Whether the Pac-12 finishes at or under .500 this bowl season rests on the winged shoulders of the Oregon Ducks. Mighty Oregon faces Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and Big 12 champion Kansas State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
If any of the BCS bowls other than the national championship game deserved to be removed from the traditional New Year's Day lineup and showcased as a standalone game, this is the one. Both the Oregon Ducks and the Kansas State Wildcats are championship caliber teams, as evidenced by the fact that each of them was just one win short of being in the mix for the crystal football of power. But, alas, it wasn't to be, as both the Ducks and Wildcats dropped late-season games -- Oregon at home to Stanford and Kansas State on the road at Baylor. Maybe Oregon and Kansas State are not playing for "all the Tostitos" in the championship sense, but they certainly provide the makings of an entertaining Tostitos Fiesta Bowl game.
Oregon faces off with Kansas State in what promises to be a classic case of the irresistible force against the immovable object. Statistically, the Wildcats are one of the best, most opportune defenses the Ducks will face this season. They are #1 in the country in regards to turnover margin and are anchored in the middle by talented linebacker Arthur Brown. Unlike in the last couple seasons, the Ducks have shown the ability to throw the ball effectively to compliment one of the country's most prolific rushing attacks. Having both facets of the offense working well will be highly important for the Ducks as they look to keep the Wildcats on their heels and trying to react to misdirection. KSU has forced a total of 32 turnovers on the season which was good enough to place them in the top 10 in total turnovers.
Going through KSU's season the only offense they faced that even remotely resembles Oregon's is Baylor. Baylor handed Kansas State it's only loss on the season, scoring 52 points and racking up 580 yards, 342 of them on the ground. The Bears were able to exploit K-State's defense as Lache Seastrunk tore them up running by and around the KSU defenders. This bodes well for the Ducks as it seemed as though the Wildcats were simply unable to handle a well run spread offense. I don't feel as though there is an offense that runs a spread offense as effectively as the U of O and if Baylor was able to exploit Kansas State's defense in that matchup, I'm excited to see what Oregon's offense is able to do against them.
The Ducks are also playing in this bowl game amid the possible distraction surrounding Coach Chip Kelly's future. Kelly is one of the hot names in NFL coaching search circles and rumors are swirling that the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, and Buffalo Bills have shown interest in Kelly's services. In fact, media reports indicate that the Browns will interview Kelly tomorrow. Another media report indicates that the Bills will also interview Kelly in Arizona tomorrow.
Some semblance of Pac-12 conference pride is at stake in this game. So far this bowl season, the Pac-12 stands at a mediocre 3-4 after these results:
Wins: Arizona (beat Nevada in New Mexico Bowl), Arizona State (beat Navy in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl), Stanford (beat Wisconsin in Rose Bowl)
Losses: Washington (to Boise State in Las Vegas Bowl), Oregon State (to Texas in Alamo Bowl), UCLA (to Baylor in Holiday Bowl), USC (to Georgia Tech in Sun Bowl (!))
So it is up to the Ducks to salvage a .500 bowl record for the conference.
This is your open thread for tonight's game. Grab a bag of Tostitos and share your thoughts on the action in the comments below.
For what team will Chip Kelly be head coach when the 2013 football season begins?
Oregon Ducks (14 votes)
Cleveland Browns (4 votes)
Philadelphia Eagles (16 votes)
Buffalo Bills (2 votes)
None of the above (1 vote)
37 total votes