On January 3, Kansas State and Oregon will play for all the Tostitos.
So can the No. 5 Kansas State Wildcats hang with the No. 4 Oregon Ducks, who are currently an eight-point favorite in the Fiesta Bowl? Not only can they hang with the Ducks, they can beat the Ducks.
Oregon had one loss this year and that was to the Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinal are similar to the Wildcats in that both teams have a stout front seven, both teams have a strong running game and both teams have dual-threat quarterbacks in Kevin Hogan and Collin Klein.
Granted, Oregon beat Washington 52-21 and the Huskies have a dual-threat quarterback in Keith Price, but the Huskies' running game is also ranked No. 92 in FBS. Stanford, for what it's worth, lost to Washington but did so after upsetting the USC Trojans in their previous game. The Cardinal appeared to be hung over in Seattle, WA.
Stanford rushes for a little over 173 yards per game compared to Oregon's 323-plus yards per game but Stanford had the toughest rush defense the Ducks faced all season.
Stanford's rushing defense—averaging 87.77 yards per game—ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 and No. 3 in FBS. A good, stingy defense can and will stop the Oregon Ducks.
But let's look at the real reason why Oregon may have struggles against Kansas State; the Ducks have a history—albeit a short one—of losing their focus in big games.
Last year the USC Trojans beat the No. 4 Oregon Ducks 38-35 in Autzen and thereby eliminated Oregon's chance to go the the BCS Championship Game. Chip Kelly is also 1-2 in BCS Bowls: Oregon lost 26-17 to Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl and lost 22-19 to Auburn in the 2011 BCS Championship game. Oregon righted things with a 45-38 victory over Wisconsin in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
This year the Ducks looked fantastic but it did so over perceived lesser competition.
In the Ducks' toughest game of the season, with a BCS Championship on the line, the Ducks lost 17-14 to Stanford at home in Eugene, OR.
Conversely, in the Kansas State Wildcats' toughest game of the year—against No. 11 Oklahoma—Kansas State won 24-19 on the road in Norman, OK.
Finally, about those prolific offenses.
Kansas State's scoring offense is ranked No. 10 in FBS averaging 40.7 points per game. Oregon's scoring offense is ranked No. 2 in FBS averaging 50.8 points per game but Oregon's strength of schedule (SOS) is remarkably weaker than Kansas State's SOS.
According to the most current Sagarin ratings, Oregon's SOS is No. 33 compared to Kansas State's No. 19. An argument can be made that Kansas State scored an impressive amount of points against a much more difficult schedule than Oregon's slate.
Kansas State has a legitimate chance for an upset in Glendale. I'm not calling the upset at this point but the fact that they have a legitimate shot simply implies that Kansas State can hang with Oregon.
In the meantime, fill up on the Tostitos and then take a long winter nap. January 3 is four-and-a-half weeks away.
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