The Kansas State Wildcats will go as far as Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Collin Klein will take them in the Fiesta Bowl in January. However, in order for the Wildcats to emerge with a signature victory, they will need a handful of X-factors to deliver on the grand stage.
Bill Snyder's No. 5-ranked Big 12 champion Wildcats will square off against the No. 4-ranked Oregon Ducks in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona on Jan. 3 in what's sure to be an entertaining back-and-forth battle.
However, before the arrival of the New Year and kickoff itself, let's take a closer look at a trio of X-factors set to either help or hurt Kansas State vs. Oregon.
Meshak Williams, DE
Senior defensive end Meshak Williams will be key for the Kansas State Wildcats this January. The 6'3", 245-pound pass-rusher is the team's leading sack man with 9.5. He also leads the team in tackles for a loss, with 13.5 in 12 games.
Williams has also batted away four balls this season.
With the Wildcats set to go up against one of the nation's most prolific offenses and top rushing units in Oregon, Williams will need to be at his best, playing disciplined football and keeping the edge for Kansas State's defense.
The Wildcats only rank 43rd nationally in total defense and 24th in scoring defense, which means they will rely on defensive stars like Williams more than ever going up against the Ducks' Top-10 offense.
Angelo Pease, RB
Angelo Pease may be Kansas State's third-leading rusher this season, but he's an efficient runner nonetheless.
The senior out of Georgia is averaging 5.4 yards per carry in 2012, and has been providing Bill Snyder's squad with a change-of-pace option in the backfield—one who brings a different style of running as compared to John Hubert and Collin Klein.
Pease's ability to block for Klein in passing situations and to get out ahead of him on running plays makes him an invaluable player for the Wildcats offensively. Kansas State will be up against its toughest opponent this season in Oregon, and you can bet Pease will need to bring his A-game if the Big 12 champions are to finish the year 12-1 overall.
Tramaine Thompson, WR
Junior wideout Tramaine Thompson has gone largely unnoticed this season for the Wildcats, with fellow wide receivers Chris Harper and Tyler Lockett gaining most of the attention.
However, the 5'8" Thompson will play a huge role against Oregon this January. He's averaging slightly over 14 yards per reception in 2012 and is tied for most receiving touchdowns this year. With both Harper and Lockett getting plenty of attention from the Ducks' secondary this January, look for Thompson to be the most available playmaker for Collin Klein down the field.
Thompson is also a key player on special teams for Kansas State. He's the team's top punt returner this season and has also achieved success on kick returns. He's averaging over 23 yards per punt return in 2012, and has scored on one as well.
Look for the speedy Thompson to provide Klein with a safety valve offensively while giving the team a boost in field position thanks to his strong special teams play.
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