- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
Valero Alamo Bowl
No. 13 Oregon State (9-3, 6-3) vs. No. 23 Texas (8-4, 5-4)
Where: San Antonio
When: Saturday, Dec. 29, 6:45 ET
Pivotal matchup: Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton vs. Texas secondary
Wheaton is Oregon State's all-time leading receiver and has been one of the top weapons in the Pac-12 in 2012. He's second only to USC' Marqise Lee in receptions, receiving yards, 20-yard catches and touchdowns.
Wheaton, who has 11 touchdowns, has the ability to stretch the field and make big plays for an offense that has thrown the ball more than 54 percent of the time.
Now Texas does have talent in the secondary including potential first round draft pick Kenny Vaccaro as well as future NFL player Quandre Diggs. But the Longhorns have shown a penchant for giving up the big pass play. Kansas State used a 55-yard pass to pull away from Texas in the second half.
But overall the Longhorns pass defense has been its strong suit as it ranked second in Big 12 play in touchdowns allowed (15), third in yards allowed (213.5 per game) and 15-yard completions (56) and fourth in opponent's completion percentage (59.9). Although given that this is the worst defense in Texas history that night not be saying all that much.
Up-and-comers to watch:
Texas running back Johnathan Gray has been the main focus of the Texas running attack. The freshman led Texas in rushing in the regular season with 683 yards and has piled up more than 110 yards more than any other freshman in the Big 12. Texas also will use Gray in the screen game where he has proven the ability to ice up large chunks of yardage. He has six receptions for 107 yards in the last four games.
Oregon State running back Storm Woods is not a prolific rusher but the Beavers are not a prolific rushing offense. Still, the freshman did have a breakout game against Arizona, rushing for 169 yards and has shown the ability to exploit bad rush defenses. Texas's rush defense is 100th in FBS allowing 199.58 yards per game. Woods also has proven the ability to get tough yards as he had 95 rushing yards in the Beavers' three-point loss to Stanford. The Cardinal had the No. 3 rush defense in FBS allowing just 88 yards per game.
Recruits to impress
Andrew Billings (Waco, Texas/Waco) has long been on Texas' wish list but has been reluctant to give an answer to the Longhorns. The offense lineman continues to waffle between Texas, Baylor and TCU. Baylor has picked up its recruiting lately and is on an upswing after finishing the regular season with four wins. TCU beat Texas for the first time in Austin since 1967. Texas finished the season with two straight losses and has not solid momentum on the recruiting trail in weeks. So a convincing win could help sway Billings or assuage any fears he has about the direction of the program.
Tatum Taylor (Seattle/O'Dea) is coveted for among several Pacific Northwest schools for his speed and if the beavers were able to turn his head it might help bolster a passing attack that is losing all-time leading receiver Markus Wheaton. Taylor just took a visit to Corvallis so the Beavers are fresh in his mind. The issue is Oregon State is fighting against the wide-open passing attack of Washington State. And WSU coach Mike Leach has proven he is capable of getting receivers plenty of balls and looks from the pros. If the Beavers can knock off a name program like Texas it could bode well for their chances to land Taylor.