The Oregon Ducks and Kansas State Wildcats will square-off in the Fiesta Bowl, perhaps the most intriguing postseason game that won't determine the National Champion.
In the last month of the regular season, both Oregon and Kansas State were, at one time or another, slated to play for college football's ultimate title. In fact, there was a time were it looked like they'd be playing each other for college football's ultimate title.
So this is sort of a bizzaro world Championship Game. A look at who might've reached eternal glory had they caught a couple of breaks against Baylor and Stanford, respectively.
Let's look at three Wildcats that Oregon must stop if it wants to take home the Fiesta Bowl crown.
QB Collin Klein
I know it's trite and predictable, but any list about the Wildcats would be remiss to exclude Collin Klein.
The hulking senior quarterback-cum-Heisman-finalist is the end-all, be-all of Kansas State's offense. He finished the season with 2,490 yard and 15 touchdowns through the air, and he added 890 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground.
The dual-threat element of Klein's game is something the Ducks are not unfamiliar with. They get to defend it every day in practice!
The power element of Klein's game is a unique twist, though—one that the speedy, undersized Ducks might have trouble defending.
At 6'5'', 226 pounds, Klein is difficult for any tackler to bring down. And seeing as he averages 16 carries per game, it'll be imperative for the Ducks to wrap him up and bring him down upon first contact.
DE Meshak Williams
The bad news in Eugene: Over the totality of 2012, the Kansas State defense has been good, borderline great. In fact, the Big 12 fans voted them the best unit in the conference.
The good news in Eugene: The Wildcats' lone loss came against Baylor—a team who runs a very similar offense to Oregon's—in a game where they surrendered 52 points.
One of the watershed players on Kansas State's defense is pass-rusher Meshak Williams. The first-team All-Big 12 performer racked up multiple sacks in three different games this season.
One of those games came against a similar spread offense attack in West Virginia. Against the Mountaineers, Williams racked up two-and-a-half sacks, wreaking havoc from kickoff until the final whistle.
If Oregon doesn't keep him from repeating that performance, its passing game could be neutralized in a crucial manner.
TE Travis Tannahill
Another first-team All-Big 12 performer, tight end Travis Tannahill, could make a momentous impact against the Ducks.
He's not a bona fide receiving threat per se—ranking fourth on the team with 22 catches for 279 yards—but he's a capable pass catcher. More importantly, he plays a position the Ducks have struggled to cover in big games.
In its lone loss this season, Oregon allowed Stanford's Zach Ertz to rack up 11 catches, 106 yards and a touchdown. As impressive as those numbers were, they merely scratched the surface of how bad he made Oregon's defense look.
As alluded to earlier, Oregon's defense thrives on speed, not size or physicality. Tannahill is a big, wide target who's developed a nice rapport with Klein.
If Oregon's not careful, he could be a difference maker in the Fiesta Bowl.
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