Oregon vs. South Florida
It's hard to pick the Ducks, partly based on their quarterback situation. Sure, Justin Roper played well in the Civil War game -but that was at Autzen Stadium, and with Jonathan Stewart maybe playing his best game ever to carry the offensive load.
Stewart has to have another great game in El Paso, Texas, for the Ducks to win. I'm not sure who else can make game-changing plays, outside of maligned receiver Derrick Jones.
Defensively, I'm always skeptical when coaches (i.e., Mike Bellotti) say they primarily worry about one player (i.e., South Florida QB Matt Grothe). Something tells me the Bulls will present more problems than just their quarterback.
Another factor is motivation, and South Florida has plenty of it. It would be a high-water mark for the 11-year-old program to beat a Pac-10 team in a bowl game.
The Ducks will play hard, but can they match USF's desperation?
The pick: South Florida 31, Oregon 24
Oregon vs. South Florida
74th Sun Bowl: Oregon (8-4) vs. South Florida (9-3)
When, where: 11 a.m. PT Monday, Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
Radio, TV: KXL (750 AM), KOIN (6)
• South Florida coach Jim Leavitt shies away from saying his team has 'arrived' on the national scene. A win over a Pac-10 team certainly would help, but 'I always get nervous when you use that statement - arrived - because there's finality to it,' he says.
To beat Oregon, 'it'd be a great accomplishment for us, for sure.'
• Leavitt has much to say about George Selvie, his All-American defensive end. Selvie was lightly recruited and is a converted offensive lineman. Leavitt says he excels in the classroom, too. 'He almost had a 4.0 (GPA), how about that?' the coach says.
• Oregon fans might see the last of Jonathan Stewart in the Sun Bowl, if he opts to go pro. It'll be South Florida's first sight of him.
'He's strong, explosive and has great vision,' Leavitt says. 'You can't arm-tackle him; a number of people are going to have to hit and wrap up. Hopefully, this will be a game where we tackle well.'
• Coach Mike Bellotti says USF's offense has showed real variety, with quarterback Matt Grothe making it go.
'They do so many things, maybe more than any team we've seen this year,' Bellotti says. 'They run everything from wishbone to five wideouts, go from power sets to shotgun.'
• Oregon defensive end Nick Reed has been impressed with USF running back Mike Ford.
'He looks quick, I've seen him do some crazy things running around,' Reed says. 'He's quick and bouncy. He looks like a Barry Sanders-type running back.'
• Bellotti says no one has contacted him about interviewing offensive coordinator Chip Kelly for a head coaching vacancy.
'He's done a great job. I'm sure, at some point, he'll get an opportunity,' Bellotti says.
• Injury update: Kwame Agyeman probably will play middle linebacker for the Ducks, with Casey Matthews (shoulder) likely out. Matthews says he continues to have stiffness in the shoulder, which has a tear, and 'I'm just worried about falling on it wrong,' he says. … Stewart has rested his turf toe, but he doesn't expect to be 100 percent for Monday's game, only close to it. … Cornerback Walter Thurmond practiced with a 'club' on his right hand after thumb surgery -his entire hand, fingers included, was wrapped in tape. He'll wear a brace in the game. … All available receivers are expected to play, including Aaron Pflugrad (ankle).
• Recruiting update: The Ducks signed LaGarrette Blount, a 6-1, 230-pound running back from Perry, Fla., and East Mississippi Community College of Scooba, Miss.
- Jason Vondersmith