Valero Alamo Bowl: Oregon Ducks vs. TCU Horned Frogs
Date: Jan. 2, 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
Location: San Antonio, Texas | Alamodome
Best moment: Mid-November, when the offense finally began taking shape. The Ducks knocked off two top-25 opponents in back-to-back weeks (No. 7 Stanford and No. 24 USC). The Stanford win got Oregon back into the rankings and the USC smackdown helped the Ducks crack the top 20. The most important part of those wins though: For the first time all season the Ducks had the offense firing on all cylinders with a healthy Vernon Adams Jr., Darren Carrington back from suspension and its run game hitting with several different players.
Lowest moment: Eastern Washington linebacker John Kreifels delivers a late hit on Adams in the season opener, causing Adams to leave the game early. It was on that hit that Adams broke his finger, an injury that lingered and caused him to miss a good deal of time with the team. Had Adams not broken his finger, the offense would’ve had time to gel much faster and there’s a decent chance the Ducks could’ve had a much different outcome to the season.
Key player: Adams. With a healthy Adams this offense is a force to be reckoned with, a dynamic nightmare for defensive coordinators. He is the key that makes the Oregon offense go. He finished the regular season with the 18th-best adjusted QBR in the nation. Consider that a significant portion of his game time was spent with a broken finger and that’s all the more impressive.
Motivation level: High. The Ducks missed the Pac-12 title game and considering how well they’re playing (minus that head-scratching, confusing second-half defensive performance against Oregon State) few players in that camp doubt that the result in the title game against USC -- if they were playing -- would be any different than their win over the Trojans a few weeks ago. There’s certainly a chip on their shoulders, and the Horned Frogs are facing an angry team that believes it had the talent to be back in the playoff this season.
-- Chantel Jennings
TCU Horned Frogs
Best moment: The Horned Frogs had Baylor circled on their calendar since falling 61-58 last year, which ultimately kept 12-1 TCU out of the playoff. In a Fort Worth monsoon, the Horned Frogs took Baylor to overtime, then won it on Trevone Boykin's TD pass to KaVontae Turpin and Ty Summers' fourth-down stop of Baylor running back Devin Chafin.
Lowest moment: A slew of injuries finally caught up with TCU late in the season. With stars Josh Doctson (wrist) and Boykin (ankle) joining the injury barrage, the Horned Frogs nearly fell at home to winless Kansas, which caused TCU to drop three more spots in the playoff rankings a week after getting routed at Oklahoma State.
Key player: Before the loss in Stillwater, Boykin was running neck-and-neck with LSU running back Leonard Fournette in Heisman straw polls. When healthy, he’s as prolific as any player in the country.
Motivational level: This was a team that had serious playoff aspirations before the season. So will they come out motivated? Gary Patterson did a great job keeping this team together for the late push. So there’s no reason why TCU won’t play well in its bowl game, too, especially considering it will be Boykin’s and possibly Doctson’s (if he can come back from the wrist injury) swan song.
-- Jake Trotter