While a lot of college football fans were disappointed when the BCS bowl matchups were announced, there is one game that everyone can get excited about. When the Week 12 BCS standings were released on November 11, the Kansas State Wildcats were No. 1 and the Oregon Ducks were No. 2-nationally. Both teams were undefeated, had rolled through their schedules with blowout wins, and both seemed to be on a collision course for the national championship game. Seven weeks later, each team has lost one game, and they will meet in the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday, January 3. So let’s break it down by the numbers to predict who will win this matchup of elite teams.
Fiesta Bowl: No. 4 Oregon vs No. 5 Kansas State
Both teams have very impressive passers, who may be just as proficient with their legs as they are with their arms. Kansas State’s Collin Klein threw for 2,495 yards with 15 touchdowns, while Oregon’s Marcus Mariota threw for 2,511 yards with 30 touchdowns. On the ground, Klein racked up 895 yards with 22 touchdowns, and Mariota totaled 690 yards with four touchdowns.
[Related >> Check out our preview of the BCS Sugar Bowl here]
The main difference is the situations in which the two players run. Klein is the primary rusher in the Wildcats’ offense, as he has 22 more rush attempts than the starting running back, John Hubert. Klein often takes the ball straight up the middle on designed runs, especially in the red zone when everybody watching knows he’s the only one who’s going to touch the ball. He is a powerful, bruising runner who can run over linebackers when he lowers his shoulder. Klein only threw the ball more than 30 times once this year, and that was his 50 attempts in the loss to Baylor. They will need to stick to the run game to win this one.
Mariota, on the other hand, has the nation’s 8th-leading rusher, Kenjon Barner, lined up behind him to spark the ground game for the Ducks. Because of this, the offense rarely calls running plays for the quarterback. The Ducks run the read option, and Mariota can chose to run, hand off to Barner, or throw—similar to the offense we see Robert Griffin III running with the Washington Redskins. He is also a faster runner, as opposed to Klein’s power running style. Mariota averaged over seven yards per rush in the regular season, compared to Klein’s 4.61. His speed enables him to get outside and break long runs if the defense is unable to keep him in the pocket.
[Related >> Take an in-depth look at Florida State’s Orange Bowl win here]
Both defenses will face many challenges in this game as they prepare for two of the most prolific offenses in the country. Kansas State will have to keep Mariota in the pocket, and force him to throw the ball. If the Wildcats are unable to contain Mariota and Barner on the ground, then the play action pass will be impossible to stop. The Stanford Cardinal provided a formula for beating the Ducks, as they were the only team to do so this season. Stanford is the only defense to hold the Ducks under 200 yards rushing and 300 yards passing; such stellar and determined play on the part of the Cardinal led to just 14 Oregon points. Kansas State will have to stop the run if they want to win this game.
On the other side, there is one main weapon that the Ducks will have to slow down, and that is Collin Klein. Klein threw more than one interception in only one game this year, and that was the Wildcats’ lone loss to Baylor. The Oregon defense may be the fastest in the nation, but they are not a very physical group. They will have trouble stopping Klein’s power running style, and interceptions may be their only chance of keeping the Wildcat offense off the scoreboard.
[Jadeveon Clowney tackles Michigan running back with a ‘finish him’ move]
Expect Klein to run over Oregon defenders all night long, on his way to huge numbers in the ground game. The stats department does not anticipate Klein throwing the ball much, as the Wildcats offense performs much better when it keeps the ball on the ground. The Oregon offense has seemed unstoppable this year as well, which will make this one a barn-burner. The game will come down to who can force the most turnovers, and we trust Klein to hold on to the ball more than we do the redshirt freshman, Mariota. Especially because Mariota will throw the ball more than Klein will. It may simply come down to which team has the ball last, but we think Kansas State can force the freshman into enough mistakes to win it.
Kansas State 41, Oregon 38
Who do you think will win? Let us know in the comments below.
Stats and information from cfbstats.com were used in this article
Latest from around Gamedayr >> The latest on conference realignment