by Frank Martin
1. Oregon and Kansas State could have been meeting in the BCS title game if not for both teams losing on Nov. 17. Instead, they form perhaps the top non-championship game pairing of the bowl season. The No. 3 Ducks had their title hopes derailed by Stanford while the No. 6 Kansas State Wildcats were routed by Baylor.
2. Offensive theatrics should be plentiful with both teams having powerful attacks. Oregon Ducks ranks second in scoring at 50.8 points and fourth in total offense at 550.1 yards while featuring star runner Kenjon Barner (1,624 rushing yards). Kansas State averages 40.7 points and 411.2 yards with quarterback Collin Klein – third in Heisman Trophy balloting – leading the way.
3. Big plays on defense often tip the scales during the bowl season and both teams are among the best in the nation in takeaways. Oregon leads the nation with 39 and Kansas State has forced 31 turnovers. The Ducks have returned four interceptions for touchdown. The Wildcats have only committed 10 miscues in 12 games.
Oregon Ducks (11-1, 8-1 Big 12): The Wildcats have lost four consecutive bowl games dating back to the 2002 Holiday Bowl during coach Bill Snyder’s first stint at the school. Klein is a multipurpose threat with 2,490 yards and 15 passing touchdowns to go with 890 yards and 22 scores on the ground. Junior John Hubert has rushed for 15 touchdowns to go with a team-leading 892 rushing yards, while senior wideout Chris Harper has a team-best 50 receptions for 786 yards. Harper began his career as a quarterback at Oregon before transferring. Kansas State allows only 99.3 rushing yards per game and boasts big-time talent in senior middle linebacker Arthur Brown – the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year – junior free safety Ty Zimmerman (five interceptions) and senior defensive end Meshak Williams (8.5 sacks). Senior cornerback Allen Chapman and senior cornerback Nigel Malone also have five interceptions apiece.
Kansas State Wildcats (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12): The Ducks could be playing their final game under coach Chip Kelly as rumors swirl that he is headed to the NFL. Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrived under Kelly’s progressive system, completing 69.9 percent of his passes for 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns. Sophomore running back De’Anthony Thomas had 16 total touchdowns, including 11 on the ground while complementing Barner. Senior defensive end Dion Jordan is the leader of the defense with 10.5 tackles for losses. Junior defensive end Taylor Hart has a team-best eight sacks while sophomore cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has blossomed as a huge playmaker. Ekpre-Olomu is tied for the team lead with sophomore middle linebacker Kiko Alonso for most interceptions (four) and also has forced six fumbles.
NCAA Football Prediction: Kansas State 50, Oregon 45.
ty zimmerman - allen chapman - arthur brown - bill snyder - chip kelly - chris harper - collin klein - de’anthony thomas - dion jordan - ekpre-olomu