When Kansas State and Oregon mutually (and yes it was mutual) decided to cancel their game at the start of the season few could have imagined them meeting in a BCS game. Oregon, who has become no stranger to BCS games, was no surprise. But Kansas State shocked the world with their 11-1 season and was rewarded with a trip to Glendale, Arizona to face the high powered Ducks of Oregon. Kansas State fans have flocked to the desert and heavily outnumber the Oregon fan base, and K-State will need the fuel the fans give them to defeat this high octane offense.
These two teams could not be more opposite. Kansas State has a family style approach, and likes to play physical. Oregon runs an unconventional offense that is similar to many of the offenses ran in the Big 12. The one difference between Oregon, and the offenses in the Big 12 (most notably Mike Leeches Texas Tech offense in the 2000’s) is the Oregon wants to run the football instead of passing. They are a fast tempo offense that does not put on the brakes for anyone.
Kansas State and Oregon just could not seem to avoid each other this season. Because of scheduling conflicts, on both schedules, they were forced to cancel the game this season. A game Bill Snyder had no problem getting off the schedule. Then about three weeks before the end of the regular season, there was not a doubt that the BCS national championship would be between Kansas State and Oregon. Both teams, however, had less than spectacular performances and fell short of their goals. Oregon lost to Stanford, and Kansas State was obliterated by a surging Baylor team. Yet, through all this these two teams will meet in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
How They Got Here
09/01/12 vs. Missouri State 51-9 (W)
09/08/12 vs. Miami 52-13 (W)
09/15/12 vs. North Texas 35-21(W)
09/22/12 at Oklahoma 24-19 (W)
10/06/12 vs. Kansas 56-16 (W)
10/13/12 at Iowa State 27-21 (W)
10/20/12 at West Virginia 55-14 (W)
10/27/12 vs. Texas Tech 55-24 (W)
11/03/12 vs. Oklahoma St 44-30 (W)
11/10/12 at TCU 23-10 (W)
11/17/12 at Baylor 24-52 (L)
12/01/12 vs. Texas 42-24 (W)
09/01/12 vs. Arkansas State 57 – 34 (W)
09/08/12 vs. Fresno State 42 – 25 (W)
09/15/12 vs. Tennessee Tech 63 – 14 (W)
09/22/12 vs. Arizona 49 – 0 (W)
09/29/12 at Washington State 51 – 26 (W)
10/06/12 vs. Washington 52 – 21 (W)
10/18/12 at Arizona State 43 – 21 (W)
10/27/12 vs. Colorado 70 – 14 (W)
11/03/12 at USC 62 – 51 (W)
11/10/12 at California 59 – 17 (W)
11/17/12 vs. Stanford 14 – 17 (L) OT
11/24/12 at Oregon State 48 – 24 (W)
A Look at Oregon
Head Coach Chip Kelly
The Oregon Ducks are led by head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly was born and raised in New Hampshire. He graduated from New Hampshire University, and eventually coached there (92, 94-2006). In 2007 coach Kelly took over control of the Oregon offense becoming the offensive coordinator. Oregon went a respected 9-4, and 10-3 during his two seasons as the OC. It was then when head coach Mike Bellotti stepped down as head coach and took on Athletic Director duties. Chip Kelly was then hired as the head coach.
In his four seasons in Eugene, Oregon has made 4 BCS bowls, including the 2011 national championship against Auburn. Chip Kelly has put together a 45-7 record, and a 33-3 conference record. He has put together a 1-2 Bowl record earning his first win in the Rose bowl last season against Wisconsin.
Kelly has also been rumored to be a top target to be an NFL head coach. Rumors on ESPN have him on the top of the charts for teams such as the Cleveland Browns, or even the Arizona Cardinals. This offseason will be an interesting one for Oregon to see if Coach Kelly will jump ship to the NFL, or remain with a Ducks team that he is slowly molding into a dynasty.
The Ducks on Offense
Oregon has been known for lights out offense for several years now. They run a unconventional spread offense. Kansas State is used to facing unconventional offenses – Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, West Virginia. But unlike those teams Oregon spreads the defense through the running game. The ducks have 6 players who have at least 25 carries, and all of them average over 4 yards per carry. The top 3 rushers on the team all average over 6.5 yards per carry. The Ducks are dynamic because of their speed. Kansas State will have to contain the Ducks speed if they want to stand a chance.
QB – Oregon is led by their freshman sensation QB Marcus Mariota. This former 3 star recruit has passed for 2511 yards on 69.9% passing. He has a very impressive 30 touchdowns, compared to only 6 interceptions. But what makes Mariota so special is his ability to run the ball as well. On 98 carries this season he has 690 yards and 4 touchdowns. Mariota is definitely a future Heisman candidate, and will be one of the top QBs Kansas State will face all season.
HB – The impressive HB position is led by SR tailback Kenjon Barner. Barner was given the difficult task of replacing former star HB LeMichael James. He has done so beautifully. In four seasons Barner has rushed for 3480 yards, and 41 touchdowns. This season he has accounted for 1624 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has caught 19 passes for 232 yards and a score. Backing up Barner will be De’Anthony Thomas. This kid has been just as impressive as Barner. On 90 carries he has accounted for 686 yards and 11 touchdowns.
WR – The star players on this offense are not known to be wide receivers. But they do still have some talent at these positions. The three starters are SO Keanon Lowe (four star recruit in 2011 class), JR Daryle Hawkins (converted 2 star QB in 2010 class), and JR Josh Huff (four star recruit in 2010 class). HB De’Anthony Thomas leads the team in receptions with 41. The other three are very balanced. Huff leads the team in yards and touchdowns. Still no one has yet to leap off the page as a major playmaker, but there is potential there.
