When: 8:35 pm ET
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Arizona
Score last season: Oklahoma State 41, Stanford 38 (OT)
Jack Klugman and Tony Randall starred in the 1970s sitcom, The Odd Couple. Klugman won two Emmy Awards for his work loutish, sportswriter roommate of Tony Randall, who played the role of straight arrow. If Klugman’s character were to pen a story about this season’s Fiesta Bowl, he might call the match-up between the Oregon Ducks and Kansas State Wildcats an odd one.
From top to bottom, the only similarity between these programs is that they have identical records at 11-1 overall and 8-1 in conference: Oregon in the Pacific 12, Kansas State in the Big 12. Beyond that, head coaches Chip Kelly and Bill Snyder are on opposite ends of the spectrum in age, personality and offensive philosophy. Furthermore, the universities are in very different regions: Eugene, Ore. and Manhattan, Kan. couldn’t be less similar. Even the uniforms are polar opposites. Kansas State sticks to tradition with its purple-and-silver, while Oregon’s radical Nike duds change constantly.
But a common tie between these two teams on the field is the importance of the quarterback.
Honolulu product and freshman Marcus Mariota has stepped in to lead Kelly’s uptempo spread offense. Mariota has completed 70 percent of his passes for 2511 yards, 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Mariota has also run for 690 yards and four touchdowns, adding an extra dimension to this multifaceted offense. Senior Kenjon Barner anchors the running game. The Riverside, Calif. native has run for 1624 yards and 21 touchdowns. The triumvirate of Josh Huff, De’Anthony Thomas and Colt Lyerla have combined for 92 receptions, 1192 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Ducks have performed at a pace close to the offense’s. UO allowed opponents 22 points per game, 26th fewest in the country.
Out of Loveland, Colo., senior quarterback Collin Klein. Klein was a Heisman front-runner until an injury vs. Oklahoma State and late season road loss to Baylor. Klein has thrown for 2490 yards and 15 touchdowns while running for 890-yards and 22 touchdowns. Running back John Hubert has contributed 892 yards and 15 touchdowns to the Wildcats solid ground game. Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson are one of the most productive trios of receivers in college football. The three have combined for the majority of K-State’s passing offense with 126 receptions, 1952 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Oregon has struggled with numerous injuries in its secondary; Klein could look to his corps of receivers frequently as a result.
The Wildcat defense has been stingy — especially by Big 12 standards. It’s allowed 21 points per game, No. 24 in the nation. Linebacker Arthur Brown has been one of the best at his possession all season. He’ll get a workout trying to contain Barner, Mariota and Thomas out of the Duck backfield.
As much as I respect Kansas State, the Oregon offense has been dominant this season. Kansas State’s offense is built on ball control, but Oregon doesn’t need long possessions to score points. In fact, UO averaged only 27:55 of possession, so K-State’s nearly 32 minutes per game of possession won’t impact Kelly’s game plan. The Ducks will outscore the Wildcats under the dome at University of Phoenix Stadium to win all the Tostitos.
Final Score: Oregon 45, Kansas State 34