SAN ANTONIO — An Oregon State victory in this afternoon’s Alamo Bowl would go a long way.
For starters, the football program would reassert itself as a prime-time player on the West Coast.
The 15th-ranked Beavers don’t shy away from the topic. They are eager to prove themselves today in the Alamodome against Texas.
Based on rankings, OSU (9-3) enters the game as a slight favorite against the unranked Longhorns (8-4).
Even the oddsmakers have the Beavers with the edge by a point in a game that will be played in the Longhorns’ backyard. Austin is only 90 minutes up the road.
“We always do; every time we walk on the field we try to prove something,” coach Mike Riley said. “It’s a great deal to be playing the University of Texas. They have a great tradition.”
However, the game won’t be easy. Talk among the Longhorns leading up to the game is how Texas, a national power full of four- and five-star athletes, is trying to work its way back into national title contention.
“For us, for the guys on the West Coast, this is like playing USC,” said running backs coach Chris Brasfield, who grew up in San Antonio. “It’s a big game, a big deal. They have a lot of history and tradition with great coaches. It will be a big challenge. Our guys are looking forward to see how we do.”
Texas has been to 50 other bowl games and won four national championships — the last in 2005 — and 32 conference titles.
OSU has never won a national title with appearances in just four top-tier bowl games, and 13 NCAA-sanctioned bowls in total.
“We’ve faced great teams all year,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “This team has that flashy name and has been good for a long time. That heightens our urgency and awareness of who we are playing.”
While the Longhorns are trying to use this game as a springboard to regain their past legacy, the Beavers plan to use this as a steppingstone to get to the top of the Pacific-12 Conference.
Texas coaches and players have talked all week about their disappointing season and they expect change.
“Our process to move forward, we’re about back to where we can compete at the highest level, and we’ll have an older team for the first time, since we made our changes, next year,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “I think we are making tremendous progress. Not all of it is visible, and that’s something that’s very difficult for Texas fans who have seen us be so good.”
The Beavers are after their 10th win of the season. That’s only been done twice in the program’s history — in the 2000 and 2006 seasons.
Dennis Erickson led the Beavers in 2000 and Riley in 2006. Mark Banker, who has been a longtime assistant with Riley, said it would mean a great deal to the program under Riley to get its second 10-win season.
“We are looking for our 10th win this season,” linebacker D.J. Alexander said. “It’s only been done twice before, so it’s big. We are looking forward to this game to see what we can accomplish.”
Two-game losing streaks — to West Virginia and Oklahoma in midseason and Texas Christian and Kansas State at the end — derailed a once-promising campaign for the Longhorns.
It’s common in second-tier bowl games to see a winner that is happy to be there. Texas stumbled into the Alamo Bowl while OSU sees it as a reward for a breakout season.
“There’s so much time between the last game we have to make our own edge,” Texas guard Mason Walters said. “With the focus we’ve had in practice, there’s no need to be concerned. We definitely want to be here.”
OSU lost its last conference game, but the trip to San Antonio represents its top bowl game appearance by a Riley-coached team. It is also the Beavers’ best bowl game since the 2001 Fiesta.
Players look at this game as a treat.
“We realized what we done,” cornerback Rashaad Reynolds said. “This is a big step for Beaver Nation and this program.”
So the scenario is set. The old-time program trying to reclaim past glory vs. the newcomer trying to get to the top.
Both teams need the win. A loss creates for a long offseason.
“It would mean everything for us now,” OSU receiver Markus Wheaton said. “It would be great to finish off the season with a win against a big-name school.”