The national championship game has garnered much attention this bowl season, but on Jan. 3, college football fans will see the most exciting game of the postseason.
Oregon and Kansas State spent much of the season near the top of the BCS rankings, but their title bids fell short on the same day. Oregon fell to Stanford in a defensive bout, and Kansas State was trounced by Baylor, effectively smothering any chance of a championship showdown.
Neither team will get a crack at undefeated Notre Dame in the BCS championship, but both will be in the national spotlight on Jan. 3. Given the explosive nature of offenses propelled by Collin Klein, Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariota, the Fiesta Bowl won’t disappoint.
Oregon fielded the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation this season, averaging 50.8 points per contest, while Kansas State finished in the Top 10 with a 40.7 points-per-game average. Both Kansas State (No. 44) and Oregon (No. 49) finished inside the top 50 in total defense this season, but neither unit is strong enough to quell two of the best offenses in the country.
Barner will be the key component for Oregon’s offense. He amassed 1,624 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in 2012, but he’ll have his work cut out for him against the Wildcats.
Kansas State allowed just 119.6 rushing yards per game during the regular season, and will need to limit Barner to force Mariota to air it out. If the Wildcats can make Oregon one-dimensional on offense, their No. 96 passing defense will stand a much better chance of keying in on Mariota and forcing him to make mistakes.
Klein finished third in the Heisman voting this year, and his dual-threat attack will be the key to a Kansas State victory. He combined for 37 touchdowns in 2012, and threw just seven interceptions on the season. While he managed to take care of the football this year, Klein did throw three interceptions in the Wildcats’ 54-24 loss on Nov. 17, and containing Klein in the pocket will be paramount for Oregon’s defense.
With rumors of Chip Kelly’s potential exodus to the NFL swirling in recent weeks, it will be interesting to see how the Ducks handle the added distraction, though Kelly has denied the rumors being any sort of distraction for him or his team. If this is in fact Kelly’s last game with Oregon, expect his to empty his bag of tricks on the Wildcats.
Regardless of the victor, college football fans will be in for a treat on Jan. 3. The Fiesta Bowl has the potential to be the highest-scoring affair of the season, paced by two of the best offenses in the nation.