December 24, 2013: Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl
Oregon State (6-6) vs. Boise State (8-4)
5:00 pm PT. TV: ESPN
First things first. It's Christmas Eve. So an early Merry Christmas to all. Or as they say in Hawai'i:
Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say for the Oregon State Beavers and the Boise State Broncos, as they will square off in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.
Boise State comes into the bowl game having lost its coach, Chris Petersen, to the Washington Huskies. Bryan Harsin, a former BSU offensive coordinator who was Arkansas State's head coach this season, will be Boise State's new coach. But for the bowl game, former Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory will lead the Broncos as interim coach. According to our friends at Building The Dam, the fact that Petersen is no longer in charge of the Broncos won't affect the Beavers' approach to this game.
Expecting that even without Peterson, the Broncos will run the same offense, and given that the acting coach is linebackers coach Bob Gregory, its unlikely the defense will change, Oregon St. really isn't doing anything differently in preparation, except for adjustments due to their own personnel changes.
As mentioned, the defense is adjusting to the absence of Alexander, but the good news is Cummings has been cleared to play again, so he's been getting back into the swing of the offense, and Hamlett's knee is apparently better with some rest. The offense should be in its best shape of the season, and better than its been since it was clicking well mid-season in road romps over Washington St. and California.
On the Boise State side, there is some intrigue at the quarterback position. Senior starter Joe Southwick suffered a broken ankle in October and missed four games, returning to play in the Broncos' regular season finale. Backup Grant Hedrick played well in Southwick's absence. Southwick and Hedrick shared time at quarterback in the season finale. But now it is Hedrick's job alone in the bowl game. Why? Coach Gregory sent Southwick home for allegedly urinating off a hotel balcony (which Southwick denies). Mountain West Connection downplays the absence of Southwick in its preview of the Boise State offense:
The loss of Southwick is serious but not necessarily fatal. Hedrick has completed 68.2% of his passes and tossed 15 TD's with only 5 interceptions in 198 attempts. His downside is that he is 3-2 in games as the starter and struggled at times with Boise State's version of the up-tempo, quick-strike offense.
If Hedrick plays smart football, Oregon State will be vulnerable. Their defense is ranked #95 in the nation and gave up an average of 428 yards per game during the season. Those yards were lost about equally on the ground and through the air. The Boise State coaches will surely try to exploit both areas. Hedrick's passes will seek out WR's Matt Miller, 6-3, 218 lbs, and maybe Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 158 lbs, who are his favorite aerial targets. Williams-Rhodes, however, is still recovering from ankle surgery and is a game-time decision to play. Miller on the other hand, will be giving it his all as he only needs 66 more yards to go over 1,000 for the year. RB Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 215 lbs, will be Hedrick's main carrier out of the backfield and you can expect Ajayi to have a good day squeezing through the Beaver D-line. He is second in the MW with the most yards (1,328 rushing yards averaging 5.9 yards per carry), and second in the conference in rushing touchdowns (17).
Pac-12 vs. Mountain West on Christmas Eve. This is your open thread. If you're spending Christmas Eve watching this one, talk about it here. I won't judge you.