OL – The Ducks have a speedy line and will be new to Kansas State. Many of the Big 12 offensive lines are big 330 pound lineman. This Oregon team does have the height, but has a little more speed than lines Kansas State has faced. The tackles for Oregon are 6’6 275 lb FR Tyler Johnstone, and 6’6 285 lb SO Jake Fisher. The guards are 6’5 300 LB SR Ryan Clanton, and 6’5 301 lb SR Nick Cody. Finally the Oregon center is 6’3 291 lb SO Hroniss Grasu.
Kansas State does have some pieces on defense that should give Oregon some major issues. The secondary for Kansas State presents some pretty large matchup problems for the Oregon offense. Nigel Malone, and Bubba Chapman have faced top receivers all season in the Big 12. They will not be overmatched in this game. That being said the most interesting matchup will be the defensive line of Kansas State against Oregon’s offensive line. Kansas State has been able to use their speed to gain the advantage against most of Kansas States opponent’s lines. This time Oregon is much faster, but will give Meshak Williams and the Kansas State defensive line less size to go against. With all that speed I have to give the advantage to Oregon, but Kansas State can play with this Oregon offense.
The Ducks on Defense
The Oregon defense has not been known to be that elite in the past, but they have improved drastically this season. The Oregon defense has only given up 22 points per game and has forced 38 turnovers on the season (+19 on the season). Much like the Oregon offense, the Oregon defense is a speedy unit. They are quick to the ball and can force turnovers.
DL – The defensive line is an experienced unit for the Ducks. Just like the linemen on the offensive side of the ball, these players are smaller and faster than most of the defensive linemen in the Big 12. Starting at the defensive end positions are JR Taylor Hart, and SR Dion Jordon. Hart has 33 tackles (10 for loss), a forced fumble, and has 8 sacks. Jordon has 44 tackles (10.5 for loss), and 5 sacks. The defensive tackles for the Ducks are JR Wade Keliikipi, and SR Isaac Remington. Keliikipi has 20 tackles (4 for loss), and two sacks. Remington has 19 tackles (4 for loss), and 1 sack.
Linebackers – Oregon’s two leading tacklers are their linebackers. SR Michael Clay leads the team in tackles with 92 (8 for loss), and two sacks. Right along next to him will be SR Kiko Alonso who has 75 tackles (team leading 12 for loss), 1 sack, and 4 interceptions. Also starting for the Ducks is JR Boseko Lokombo, who has 34 tackles (3.5 for loss), 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions.
Secondary – The secondary is the most inexperienced unit for Oregon as they have the two only sophomore starters on the defense in their cornerbacks (Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, and Terrence Mitchell). Ekpre-Olomu is tied on the team with interceptions with 4 and has 58 tackles to go along with that. Mitchell has 35 tackles, but has yet to get an interception (he does have 8 pass breakups though). The starting safeties are JR Brian Jackson, and SR John Boyett.
Advantage: Kansas State
K-States offense is an experienced unit, and it will be going up against an experienced unit in Oregon. But with that being said K-State does have the playmakers to be successful against this Oregon defense. Much like the other side of the ball the most intriguing match up will be on the line. Kansas State has a big and powerful offensive line, but Oregon has the speed on the edge. If Kansas States line can over power Oregon’s, then Kansas States offense will dominate the ducks defense.
The Ducks on Special Teams
Oregon uses a SR kicker by the name of Rob Beard. So far on the season Beard has only connected on 50% of his field goals. But to be fair he has only kicked 8 field goals. But he only has a season long of 41 yards, and is 2-5 from over 30 yards. The punter for the ducks is SR Jackson Rice. Rice averages 39.6 yards per punt, and has landed 12 inside the 20. Doing the kickoff duties for the ducks will be Alejandro Maldonado who only has 13 touchbacks on 95 kicks. De’Anthony Thomas handles the kickoff and punt return duties for the Ducks. He is averages 17.1 yards per punt return and has a 73 yard touchdown. He also averages 19.2 yards on kickoff returns, but only has a long of 31 yards.
Advantage: Kansas State
Kansas State has one of, if not the, best special teams in the entire nation. K-State has an all Big 12 kicker in Anthony Cantale, an All-American returner in Tyler Lockett, and a honorable mention all Big 12 punter in Ryan Doerr. K-State definitely does have the advantage on the special teams. But the cats cannot look past Thomas, who is an explosive force.
3 Keys to a Wildcat Victory
- Force the Ducks inside – Speed kills. Baylor exploited Kansas State with their obvious speed advantage. Kansas State is much healthier now then they were against Baylor, and will be much better off. Still if Kansas State wants to avoid getting burnt, they cannot allow Oregon to get around the edge.
- Don’t underestimate the Ducks defense – Oregon is not an SEC defense. They are not even a TCU, or Oklahoma caliber defense. But they are sneaky good. They force turnovers at terrible times. K-State cannot afford stupid turnovers.
- Control the clock – I do believe K-States defense can hang with Oregon’s offense. But to do so relies heavily on the Kansas State offense. If Oregon controls the clock, they will run down K-States defense. This was the problem between Kansas State and Baylor. Kansas States offense did not control the clock, and Baylor completely wore down the K-State defense. If Kansas States offense preforms like that against a much more talented Oregon defense, Kansas State will be in trouble.
The Prediction (55-11 this season)
Approximately 40,000 Kansas State fans have flocked to Arizona for this football game. 23,000 alone showed up for the pep rally. This will be essentially a home game for the Kansas State Wildcats. That doesn’t mean much as Oregon is undefeated on the road this season, but has to give K-State a little edge.
If K-State can overcome the speed on the lines then K-State will be fine. If not it could get ugly for Kansas State. This is a senior led team for Kansas State that will not go down without some fight. I believe they will take care of business and will send these seniors out in the way they deserve.
K-State wins 38-29