons. Young led second-ranked Texas to a 25-22 win at No. 4 Ohio State on Sept. 10, 2005, before the top-ranked Buckeyes returned the favor on Sept. 9, 2006, with a 24-7 road victory over McCoy and No. 2 Texas.
That was just the second game of McCoy's career and one of his only seven losses against a school-record 31 victories.
Texas has played in one Fiesta Bowl, losing to Penn State 38-15 after the 1996 season, while Ohio State will be appearing in the game for the sixth time - fourth since 2003.
The Buckeyes lost 31-19 to the Nittany Lions in their first Fiesta Bowl in 1980 before winning their next four appearances, most recently 34-20 over Notre Dame following the 2005 season.
Fiesta Bowl Public Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
TEXAS is 1-1 against the spread versus OHIO ST since 1992
TEXAS is 1-1 straight up against OHIO ST since 1992
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
OHIO ST is 1-0 against the spread versus TEXAS over the last 3 seasons
OHIO ST is 1-0 straight up against TEXAS over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Fiesta Bowl Key Player Injuries:
[OG] Ben Person is out indefinitely. - Leg - 11/12/08
[OL] Mike Adams expected to miss the rest of the season - Ankle - 10/16/08
[OL] J.B. Shugarts expected to miss the rest of the season - Shoulder - 10
[DE] Lawrence Wilson expected to miss the rest of the season - Knee - 10/1
[CB] Andre Amos expected to miss the rest of the season. - Knee - 10/01/08
[FB] Luke Tiemann is expected to miss the rest of the season. - ACL - 09/2
[TE] Blaine Irby is expected to miss the rest of the season. - Knee - 09/2
[TE] Josh Marshall out indefinitely - Shoulder - 09/01/08
[C] Chris Hall missed last game %27?%27 - Knee - 11/27/08
[C] Buck Burnette has been dismissed from the team. - Dismissed - 11/06/08
[DB] Aaron Williams missed last game %27?%27 - Illness - 11/27/08
[DB] Ishie Oduegwu out indefinitely - Shoulder - 09/01/08
[P] Trevor Gerland expected to miss remainder of the season - Knee - 11/08
[TE] Ian Harris missed last game %27?%27 - Neck - 11/27/08
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Posted: 12/16/08 10:12PM ET