No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 7 Kansas State
Thurs., Jan. 3 – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Glendale, Ariz. – University of Phoenix Stadium
For a time last month, this was our BCS championship game.
The losses that each team absorbed on Nov. 17, to divert their paths away from Miami, tell us a lot about how this one might go.
Kansas State’s 52-24 loss at Baylor is cause for concern in Little Manhattan because the Bears are merely a poor man’s Oregon. The Wildcats allowed Baylor to gain 580 total yards, 342 rushing, 238 passing.
Those numbers are extremely close to what the Ducks are averaging — 550 total yards, 323 rushing, 227 passing.
If you allow Oregon (11-1) that kind of freedom, which always translates into 50-plus points, you’ve got no shot.
The way to beat the Ducks is to follow Stanford’s blueprint, but that’s WAY easier said than done. We don’t even think the Cardinal truly believe that they really bottled up Oregon for just a couple touchdowns and 405 yards in a 17-14 overtime victory.
Aside from a 77-yard blast by quarterback Marcus Mariota, Stanford did an amazing job limiting explosive plays. Incredibly, the Ducks averaged less than two yards on 15 rushing attempts outside the tackles.
Pac-12 teams are more used to this sort of madness and obsess about meeting the challenge. Stanford lost its previous two encounters with Oregon, 53-30 and 52-31. Painful yes, but learning experiences each time.
What Kansas State (11-1) has that Pac-12 teams never do is extra time to prepare. That has served Duck postseason opponents well in the past. But don’t forget that Chip Kelly knows the “Stanford blueprint” is out there and the most glorious part of his attack is its ability to make adjustments according to the defense.
Oregon has things to worry about as well, namely the fact that Wildcat quarterback Collin Klein has this habit of winning games. He even does it all by himself when necessary.
The workhorse got a little banged up in the win over Oklahoma State on Nov. 3, and experienced a slight dip in productivity over the final three games. Unfortunately for the Ducks, he’ll be rested and ready to fire on all cylinders.
We’re just not sure Klein will be able to make it work, trading his haymakers with Oregon’s barrage of lighting quick jabs.
Opening point spread: Oregon by 8 1/2
The pick: Oregon 42-31
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