By Chad Horner
Tomorrow night, Oregon and Kansas State will face off in the Fiesta Bowl in a matchup that many expected to see as the National Championship game until both teams lost in the final weeks of the season. Here’s a quick preview of what to expect from each team. We’ll focus on offense here, as both teams are in the top 10 in the nation in scoring.
The Wildcats’ offense can be summed up in two words: Collin Klein. Although he is the team’s quarterback, he leads the team in rushing attempts and rushing touchdowns, and has more rushing yards than any of his receivers have receiving yards. To get an idea of what type of player Klein is, let’s compare two stat lines:
Player A: 62% completion percentage, 2200 yards, 8 ypa, 14 passing TDs, 7 INTs;
255 rushes, 1015 yards, 4 ypc, 25 rushing TDs
Player B: 66% completion percentage, 2825 yards, 9.2 ypa, 25 passing TDs, 5 INTs;
197 rushes, 792 yards, 4 ypc, 13 rushing TDs
Aside from the distribution of touchdowns, the players look quite similar, although Player B seems to be a better passer.
Both stat lines are the average of the players statistics over their junior and senior years. Player A is Collin Klein. Player B? Tim Tebow.
If you haven’t seen Klein play before, and you’re wondering what to expect, the numbers should give you a pretty good idea. He’s Tebow-lite. He has to do more of it by himself than Tebow did, because he isn’t blessed with the talent of a top-level SEC team, but he isn’t as talented as Tebow was either.
Despitie his reputation as a dual-threat quarterback, Klein builds up his numbers more through volume than through big runs – he only has 7 runs this season that have gone for more than 20 yards, and his longest run was for just 34 yards.
As a passer, Klein isn’t anything special. He doesn’t make many mistakes, and is 13th in the nation in passing efficiency, but he doesn’t make a lot of big passing plays either – 39th in the nation in 20+ yard passes – and frankly, the Wildcats just don’t throw the ball very often. The only time Klein threw more than 28 passes all year was when he threw 50 against Baylor, and the Wildcats lost that game, which also was Klein’s worst of the year. This isn’t to say he isn’t a good quarterback – he’s carried the Wildcats this far – but if the game gets to a point where Kansas State needs to move the ball through the air in order to stay in it, they’re probably in trouble.
The Ducks also have a dual threat QB – redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota. Oregon doesn’t rely on Mariota for their ground attack as much as K State does with Klein, but he has still amassed 690 rushing yards at an average of 7 yards per carry, with more big plays than Klein – 9 of more than 20 yards, including a long of 86.
Marcus is 5th in the nation in passing efficiency, although he airs it out even less than Klein does. If the Ducks are going to win, they will do it on the ground, just like the Wildcats. Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas, and Mariota all average 6.5+ yards per carry, and they are all big play threats. More than a fifth of Barner’s carries have gone for over 10 yards, and roughly 1 out of every 10 of Thomas’ and Mariota’s carries go for 20 or more.
There isn’t much more to say about Oregon. They will run, and run, and run, and then run some more. It isn’t a question of if they’ll be able to score, it’s a question of how often they’ll be able to.
I believe that ultimately the tempo will go Oregon’s way, as it usually does. However, I don’t think it will be the massive shootout that some are expecting. The Over/Under has been set at 75 points, and I’d take the under on that. Although the offenses get all of the attention (in this preview, for example), both defenses are strong as well. If I had to make a bet on the winner of the game, I would pick the Ducks -8.5. If Oregon wins, I think it’ll be by at least two scores. I trust Chip Kelly, and something about Kansas State being one of the top teams in the nation doesn’t feel right to me. This is possibly the most talented team that Kelly has ever had, and I’m excited to see what they can do in what may be Chip’s last game as the coach of the Ducks, although I sincerely hope it isn’t.