KANSAS STATE WILDCATS (11-1)
vs. OREGON DUCKS (11-1)
Fiesta Bowl - Phoenix, AZ
Kickoff: Thursday, 8:30 p.m. EDT
Line: Oregon -8, Total: 75.5
Two teams who lost BCS title game chances in the final month of the season will lock horns Thursday when Kansas State and Oregon play in the Fiesta Bowl.
KSU is looking for its first bowl win since 2002, a period of four straight postseason defeats. Oregon is playing in its fourth straight BCS Bowl, losing two of the first three. The Wildcats have just two ATS defeats all year (10-2 ATS), and the Ducks are also a great bet recently, going 6-1 ATS since starting the season 1-4 ATS. K-State averages 40.7 PPG (9th in FBS) thanks to 37 total touchdowns from QB Collin Klein. Oregon puts up 50.8 PPG (2nd in FBS), powered by 323 rushing YPG (2nd in nation), including 135 rushing YPG (5th in FBS) from Kenjon Barner.
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Although Klein scored two touchdowns in last year's Cotton Bowl, he completed just 16-of-30 passes for 173 yards and 1 INT, while rushing for a mere 42 yards on 24 carries. He's thrown only 3 TD passes and 5 INT over the past four contests. If he can't get going, the Wildcats don't have much else. Junior RB John Hubert leads KSU in rushing (892 yards) and has 15 rushing touchdowns, but he has failed to reach 80 rushing yards in a game since Oct. 6, a span of seven games. The passing offense isn't great, ranking 84th in the nation with 212 YPG, but Klein was able to gain 184 yards on just eight completions (23.0 yards per completion) in the last game against Texas. Defensively, this team has been gashed for 993 total yards over the past two games, allowing 342 rushing yards to Baylor and 314 passing yards to the Longhorns. But for the season, KSU ranks 24th in the nation in scoring defense (21.1 PPG) and a respectable 43rd in total defense (375 YPG) considering the offensive-rich Big 12 that it plays in. But the Wildcats lead the nation in turnover margin (+1.8 per game) with 31 takeaways and just 10 giveaways, and they also have an elite return game, leading all FBS teams in both kick return average (29.2) and punt return average (22.0).
Oregon freshman QB Marcus Mariota has been outstanding all season, ranking sixth in FBS in passing efficiency (165.36). He's thrown for 2,511 yards (8.0 YPA), 30 TD and just 6 INT this season, tossing at least 4 TD passes four times. Mariota has also been a big part of Oregon's potent ground game, rushing for 690 yards (7.0 YPC) and 4 TD. Top RB Kenjon Barner has rushed for 6.5 yards per carry with 21 touchdowns this season, as he's carried the football at least 20 times on eight separate occasions this year. He hasn't been great in his past two bowl games though, combining for 62 yards on 18 carries (3.4 YPC). The same cannot be said for De'Anthony Thomas, who rushed for 155 yards on just two carries (91-yd TD, 64-yd TD) in last year's Rose Bowl win, while adding 125 kick return yards and 34 receiving yards. Thomas has 16 TD in 2012 with five multi-touchdown games, including 122 rushing yards and 3 TD in the regular-season finale at Oregon State. The Ducks defense has been solid this season, allowing 22.0 PPG (26th in nation) with just one Pac-12 team surpassing 26 points (USC had 51 on Nov. 3). They will have their work cut out in stopping the run though, as they allowed 190+ rushing yards in four of the past seven games. However, Oregon is tied with Kent State for the nation's lead in forced turnovers with 38, taking away at least three footballs in eight games this season, including each of the past four contests.