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Valero Alamo Bowl 2013 Preview: Oregon Ducks vs. Texas Longhorns

This one is full of storylines for ESPN to talk about while the game is being played. I can barely contain my excitement

Jonathan Ferrey

Valero Alamo Bowl, Monday, 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Suggested slogan: The best time you'll ever have in the worst sports venue in America

The teams: Oregon Ducks vs. Texas Longhorns

How Oregon got here: Against all reasonable post-season expectations. The Ducks came into 2013 as the favorites to win the Pac-12 after four straight years of playing in a BCS bowl. The eight-game winning streak to start the season, which featured Oregon's usual scorched-earth style of blowouts, seemed to prove that any questions about Chip Kelly leaving had been answered. Then the Ducks lost two of their last four games, including a 26-point blowout on the road against an Arizona team that would finish 7-5, to drop out of the Pac-12 championship picture and out of the BCS altogether. Had Oregon defeated Arizona, it would have won the Pac-12 North and faced Arizona State in the conference title game, instead of Stanford. You'll hear the usual about Oregon this year -- stellar offense, average defense -- but that's really only half true. The offense is superb, cranking out 573 yards a game and breaking forty points in nine games this year, but the defense is underrated by people who look at it on a per-game basis. Yes, Oregon gives up a fair amount of rushing yardage, because teams get more plays against Oregon's fast-paced offense than against other teams; the Ducks held opponents to a solid 3.8 yards per carry this year. (That means they give up marginally less on a per-carry basis than UCF, but the Knights rank 13th in rushing defense while Oregon ranks 65th. On a per-play basis, Oregon is 34th and UCF is 38th.) And the passing efficiency defense, which adjusts for the number of passes thrown, is ranked 13th in the FBS. Oregon's offense is just as good as you think it is, and the defense is probably a bit better.

How Texas got here: How long have you got? After the expected easy win against New Mexico, the Longhorns' defense got shredded by BYU and Ole Miss, which turned Mack Brown's seat thermonuclear. The ten-point win against Kansas State and one-point victory at Iowa State didn't help matters much. Then, Texas walloped Oklahoma 36-20 in a game that wasn't really that close, followed by a string of wins against the dregs of the Big 12 that only set up the inevitable fall, a 38-13 drubbing against Oklahoma State in Austin. After Texas Tech became the third bowl team to lose to Texas this season, the Longhorns went to Baylor and lost 30-10. All of this stirred up rumors that Mack Brown was going to retire and be replaced by Nick Saban, then reports that Brown was not going to retire at all, then confirmation that Brown was going to retire but be replaced by someone who is not Nick Saban. That process is still ongoing. When Texas was actually playing football and not turning into a bad day-time soap opera, the offense was average and the defense really was mediocre at best, allowing 402.1 yards per game. And while yards per play again tells a slightly different story, it wasn't that much different. And even some of Texas' wins weren't that impressive, from the narrow escape against Iowa State to the overtime win at West Virginia, one of a long list of contenders this year for worst team in the Big 12.

College football fans care because: Both of these teams are now marquee names in the sport, even if Texas' brand is a little tarnished right now. Plus, Austin's reaction to a possible rout should be visible from outer space.

SEC fans care because: The two conferences that seem to alternate years competing with the SEC for best conference face off.

Bottom line: It's dangerous to pick any game with this much pathos in it. Brown's retirement is a possible rallying cry for players, and no one could really blame Oregon for being disappointed to end up in the Alamodome after a 10-2 season. Plus, the location makes it a virtual home game for Texas, even if the Longhorns' fan base is also probably not going to be terribly excited about this one. In a normal year, this is a blowout; Texas is not a very good team and Oregon is. But this isn't a normal year, so we'll say the Longhorns put up a valiant fight but fall short in the end. Oregon 37, Texas 30

Line: Oregon by 14.5