Friday, December 13, 2002
ABC's analysts breakdown Oregon-Colorado
ABC Sports Online
In preparation for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day between Colorado and Oregon (ABC, 5 p.m. ET), ABC's analysts broke down what each team needs to do in order to win.
ABC studio analyst
Whether you like it or not, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl has turned into a potential national championship game. With the way the polls worked out, if Miami loses to Nebraska, the Associated Press might turn to the Fiesta Bowl winner in order to pick its top team.
This would be especially true is the winner is Oregon.
For Oregon to win this game, the Ducks have to find some way to slow down a powerful Colorado running game. Based on what I have seen this year, I don't think the Ducks' front seven alone can accomplish this feat. They need to get some safety support within the box to slow down the Buffaloes. In doing this, Oregon cannot overlook All-American tight end Daniel Graham, who will try to slip open on play-action passes.
Regardless of what Oregon does, I would still expect Colorado to score somewhere in the mid-30 range anyway.
However, the other half of Oregon's strategy will have to come from its offense. By this, I mean the Ducks must match the Buffaloes point for point. Oregon also has a strong running game. And although it needs to be effective, the Ducks will need to do most of their damage through the air. It seems that every time these Pac-10 teams, with their West Coast offenses, match up in a bowl with a Midwestern team, it's always the forward pass that's most effective. It's almost as if Big 12 and Big Ten teams don't see enough of this style of play, and just can't handle it. So look for Joey Harrington to hook up with Keenan Howry and Justin Peelle to match Colorado touchdown for touchdown.
Colorado is physical enough on defense to handle Oregon up front, so Oregon will need to negate this by throwing first and running second. For Colorado to win, the Buffs must stop the Oregon passing attack.
In the final analysis, if the Buffaloes run the ball the way I think they will and the Ducks pass the way I think they will, we should be looking at a tight finish. Something like 43-41. And we all have to remember that if this is a close game in the fourth quarter, there's not a better two-minute offense quarterback in the country than Harrington.
|Chris Brown and the Buffaloes hope to run on Oregon like it did Texas and Nebraska.|
The Pac-10 has to prove it can play a physical Big 12 team. That is the No. 1 thing for this game. The Oregon Ducks have to play mano-a-mano football. If they do, they have a chance. But if Colorado establishes a physical presence, the Ducks could have Brett Favre playing quarterback, and they would be in for a tough day. Major Applewhite showed that in the Big 12 Championship Game. This is similar to when the Big Ten played the Pac-10. Michigan and Ohio State playing their physical games against the Pac-10's finesse game. It's an old Rose Bowl game being played in Tempe.
In order to beat Colorado, Oregon needs to score at least 28 points. Onterrio Smith and Maurice Morris must rush for a combined 150 yards, at least, to have a chance. They give the Ducks big-play capability with long runs.
Colorado comes into the game the hottest team in the nation, but it is never easy to sustain that high level of play, especially after a month-long layoff. However, if the Buffaloes do win the Fiesta Bowl and Nebraska wins the Rose bowl, I believe we will have split national champions with the media folks voting for Colorado in the AP poll and Nebraska being coronated the automatic BCS championship. It would mark the first time in history that two teams in the same conference shared the national championship.
As far as Oregon is concerned, there is some similarity here to Florida State a year ago. Head coach Mike Bellotti heads to Tempe with a lame-duck offensive coordinator, Jeff Tedford, who has been hired as the head coach at California. If you ask Seminole coach Bobby Bowden, and he was honest, he would tell you that Mark Richt should have concentrated solely on his new job at Georgia and turned the Seminoles' offensive responsibilities against Oklahoma over to another assistant.
But unlike Richt, Tedford is not working with a Heisman Trophy winner. Tedford's quarterback, Joey Harrington, lost to Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch, and thus has been spared the nightly rubber chicken circuit. Chris Weinke did not play well last year for Florida State in the Orange Bowl, and a lot of insiders believe he was distracted by winning the Heisman Trophy. In fact, Heisman Trophy winners have never been huge successes in bowl games after they won the trophy.
|Joey Harrington has been preparing with a lameduck offensive coordinator.|
They are calling it "The Other National Championship" game, and depending on what happens two days later in Pasadena, they could be right. Miami and Florida played Jan. 2, 2001 in a similar game and then watched Oklahoma end any speculation surrounding the BCS.
Team vs. Team, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is fascinating. Joe College, a.k.a. Joey Harrington, returns to Sun Devil Stadium, where last year he earned the nickname "The General" after taking the Ducks from 14 points down with 3:21 left to a 56-55 double overtime win over Arizona State.
The Buffs come to Tempe with a Big 12 title and a huge chip on their shoulders. Fans in Boulder don't buy into the two-loss excuse for their rejection by the Rose Bowl. More importantly, they bring a rushing threat that makes Ralphie the Buffalo look slow.
Their last two games were a "coming-out party" for sophomore Chris Brown, and he's third on CU's depth chart behind fellow sophomore Bobby "I'm Your Puppet" Purify and Cortlen "Take It To The House" Johnson. All that offensive coordinator Shawn Watson needs to do is figure out a game plan that gets each of these guys enough touches to keep them all happy.
Harrington has a couple of horses in his backfield as well. Maurice Morris needs only 40 yards to join Onterrio Smith in the 1,000-yard club. Wideout Keenan Howry may have average-sized hands, but he can focus on a ball right from Harrington's release to his clutch. He's done that 49 times for 649 yards and eight TDs.