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Fiesta Bowl 2013: Oregon vs. Kansas State — Everything You Need to Know

Mariota, Barner lead potent Oregon offense.
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

It will be a contrast in styles as Oregon’s high-octane offense takes on Heisman finalist Collin Klein and the Wildcats.

TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL: #4 Oregon (11-1) vs. #5 Kansas State (11-1)

[Thursday, January 3, at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN]

How They Got Here

Late-season upsets knocked these two teams out of the national-championship game, but Oregon and Kansas State are both seeking to prove they belong with the nation’s elite. Kansas State was co-champion of the Big 12 and earned the automatic BCS bid by way of a head-to-head tiebreaker over #11 Oklahoma. The Ducks’ loss to Stanford knocked them out of not just the national-title game but the Pac-12 championship game as well. Oregon was still a hot commodity and made it to the Fiesta Bowl as an at-large team.

When Kansas State Has the Ball

Senior quarterback Collin Klein was a Heisman finalist this year after throwing for 2,490 yards, running for 890 more and scoring 37 total touchdowns. The Wildcats averaged 40.7 points per game (ninth nationally) but were held under 30 four times, including in three of their last seven. Running back John Hubert has been a nice counterpart for Klein, rushing for 892 yards and 15 touchdowns. However, after a hot start with four 100+ yard games in the first five weeks of the season, he has not rushed for more than 66 yards in a game since early October. Hubert and Klein will go against an Oregon defense that ranks 45th nationally in rush defense, but often played against teams throwing the ball to overcome large deficits. In their only loss of the season, the Ducks allowed Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor to go for 161 yards.

When Oregon Has the Ball

Oregon’s offense is one of the best that college football has seen in recent years. The Ducks rank second nationally in scoring, third in rushing and fourth in total offense. Running back Kenjon Barner rushed for 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns this year while quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De’Anthony Thomas have combined for another 1,476 yards and 15 scores. While the Oregon offense is led by the running game, Mariota has thrown for over 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns this year. While Oregon will undoubtedly be Kansas State’s toughest test to date, the Wildcat defense is certainly no stranger to potent offenses in the Big 12. Kansas State ranks 17th nationally in rush defense and 24th in scoring defense. The Wildcats gave up an eye-popping 342 rushing yards in the loss to Baylor, but held their other 11 opponents this year to 99.3 rushing yards per game.

What to Know

This is the only bowl game other than the national championship between two top 10 teams. Excluding the Stanford loss, Oregon scored at least 40 points in every game this season. This is Oregon’s eighth straight bowl game and fourth straight BCS game. The Wildcats are 0-4 in bowl games since their last win in the 2002 Holiday Bowl.

What to Watch For

After Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M, it looked like this matchup could have been for the national championship. Although Oregon and Kansas State both suffered upsets of their own to keep them out of the title game, this should still be one of bowl season’s more exciting matchups. Both teams can put up lots of points, so this game could hinge on the ability of Kansas State’s defense to at least slow the Ducks down. Look for the Wildcats to try to mirror Stanford’s defensive game plan and then hope Collin Klein can put up enough points to pull off the upset.

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