It's game day for the Alamo Bowl between the Texas Longhorns and the Oregon Ducks, so here's the second installment of the Q&A with Addicted To Quack's David Piper.
1. The big news on Friday from the Ducks side was the retirement announcement from defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who has been at Oregon since 1999, in addition to other stints there. Do you see that having an impact on the game, what's Aliotti's legacy at Oregon, and was this something that was expected or did it come out of nowhere?
Rumors have been rumbling for a few weeks over Aliotti's retirement, so this isn't a complete shock. Before Chip Kelly took over, Aliotti was a topic of controversy among Duck fans as the defense never seemed to match the offensive firepower in the program.
When Kelly took over, the defense became more aggressive, and matched the elite level of the offense. In hindsight, I think Aliotti will be remembered far more for his last five years, as defensive coordinator at Oregon during the glory years. I don't see it having a huge impact on the game. Aliotti won't "mail it in" knowing it's his last stint. He's not wired that way.
2. You mentioned that there is concern among Oregon fans about the run defense heading into this game and there's no question from the Texas standpoint that it's going to be an emphasis, as it has been for some time. Where are the breakdowns happening the Oregon run game? Is the defensive line getting blown off the ball or are the linebackers having trouble getting to the football? A combination of both?
A combination of both, really. The defensive line hasn't controlled the line of scrimmage at all, and can be had by a dominant offensive line. It's not that the linebackers have trouble getting to the ball, as much as they're not very good at tackling.
3. S&P+ has Oregon nearly as vulnerable against the pass as against the run. Is there a weak point Texas should try to exploit there? Conversely, is there a player that the Horns should be sure to avoid?
It's an aggressive secondary, so they are going to give up some big plays. But they also get a ton of interceptions. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is one of the best cover corners in the nation, and would be a first round pick if he came out this year, and Terrance Mitchell is no slouch on the other end.
Both safeties are seniors and, while not stars, are both solid. As I said, there have been some big plays due to the aggressiveness of the unit, but this is an extremely solid secondary. Of course you'll want to throw to keep the defense honest, but your game plan should be predicated on running the football up the gut.
4. Nearly half of the team's interceptions came in games against Virginia (three) and Washington State (four). Is there any reason the team has been so feast or famine in that regard?
If you've ever seen Connor Halliday play, you know why Oregon had a lot of interceptions against WSU. When teams threw the ball a lot, Oregon picked them off. Toward the end of the season, when teams realized the Oregon run defense was Swiss cheese, they had no reason to run the ball a lot.
5. What should Texas fans expect from the Oregon special teams?
The return units are very solid, and a threat to take it to the house on every return. Coverage is spotty. Punting is average. Oregon hasn't been able to kick a field goal for four years.
6. How do you see this game playing out? And I'm not big on predictions myself, but if you want to give yours, this would be the time for it.
I'm not big on predictions, either. I think Oregon should win, but bowl games are funny and there are a lot of variables.