Here's what a victory in the Valero Alamo Bowl would mean for Texas: Nine victories, one more than last season. Modest, yes, but still progress.
Here's what a bowl victory could mean: A springboard for 2013 for a team whose roster is dominated by under classmen plus a sign that the program is headed in the right direction.
Facing No. 15 Oregon State (9-3) in San Antonio Saturday is far from what the Longhorns (8-4) expected this season, especially after a 4-0 start that led to an 8-2 record before consecutive losses to TCU and Kansas State. Since losing to Alabama in the 2010 BCS championship game, Texas is 21-16 overall.
"I'm fortunate to be at a place where the standards are very high and we're going to fight to make sure we get back to those standards," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "If you ask me if I'm happy with three years of non-BCS games, I would say no. That's for me, much less everybody else."
Sophomore David Ash, who missed the season finale because of an injury, will start against the Beavers. The plays will be called by Major Applewhite, who takes over for Brian Harsin who left to take the head coaching job at Arkansas State.
"You look at some of the things David did this year and I think he's still in the top 10 in passing efficiency," Brown said. "When he started poorly, he had more trouble than when he started right but he had some great games and we need to build on those."
Oregon State coach Mike Riley also had to make a decision at quarterback. Sophomore Sean Mannion directed the team to a 4-0 start before suffering a knee injury. Junior Cody Vaz took over until Mannion recovered and started the last three games. Riley announced that Vaz would start against Texas but Mannion is healthy and available.
"I have to stress we are choosing between good, not good and bad," Riley said.
Texas has won four of its last five bowl games against Pac-12 foes. Extending that to five out of six is a top priority and crucial for the Longhorns program.
"With the goals we set for next season, they start right now," UT junior offensive lineman Mason Walters said. "And we're attacking it with ferocity."
Valero Alamo Bowl
Texas vs. Oregon State
Need to know: 5:45 p.m., Saturday, Alamodome, ESPN.
Team records: Texas 8-4, Oregon State 9-3.
David Ash will be the starter at quarterback. Ash completed 67.7 percent of his passes this season for 2,458 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. With the departure of Brian Harsin, Major Applewhite takes over calling plays; he says he doesn't expect to make wholesale changes in the offense. Limiting turnovers and a productive running game have been the key factors in UT's eight wins. Freshman running back Johnathan Gray, who improved as the season progressed, could be a huge factor. Because of poor tackling, the Texas defense struggled to stop the run but the running game is not a strength for Oregon State.
Scouting Oregon State
Junior Cody Vaz has been named the starter at quarterback. He and Sean Mannion shared the job during the season as Mannion suffered a knee injury after a 4-0 start. The Beavers ranked 15th nationally with 316.5 passing yards per game. Oregon State's top receiver is Markus Wheaton, who is 11th nationally in receiving yards per game. Sophomore receiver Brandin Cooks is a big-play threat, averaging 17.5 yards per catch. Oregon State intercepted 19 passes this year, tied for sixth-most in the country, and the Beavers' 30 forced turnovers are tied for 12th.
This will be the third meeting in this series, with Texas winning the previous two. The most recent was Texas' 61-16 victory in Austin in 1987. ... The Longhorns won their only previous appearance in the Alamo Bowl, defeating Iowa 26-24 in 2006. ... Oregon State improved six games compared to its 3-9 record in 2011. ... Coach Mike Riley is 5-1 in bowl games. The only loss came in the Beavers' last bowl appearance, the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl. ... The Longhorns are 8-0 when rushing for 136 or more yards. Oregon State allows an average of 130 yards rushing a game.