Kansas State shocked everyone this season going 11-1 and winning the Big XII Conference, but can they shock everyone again when they take on the Oregon Ducks in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3? Let’s take a look.
Kansas State’s unquestioned leader plays the most impacting position in all of sports: Quarterback. Senior Collin Klein has done it all for the Wildcats this season, earning himself a trip to New York this Saturday as he is one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy. While he is the long-shot to take home the hardware, no one is questioning how good of a football player Klein is. Along with Running Back John Hubert and Wide Receivers Chris Harper and Tyler Lockett, the Wildcats have an explosive offense. K-State thrives off the run game and the success in it allows the Wildcats to call pass plays that lead to their receivers getting open. If KSU is to have success in the Fiesta Bowl, they’ll need to dominate on the ground. Oregon has the speed on defense to cover any receiver Bill Snyder throws out on the field, but the lack of size on the defensive side could be a problem in terms of tackling for the Ducks.
The task of containing Oregon’s highly efficient offense won’t be so easy for the Wildcats’ defense. The Ducks are averaging 50.8 points per game (second in the nation) and 323.3 rushing yards per game (third in the nation). With Redshirt Freshman Marcus Mariota at Quarterback along with Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas at Running Back, this team has the best offense in the country. While it makes it so hard to game plan for, the talent of this offense is only half of the reasoning for their proficiency. The up-tempo attack the Ducks possess makes it extremely hard for opposing defensive coordinators and head coaches to prepare for. Oregon rotates in players all the time, even using 11 different players on the offensive line. Most teams who have struggled against the Ducks in recent years just aren’t conditioned or deep enough on the defensive side of the ball to hang with the Pac-12 giant for four quarters.
The key for K-State to pull out a win is to keep Oregon’s running game in check. The Wildcats might not be able to hold the Ducks to 100 yards, but if they can keep the rushing totals significantly below the norm, they’ll have a great shot at winning. While I would never be surprised to see a Bill Snyder coached team win a game against any opponent, I don’t see Kansas State being able to keep up with Mariota and the Oregon offense. In somewhat of a shoot-out, I’ll take Oregon 47-31.