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Fiesta Bowl 2013: Oregon Players Who Will Be Too Good for Kansas State

Marcus Mariota has played exceptionally for Oregon all season.
Marcus Mariota has played exceptionally for Oregon all season.Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2013

A few key Oregon Ducks could prove too much for the Kansas State Wildcats to handle in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

In what could be Chip Kelly's farewell game, No. 4 ranked Oregon will battle No. 5 ranked Kansas State to determine which team should feel more bitter about the current BCS system.

Both squads tout prolific offenses, setting expectations high for an entertaining shootout.  

In a crucial game with all the Tostitos on the line, here are a few of Oregon's difference-makers who will make their presence felt on Thursday.


Marcus Mariota

It all starts with the quarterback, and Kelly has a mighty good one running his masterful offense.

Freshman Marcus Mariota has stepped up to the plate during his rookie season, completing 69.5 percent of his passes for 2,511 passing yards.

His efficiency paved the way for a fluid offense that averaged 50.8 points per game. Mariota tossed 30 passing touchdowns while surrendering just six interceptions.

Flourishing under Kelly's option-heavy attack, Mariota tallied 690 rushing yards along with four scores through the ground.

If the freshman can continue to avoid costly mistakes, the Wildcats will struggle to stymie the dynamic quarterback, who can hurt them in so many ways.


Kenjon
Barner

Slowing down Oregon does not get any easier from here. 

Even if Kansas State manages to contain Mariota, it has to deal with the most finely-tuned rushing offense in college football.

In his last game with the school, senior Kenjon Barner will look to exit with a splash that will impress NFL scouts.

Barner amassed 1,624 rushing yards, averaging 6.5 yards per attempt, and discovered the end zone 21 times. During Oregon's last game against Oregon State, Barner demolished the local rival to a tune of 198 rushing yards and two scores.

Kansas State does not fare well against the run, allowing 4.9 yards per carry during the season. Oregon should exploit the mismatch all night.

Look for the Ducks to feed Barner the ball early and often to control the tempo and keep Collin Klein and Kansas State's offense off the field.


Ifo
Ekpre-Olomu

Let's give a defensive player some love.

During his last three games, Klein has surrendered five of his seven interceptions on the season. Continuing that trend could cost Kansas State a chance at victory.

Oregon's secondary is one of college football's best in terms of forcing turnovers. In fact, no other team in Division I-A accumulated more interception than the Ducks, who picked off 24 passes this season.

A year removed from allowing two touchdown passes in the Rose Bowl, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu enters the Fiesta Bowl with redemption on his mind.

The cornerback earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors and also landed a spot as a third-team All-American. He tied for the team's lead with four interceptions, one of which he took to the house for a touchdown.

Ekpre-Olomu could change the course of this game with a timely takeaway.  

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