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BOWLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL: THE HOLIDAY BOWL

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It's the Holiday Bowl, and with Texas and Arizona State facing off, it's the first quality matchup between two quality teams, it's the first real bowl, it's like...like...candy!

The ultra-brief pregame:

Texas is a slight favorite, probably because they are Texas, and thus higher on the collective public esteem totem pole most people seem to use when sizing up bowl matchups. This has persisted despite Texas' appalling lack of a defense, which may or may not make a difference given Arizona's inability to protect Rudy Carpenter. Carpenter has taken 51 sacks on the year. Carpenter has taken 51 sacks on the year. It's worth saying twice--that's how brutal it's been for him. Even a modest push by the Texas defense (60th overall in sacks) could have Carpenter counting floodlights.

Arizona State's defense may be the pivot this game hinges on: while Texas linebackers have redefined arm-tackling this year, ASU's linebackers are all sure-handed progress-stoppers. Make Texas throw, and you put Colt McCoy under pressure, and you make Colt McCoy work against a 21-18 td ratio, and that could mean six running the other way while you wonder what the hell happened to the guy last year who looked like Alex Smith in Longhorn Orange.

Yet: Anyone who watched Arizona State this year had to be shocked at ASU's resemblance to late-model Tennessee Volunteer teams: a sure-armed qb who got hammered throwing the ball to possession receivers without a serious deep threat or scheme-buster to bail him out, especially in dire situations where the decent running game got substandard under defensive pressure. On offense, they're shockingly similar, both in how they succeed and in how they fail.

Equalling: a likely Texas win, even with the errors and stuttering of Texas' defense and qb play.

Announcing: Herbstreit and Musburger. Brent will refer to Dennis Erickson as "an old buccaneer," and you are heartily encouraged to imagine the two, sunburned and swilling Wild Irish Rose while floating in a life raft somewhere off the coast of Chile singing old sea shanties and waiting for rescue.