By Matt Walks
sports editor, The Daily Emerald
As we get closer to the bowl game, the K-State Collegian and the University of Oregon’s campus newpaper, The Daily Emerald, are working together to get all you need to know on the two teams. Kicking off the coverage, will be a head to head by sports editors Mark Kern and the Matt Walks, saying why their respective schools will win the game.
I could list a lot of reasons why I think Oregon is going to beat Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.
I could offer you stats, take a few meaningless numbers and warp them into backing me up. Kansas State gives up 4.7 generous rushing yards, on average, on first down. Oregon is seventh in the country in total first downs and has seven different backs averaging at least five yards per carry. Therefore… see? It’s easy to play that game.
Or I could extoll the virtues of Oregon’s head coach and stake my claim that Chip Kelly’s new-school, riskaholic innovation will trump Bill Snyder’s old-timey discipline. After all, only one of those coaches has won more than 85 percent of his games and coached in a BCS game every year he’s been a head coach.
But really, the Ducks are going to beat the Wildcats simply because they’re the better team, and the better team usually wins these affairs.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Mr. Band-Aid — Collin Klein didn’t get his due from Heisman voters, but what are you going to do when #johnnyfootball is trending across the country?
Klein represents K-State’s best chance to win a bowl game for the first time in a decade. As a passer, he’s more than adequate — 180-for-272 (66 percent), 2490 yards, 15 touchdowns, seven interceptions, good for a rating of 156.1, the 13th-best mark in the country.
But eight spots higher sits redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has a better completion percentage, more yards, twice as many touchdowns and less interceptions, all while having played one less game than Klein.
The second edge to Klein’s sword, his insane ability to find the endzone when 11 guys on defense know exactly what K-State is going to run, is harder to quantify.
Twenty-two rushing touchdowns is a lot, but it’s only one more than Oregon’s superstar senior running back du juor, Kenjon Barner. And that says nothing for Mariota’s own wheels, those that carried him to a 7.0 yards per carry average and only 100 less yards than Klein.
I’m not making any friends in Manhattan by saying this, but the Wildcats’ defense isn’t built like Stanford’s. They can’t clog the middle against Oregon enough to grind the Ducks’ juggernaut offense to a halt (See: Bears, Baylor).
What they can do really well — let Ty Zimmerman, Allen Chapman and Nigel Malone wreak havoc with interceptions — doesn’t translate well against a Ducks’ zone-read offense that is 42 points away from scoring more points in a 13-game season than any other team in college football history.
I understand Wildcats fans’ collective excitement to be back in the bowl game. For long-time fans, this must be like the second coming of Michael Bishop. All of the preliminary reports suggest it might as well be a home game for the Wildcats — sluggish ticket sales in Oregon coupled with K-State fans’ rabid hunger for a BCS bowl game leave me expecting far more purple than green in the stands.
But to me, that just leaves more Wildcat fans to be disappointed. With the exception of Notre Dame, no team in college football has been more consistent this year than Oregon.
I fully expect the Ducks to run away with it in the desert, just hours before Chip Kelly runs away to the NFL.
But that’s a whole ‘nother battle.