Tonight's bowl games

December 30, 2003|By Orlando Sentinel

Tonight's bowl games

Holiday Bowl

Texas (10-2) vs. Washington State (9-3)

Time, TV: 8, ESPN

Line: Texas by 9 1/2

Why you should watch: This annually is one of the best bowls, and despite the point spread, this one should be close.

About Texas: The Longhorns come in on a six-game winning streak, including blowouts of Nebraska and Oklahoma State. They scored at least 40 points in five of those games. Junior TB Cedric Benson (116.1 ypg, 20 TDs) is Texas' key offensive player. LB Derrick Johnson (116 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, four picks) is the defensive leader, and he plays behind a good line.

About Washington State: The Cougars started 7-1 before stumbling a bit in the final month, losing to USC and archrival Washington. The Cougars play good defense (18th overall, at 317.8 ypg) and were especially good against the run (87.5 ypg, eighth in the nation). The running game has struggled. QB Matt Kegel (224.7 ypg, 19 TDs) has played well but can be flustered into mistakes.

The key: Texas will roll if Benson and/or QB Vincent Young has a big game. Washington State's front seven needs to control the line of scrimmage and force Young to the air.

The buzz: Texas' mind-set could be important. Until Kansas State upset Oklahoma, the Longhorns were a BCS lock.

The pick: Texas, 27-21.

Silicon Valley Classic

Fresno State (8-5) vs. UCLA (6-6)

Time: 10:30, ESPN2

Line: UCLA by 3.

Why you should watch: That's a good question.

About Fresno State: The Bulldogs were expected to win the WAC, but they were lackluster on offense and mediocre on defense. The run defense was bad (183.0 ypg), and stopping the run will be the Bulldogs' priority tonight. This is the fifth consecutive bowl for the Bulldogs.

About UCLA: The Bruins started 6-2 and were in the running in the Pac-10. But they finished the regular season with a four-game losing streak. The offense ranks 109th in the nation overall (305.8 ypg) and 113th in rushing (93.9 ypg). Freshman TB Maurice Drew has a ton of talent but hasn't had much room to run. The defense has played well, led by All-America E Dave Ball (16.5 sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss).

The key: UCLA must run effectively to win. Fresno is going to have problems with UCLA's defense, so this one is on Drew and the Bruins' offensive line.

The buzz: Fresno State beat one team with a winning record (Oregon State); the same goes for UCLA (California).

The pick: UCLA, 19-17.

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