(24) Oregon State (8-4) vs. (18) Pittsburgh (9-3)|
Wednesday, December 31st, 2:15 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: A couple of programs that fell just short of winning their
respective conferences collide in El Paso for the 2008 Sun Bowl, as the Oregon
State Beavers take on the Pittsburgh Panthers.
The Beavers' 2008 campaign got off to a rocky start following a league loss at
Stanford (36-28) and a dismal performance at Penn State (45-14) the next
weekend. The team though, would find great success after that poor start,
winning eight of its final 10 games of the regular-season, including a
stunning upset of USC (27-21) that provided a spark for the turnaround in late
September. OSU rode a six-game winning streak into its regular-season finale,
where had a chance to wrap up a share of the Pac-10 title and spot in the BCS
Rose Bowl with a win. Unfortunately, the Beavers were handled by arch rival
Oregon, 65-38, despite playing in front of their home crowd.
"It's natural to be disappointed about losing a game," head coach Mike Riley
said after the crushing loss to Oregon. "We all know the magnitude of the game
just by itself. It's the Civil War. We didn't do well. Those feelings for
everyone are hard, but there's no room for babies in this group."
Still, it has been a great run for the Beavers, who are making their eighth
bowl appearance in the last 10 season. OSU has won each of its last four
postseason games under Riley, including 39-38 besting of Missouri in the 2006
As for Pitt, it too started the 2008 season a bit shaky, dropping a 27-17 home
decision to Bowling Green in its opener. What appeared to be a devastating
blow to the program, actually turned out to be a blessing, as the Panthers
responded by winning five straight and seven of their next eight games. The
success put Pitt in position for a Big East title, but a 28-21 loss to
eventual champion Cincinnati dashed those hopes. The Panthers, though, were
able to overcome that loss with wins in their last two game , giving them
their first nine-win regular-season campaign since 1982.
"A trip to El Paso for this year's Sun Bowl is a tremendous reward for our
football program and university," said coach Dave Wannstedt. "The Sun Bowl has
strong tradition and we are excited to add to its wonderful history this New
This is Pitt's 25th all-time bowl appearance and its first under fourth-year
coach Dave Wannstedt. The Panthers are just 10-14 all-time in the postseason,
including a 35-7 loss to Utah in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.
Pitt and OSU have met only one other time on the gridiron and that Panthers
won that encounter, 38-13, in the 2002 Insight Bowl.
OSU's success on offense this season was due in large part to rookie tailback
Jacquizz Rodgers, who became the first freshman to be honored as the Pac-10
Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 1,263 yards. The
talented back even totaled 11 touchdowns on the ground despite missing the
team's final game of the regular season. Rodgers missed that contest with a
fractured shoulder blade and that injury has him listed as doubtful for this
game. While that is certainly a big blow, OSU does have a good enough passing
attack to compensate for that loss. Lyle Moevao, who missed two games with an
injury of his own, has played well for the Beavers, connecting on 60.5 percent
of his tosses for 2,341 yards. He has passed for 19 scores and run for two
more, while throwing 11 interceptions. Sammie Stroughter is his main target
with 64 catches and 952 receiving yards, and Shane Morales is another solid
option, racking up 664 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns. The Beavers,
though, will be without the services of James Rodgers, who ranks second on the
team with 51 catches. James Rodgers, brother of Jacquizz, suffered a broken
collarbone against Oregon and has been ruled out for this one.
Aside from a couple sub par performances, OSU's defense has been nothing short
of solid this season, holding opponents to just 323.3 total ypg. The unit has
been sound versus both the run (134.8 ypg) and pass (188.6 ypg) and has forced
20 turnovers. Getting to the quarterback has been a real strength of this
unit, which has registered 34 sacks on the season. Slade Norris and Victor
Butler have paired up and given OSU and unmatched pass rush, as they have
combined for 17 sacks and 33.5 TFLs. Greg Laybourn has also enjoyed a terrific
campaign for the Beavers, leading them in tackles (105) as well as
For the Panthers, it all starts with tailback LeSean McCoy, who followed up an
outstanding rookie campaign with an even better showing in 2008. McCoy, who
set a Big East freshman record with 1,328 rushing yards last season, built off
that performance by gaining 1,403 yards on the ground this season. He has a
nose for the end-zone as well, posting 21 rushing touchdowns. McCoy, with his
elusiveness, has also been utilized in the passing game, raking second on the
club with 31 catches. Speaking of the passing attack, quarterback Bill Stull
leads the way with 2,304 yards on a 59.2 percent completion rate. Stull,
though, has only thrown nine touchdowns against the same amount of
interceptions and that could be a concern if OSU shows it can stop the run.
Derek Kinder with just 410 receiving yards is the squad's main target through
Pitt has fared well on defense this season and it holding the opposition to
320.8 total ypg. The unit has been stingy versus both the run (127.8 ypg) and
pass (320.8 ypg) and has recorded 21 takeaways, including 14 interceptions.
The Panthers have also had good success putting pressure on opposing
quarterbacks, as they have posted 28 sacks thus far. Scott McKillop highlights
this unit and he was recently dubbed the Big East Defensive Player of the
Year. After leading the nation in tackles in 2007, McKillop showed that he was
no fluke and has turned in 126 tackles, 16.5 TFLs and four sacks this season.
Greg Romeus is another player that could make a big impact in this game, as he
is one of the team's top pass rushers with 5.5 sacks and 13.5 TFLs to his
It appears that OSU will be shorthanded without the Rodgers brothers in action
and that gives the edge to Pitt. Behind the powerful running of McCoy and
their stingy defense led by McKillop, go with the Panthers over the Beavers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 34, Oregon State 24
12/31 10:46:31 ET