The Kansas State Wildcats and Oregon Ducks are ramping up to play in the national-championship consolation game, better known as the Fiesta Bowl.
Both teams suffered heartbreaking losses at the end of the season, allowing the one-loss Alabama Crimson Tide and undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish to leapfrog them into the BCS National Championship matchup.
K-State’s loss was particularly brutal, as an unheralded Baylor team was able to demolish the Wildcats, 52-24. KSU was able to recover with a 42-24 thrashing of Texas but likely won’t be satisfied until it can claim victory in a prestigious BCS bowl over a top-ranked foe.
Collin Klein, QB
The K-State signal-caller was a serious contender for the Heisman for most of the 2012 season, but the loss to Baylor—coupled with lesser stats than those of winner Johnny Manziel—ultimately submarined the senior’s chances.
Klein should be playing with a chip on his shoulder after taking a trip to the ceremony in New York and coming up empty and could have his best performance of the year against the Ducks.
Oregon certainly isn’t known for its defense, and lesser QBs than Klein have come up with monstrous games against that unit.
We expect, if the Wildcats are going to pull out a win, that it’ll largely be on the shoulders of this young man.
Nigel Malone, DB
This senior cornerback has overcome a lot in his short life to get where he is today.
Malone attended City College in California before being offered a scholarship to play for Bill Snyder in Manhattan, and he gladly jumped at the opportunity.
Flash forward to the 2012 season, and Malone has been an absolute ball hawk, recording seven interceptions and even scoring a touchdown during the course of the campaign.
Malone also racked up 46 tackles, good for fifth on the team, broke up 10 passes and defensed 17 total, in addition to securing a fumble recovery.
Those are impressive numbers, and a great Fiesta Bowl performance could lead him to a lofty selection in the upcoming NFL draft.
John Hubert, RB
While Klein receives most of the credit for K-State’s offensive prowess, Hubert is an unheralded back that can cause some serious damage to opposing defenses.
At a diminutive 5’7” and 190 pounds, Hubert surprisingly doesn’t shy away from contact. He’s got the ability to take hits and the speed to break into the next level, which is exactly what he should be able to do against a soft Oregon front seven.
Expect Hubert to have plenty of plays called for him in the Fiesta Bowl, to help keep the pressure off Klein and mix up the offensive attack.