Miller: 2020 Pac-12 Alamo and Fiesta Bowl Previews

Victories in both bowls could help improve the perception of the Conference

Posted on December 28, 2020

Dane Miller
  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

Bucking the trend of Pac-12 programs to decline bowl invitations or opt out, the No. 25 Oregon Ducks and Colorado Buffaloes carry the Conference’s torch in this year’s postseason.


 

The Alamo Bowl and Fiesta Bowl are historic and respected games that present opportunities for the Pac-12 to garner some respect back East.

The matchups pit the Conference of Champions against the Big 12, a Great Plains league that has arguably underperformed in the Playoff Era, yet remains a more respected conference in the eyes of the national media.

Victories against both the Longhorns and Cyclones wouldn’t turn things around for the Pac-12, but it would force some to rethink their preconceived image of the league.

At the least, the upset wins would shape the discussion and perception of the Conference heading into 2021.


Alamo Bowl
Colorado running back Jarek Broussard | cubuffs.com

No. 20 Texas vs. Colorado
Tuesday, December 29th
6:00 pm PT, ESPN

For the second time in the last four years, the Buffs make the trip to San Antonio to face a Big 12 opponent. But the pep rallies along the famous river walk will have to wait until next time, with COVID restrictions canceling many of the pre-game festivities.


 

However, 11,000 fans will be allowed in the Alamodome in what figures to be a Texas-heavy crowd.

The Longhorns are led under center by senior Sam Ehlinger who has thrown 25 touchdowns to just five interceptions on the season. In the backfield, true freshman Bijan Robinson has taken over as the primary back, winning the role from Roschon Johnson midway through the year.

Ehlinger

The two backs have combined for 906 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns, while Ehlinger has tacked on 382 and eight touchdowns. The CU defense will have its hands full with the Texas ground game, but stopping Ehlinger through the air is arguably the key to victory.

The Longhorns average 41.3 points per game and Ehlinger’s 33 total touchdowns is the main reason why.

But with the loss of linebacker Nate Landman, the Buffs must find a way to replace his production on the second level. And if it comes down to a shootout, Jarek Broussard and Sam Noyer may have to gash the UT defense on the ground to keep the game within reach.

Fortunately, Big 12 defenses aren’t known for their prowess, and the Longhorns have given up 50 points or more twice this season.

Still, Colorado may need to score on its opening possession of each half to pull off the upset in San Antonio.


Fiesta Bowl
Oregon running back Travis Dye | Sean Meagher/oregonlive.com

No. 10 Iowa State v. No. 25 Oregon
Saturday, January 2nd
1:00pm PT, ESPN

Defend Pac-12 territory.

That’s the task for the No. 25 Oregon Ducks in the suburbs of Phoenix on the first Saturday of 2021.

In a state rich with talent, defending the Conference’s brand against a team from Ames, Iowa, is a must. The Ducks already recruit well in the Grand Canyon State, but this game has far deeper implications than a single team’s recruiting.

In many ways, the reputation of the Pac-12 is on the line against the Cyclones. And there’s no reason to think UO can’t beat Iowa State.


 

This is Oregon Football, after all.

Fresh off their Rose Bowl victory last year, Mario Cristobal’s squad takes on an ISU program that matches up evenly with the Ducks. At least on paper.

Purdy

Junior and Arizona native Brock Purdy leads the Cyclones with 235.8 yards passing per game and 18 touchdowns. But his eight interceptions opens the door for big plays from the Oregon secondary.

On the ground, sophomore Breece Hall averages 130.5 yards per game and has put up an astounding 21 total touchdowns, while Purdy has 343 yards to his name and four touchdowns.

And while the two-headed monster of Purdy and Hall comprises nearly the entire Iowa State offense, the UO defense must be wary of wide receivers Xavier Hutchinson and Charlie Kolar. The two wideouts have combined for 99 catches, 1,264 yards, and 10 touchdowns.

To win the Fiesta Bowl, the Oregon defense must contain those weapons.

But even that won’t be enough if the Duck offense doesn’t play better than it did in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Tyler Shough, or perhaps Anthony Brown, must take care of the ball and keep ISU’s defense honest with effective pulls and heady scrambles.

In the end, if the Ducks win the turnover battle and exceed their average on the ground, Cristobal should find himself with back-to-back New Year’s Six bowl victories.







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