The 2011 Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl pits the Texas Longhorns against the California Golden Bears.
Here’s a look at the impact players for Texas and reasons why the Longhorns may go back to Austin with a win. Check out a breakdown for Cal here.
The Holiday Bowl is Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 5 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN3.com.
Name: Texas Longhorns
Conference: Big 12
2011 Record: 7-5
Head Coach: Mack Brown, 14th season
Holiday Bowl Appearances: 5th
Offensive Player to Watch: Malcolm Brown, running back
When healthy, Brown is the main option for Texas’ very productive running game. Brown was hampered with a turf toe injury at the end of the season, but most believe that the freshman will be ready for Wednesday’s bowl game.
Brown leads the Longhorns with 707 rushing yards and led the team in rushing years in seven of the nine games he’s played in this year.
He’s had three 100-yard rushing games and if it wasn’t for that turf toe injury, would have probably been Texas’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Jamaal Charles.
At 6-feet tall and weighing around 215 pounds, Brown is a powerful back who can burst through the hole and pick up the tough yards inside.
Defensive Player to Watch: Carrington Byndom, cornerback
Cal’s most explosive weapon on offense is wide receiver Keenan Allen. Texas’ probably has one of the most consistent defensive backs in the country in Byndom, who will probably play Allen one-on-one several times Wednesday. Physical and fast, Byndom may have all the tools to stay with Allen and harass him.
Byndom is fifth in the nation in passes defended with 17 on the year. The 6-foot sophomore also has two interceptions, one of those he returned for a touchdown.
Byndom’s ability to play receivers one-on-one can allow the Longhorns to bring extra pressure on quarterback Zach Maynard. And extra pressure on Maynard will not be a good thing for Cal.
Three Reasons Why Texas Will Win and Lose
Why Texas Will Win
1) Running attack: The numbers are gaudy. Texas finished the season ranked third in the Big 12 in rushing yards. At one time, the Longhorns were ranked first. Most impressive were their 457-yard outburst against Kansas and their 451-yard performance against Texas Tech on back-to-back weeks in the season.
Texasaverages about 210.4 rushing yards per game, good enough for 19th in the nation heading into the bowl season.
And get this: the Longhorns’ leading rusher—freshman Malcolm Brown—has just 707 rushing yards this season. Brown missed the final stanza of the year with a turf toe injury, but should be back for Wednesday’s game. Texas does, however, have a large stable of running backs. Seven different Texas players—five of them running backs—have recorded games of 100 yards rushing or more this season.
2) Defense, defense, defense: Fast, physical, disruptive and young—Texas has the potential to have one of the best defenses in the country for a very long time.
The Longhorns’ defense had seven players named to the All-Big 12 first or second team. Two more were given honorable mentions.
Texasgave up just 315.2 yards of offense per game this year, ranking first in the Big 12 and 14th in the country. They have not allowed opponents to score a single point in 16 quarters this year.
The Longhorns match up well with any team, with the ability to go from man to zone schemes effortlessly. Their young secondary allows the defense to put pressure on the quarterback. Texas doesn’t have many sacks, but their pass rushers—especially Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor—are a disruptive presence.
The Texas defense did just get burned by Robert Griffin III in its loss to Baylor, so look for them to be extra motivated to stop Cal.
3) It’s Texas: This may be giving Mack Brown a little too much credit, but his teams are usually prepared to play in bowl games because of all that extra time that he and his coaches have to get their kids ready. Brown is 8-4 in bowl games in his career at Texas. Its only loss in its last six bowl games was a BCS championship game loss to Alabama in 2009.
Fifteen practice days is a lot for Brown and his staff. The Longhorns will be ready.
Why Texas Will Lose
1) Who is the quarterback?: Three different quarterbacks have started for Texas this year. Garrett Gilbert—the starter for the season-opener against Rice—transferred after being injured.
That left true freshman David Ash and sophomore Case McCoy to split time under center. Both have numbers that aren’t terribly impressive (McCoy has 1,045 passing yards and seven touchdowns; Ash has 926 passing yards and three touchdowns), but both haven’t really been asked to win games for Texas.
And that might be the problem. Cal’s defense is one of the best in the nation against the run. If the Longhorns can’t find a rhythm with their running game, then it will be up to either Ash or McCoy to lead Texas to victory.
The Longhorns have had one 300-yard passing game all year, and that came in the regular season finale loss to Baylor. McCoy had 356 yards passing, completed 61.5 percent of his attempts but threw four interceptions.
2) Injuries: This has to affect its running game. Texas’ top rushers—Malcolm Brown (turf toe), Joe Bergeron (hamstring) and Fozzy Whitaker (torn ligaments in the right knee) have all missed or been hampered during the final three weeks of the season with injuries. Whitaker’s season is done, as he has torn his ACL and MCL in his right knee.
Brown and Bergeron should be healthy for Wednesday’s game, but haven’t been ruled out of missing it yet.
If Brown or Bergeron can’t go, Texas will have to go deep into its stable of running backs. It can do it (as noted above), but again, Cal has one of the best rush defenses in the country.
3) Turnovers: Texas ranks 90th in the nation in turnover margin. It has just 21 takeaways but has 26 giveaways. Turnovers don’t usually equal wins. In the Longhorns’ five losses this year, they committed 15 turnovers. The defense came up with just two takeaways. That isn’t a formula for winning.
Interesting non-sporting fact: Texas and Texas A&M both proclaim to be the flagship institution of the state of Texas’ higher education system.
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