Posted on December 15, 2022
Four games across the SuperWest are spread out over the day, beginning with the Las Vegas Bowl and ending in Texas with the Frisco Bowl.
Nationally, the Vegas Bowl matchup between Florida and Oregon State will probably carry the headlines. Yet, regionally, the LA Bowl between Fresno State and Washington State takes the cake.
I preview all four games here and the picks of our Senior Writers and Broadcasters appear at the bottom.
Florida v. No. 14 Oregon State
Saturday, December 17
11:30 a.m. PT, ESPN
Gator starting quarterback Anthony Richardson, second-leading receiver Justin Shorter, and starting linebacker Ventrell Miller are among the UF players deciding not to participate.
Their absences arguably make Florida a shell of the team it was during the regular season, but even at full strength, that group struggled to reach .500.
The Beavs, on the other hand, are mostly at full strength. Ben Gulbranson and Damien Martinez lead the charge against the Gators, who finished the year No. 101 in rushing defense.
Jonathan Smith’s offense should have a field day against the porous Florida “D,” gashing the SEC team for chunk plays over the top off play-action while getting anything they want on the ground.
The result should be a time of possession disparity due to long, sustained drives from OSU’s run-heavy scheme.
The Beaver secondary should thrive, too.
UF quarterback Jack Miller III is making the first start of this career and lines up against the top secondary in the Pac-12. The Oregon State defensive backs should generate at least two interceptions and allow their offense to pull away.
The X-Factor is Florida’s rushing offense, which is No. 15 in the nation in rushing yards per game. But that potency on the ground was arguably attributable to Richardson, and Miller doesn’t pose the same running threat.
Look for Oregon State to potentially dominate at Allegiant Stadium and convincingly secure its 10th win of the season.
Washington State v. Fresno State
Saturday, December 17
12:30 p.m. PT, ABC
Offensive coordinator Eric Morris has jetted for the head coaching job at North Texas while defensive coordinator Brian Ward has jumped ship to do the same job at Arizona State.
Making matters worse, starting linebacker Daiyan Henley has opted out while rotational LB Francisco Mauigoa has entered the transfer portal.
The coaching staff issues might not affect the defensive side of the ball as much due to Dickert’s experience, but the offense could struggle. The Coug Raid was already inconsistent from half to half and without Morris to call the plays it could get ugly.
Quarterback Cameron Ward figures to have full leeway to call plays, though, with unlimited discretion to change them at the line of scrimmage. His command of the offense should shine through and is arguably the X-Factor in the game.
If Ward executes the Coug Raid to its full potential, Washington State will be in a substantially stronger position to secure the win.
Even so, Fresno State’s spread passing attack presents a dangerous threat. Jake Haener is playing for his legacy and the Bulldogs are fresh off a respectable win in the Mountain West Championship Game.
Few opponents have been able to slow down Fresno’s scheme when Haener is at full strength. But if anyone can do it, it’s Dickert. Containing running back Jordan Mims to make FSU one-dimensional figures to be key.
The senior RB has five touchdowns over his last two games and is somewhat of an overlooked aspect of the Bulldogs’ offense.
Forcing sacks to put Fresno State in long third-down situations is another pivotal piece of slowing down Jeff Tedford’s offense. Haener has been sacked nine times over the last three games and WSU figures to emphasize getting to him.
In the end, the game could come down to turnovers and Wazzu has a worrying tendency to give them up.
SMU v. BYU
Saturday, December 17
4:30 p.m. PT, ABC
The Cougars have stumbled into bowl eligibility after substantially underperforming preseason expectations. But Kalani Sitake’s team faces an SMU squad that gives up plenty of points.
The Mustangs are No. 123 in scoring defense and No. 91 in passing yards allowed per game. Jaren Hall, if he is healthy enough to play, should move the ball effectively and could exceed 400 yards passing.
Otherwise, backup Cade Fennegan will need to get the job done against the poor SMU defense.
The game could turn, then, on the play of BYU’s defense.
SMU operates a run-skewed offense with a roughly 3-to-2 run/pass split. Running back Tyler Lavine is the primary option, but the American Athletic program will regularly play up to four backs in any given game.
With a healthy rotation in the backfield, the key to slowing down SMU arguably comes down to frustrating quarterback Tanner Mordecai.
The senior has a 31-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio and has thrown for 3,306 yards on the season. Mordecai thrives on the effective ground game, slicing and dicing opponents with a 64.3 completion percentage.
The BYU defense has been incompetent this year and figures to struggle to contain SMU. Interceptions and forced fumbles could swing the momentum, but a high-scoring affair is probably in the cards.
Unless the Cougar defense forces multiple turnovers, SMU appears to be in a position to come out on top.
North Texas v. Boise State
Saturday, December 17
6:15 p.m. PT, ESPN
UNT quarterback Austin Aune has 32 touchdown passes on the year but has thrown 13 picks and figures to struggle against Boise State’s defense.
The Broncos may have an elite “D,” yet the same can’t be said of North Texas. The AAC team is 110th in the FBS in scoring defense and 107th in rushing yards allowed per game.
That’s a problem facing Taylen Green and the BSU running backs.
Boise State figures to effectively move the ball on the ground and consistently put up points. Green’s threat to run should open up the field for the rest of the Bronco offense and allow Andy Avalos’ team to score with relative ease.
Untimely turnovers could keep it close, yet the UNT defense doesn’t have the firepower to slow down Green and the rest of the Boise State roster.
One of the few paths to a North Texas upset is an efficient day on the ground. With multiple weapons in the backfield, hampering the Mean Green running back rotation could be a challenge. But BSU is No. 24 in the country in rushing yards allowed per game and should prove why against UNT.
In the end, the Broncos figure to run away with a lopsided win.
Our Senior Writers’ Game Picks
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