When you think of college football’s new style of spread offense, the first team that should come to mind is the Oregon Ducks.
While Texas A&M;’s Johnny Manziel gets most of the publicity for being a starting freshman quarterback who puts up big numbers, the Ducks have their own in Marcus Mariota, who has helped take this offense to another level.
On the season, Mariota has accounted for 3,201 total yards of offense and 34 touchdowns. Even more impressive, he has only thrown six interceptions. Standing at 6-feet-4-inches, 196 pounds, Mariota has everything you want in a quarterback. With his size and speed, he can get outside the pocket and make plays with both his arm and his feet. What makes him even more dangerous, though, are the running backs joining him in the backfield.
Senior Kenjon Barner and sophomore De’Anthony “Black Mamba” Thomas give Mariota two weapons who are able to score any time they touch the ball. Barner (1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns) is the go-to running back. With his speed and toughness, he is extremely difficult to tackle when he has the ball. He is also at his best in some of Oregon’s biggest games, rushing for 321 yards and five touchdowns in the Ducks’ 62-51 victory over the USC Trojans on Nov. 3.
Thomas (686 yards and 11 touchdowns), however, is perhaps the more exciting of the duo. He introduced himself to the country last season in the Rose Bowl, where he scored on carries of 64 and 91 yards — the only two carries he had in the bowl game. While he hasn’t quite put up the numbers that were expected of him, make no mistake about it: K-State does not want to see Thomas with the ball in his hands. His return abilities rival those of K-State sophomore wide receiver Tyler Lockett, so look for K-State to try to avoid giving him the ball.
As good as the Ducks have been under head coach Chip Kelly on offense, their defense has not been able to put up the same results. However, this season has seen improvements, due in large part to senior linebacker/defensive end Dion Jordan.
Jordan is a freak athlete, standing at 6-feet-6-inches and 246 pounds. He is very similar to San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith in that he uses his size and speed to wreak havoc on quarterbacks. He will be a key in attempting to slow Collin Klein, as he stands at the same height with about 10 pounds on him. Look for the Ducks to use Jordan as both a rush-end as well as a linebacker, possibly even using him to spy on Klein.
The Ducks, like the Wildcats, appeared to be in control of their own destiny before falling to the Stanford Cardinals. That being said, this is still an incredibly talented team that is going to come out with a chip on their shoulder. This will be the best team that K-State has faced all season. With all of the other BCS games looking like real snoozers, this could very easily end up being one of the best bowls of the bowl season.