Continuing his 2012 bowl previews, Joe Healy previews the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Outside of a national championship game that has all the makings of an instant classic, the Fiesta Bowl had the look of the best BCS bowl of the season when the bowl games were announced.
It just has so much going for it. You have a perennial national power in Oregon, you have a great story in Kansas State’s fantastic season and you have a matchup of contrasting styles and speeds on offense.
Personally, I will be eager to see how Kansas State keeps up with an offense like Oregon’s.
It’s not that the Wildcats can’t score points themselves. That couldn’t be further than the truth. Led by Collin Klein, Kansas State averaged scoring over 40 points a game. Klein, the Heisman trophy favorite until K-State’s late season loss to Baylor, finished the regular season with 2,490 passing yards and 890 rushing yards. All told, he accounted for 37 touchdowns, 15 through the air and 22 on the ground.
Stocky running back John Hubert keeps the defense from keying on Klein too much. He rushed for 892 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. In the receiving game, Chris Harper was Klein’s favorite target. He caught 50 passes for 786 yards. Oregon will also have to keep an eye on Tyler Lockett. He caught 40 passes for 652 yards and he scored two touchdowns on kick returns.
The concern for the Wildcats is on the defensive side of the ball. They’re very good on defense, 24th in the nation in scoring defense, but playing Oregon is on a whole other level. The Ducks would make even the very best of defenses look silly at times.
If they are going to succeed in slowing down Oregon, they will need big games from a number of people. It all starts with linebacker Arthur Brown. He may not have the gaudiest stats, but he is a leader on the unit and leads the team in tackles. Don’t be surprised if head coach Bill Snyder makes it Brown’s job to spy on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Speaking of Mariota, the freshman quarterback from Hawaii had a fantastic season. He finished the season with 2,511 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. For good measure, he rushed for 690 yards and four touchdowns.
As good as Mariota was, running back Kenjon Barner was the man that really made the offense go. It’s truly criminal that this guy didn’t get more Heisman attention. All he did was rush for 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns. If Barner has gaping holes to run through, as he did often this season, it’s hard to imagine Kansas State winning this game.
The Ducks certainly aren’t known for playing defense, but they have a pretty good one this season. As a unit, they were 26th in the nation in scoring defense. Playing in a conference that features a number of high-powered offenses, that’s pretty impressive.
The leaders on that side of the ball are senior linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonzo. Clay led the team in tackles with 92 while Alonzo finished second in tackles with 75, led the team in tackles for loss with 12 and tied for the team lead in interceptions with four. Defensive tackle Taylor Hart gives Oregon much of their pass rush up the middle, as he leads the team with eight sacks.
I would really like to pick Kansas State. I love the underdog mentality that Collin Klein gives them and I think that Bill Snyder is one of the better coaches in college football history. I just can’t see them keeping up with Oregon. If the Ducks put some points up on the board early, and I think they will, I don’t know that the Wildcats will be able to catch up. They just don’t have an offense equipped to gain huge chunks of yardage through the air.