Fiesta Bowl Preview: Oregon, Kansas State, and the Importance of One

Jonathan Ferrey

The teams are very different stylistically, but they're both here because they had one bad game.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The teams: Oregon and Kansas State

How Oregon got here: The Ducks were the prohibitive favorite in the Pac-12 despite starting a freshman quarterback, mainly because Chip Kelly had never lost a conference title in his years as the Ducks' head coach. For the better part of the season, everything went according to plan. They scored at least 50 points in seven of the team's first 10 games, and they didn't fail to reach 40 in the other three. Then came a bad night against Stanford, a 17-14 overtime loss that not only killed their national title aspirations but kept them from even playing for the Pac-12 title. They finished up the year with a 48-24 win over Oregon State that was in line with everything else from the rest of the season.

How Kansas State got here: Very little about Kansas State resembles Oregon, but the story is remarkably similar. For most of the season, the Wildcats looked and played like the Big 12's best team. They weren't always as much of a buzz saw as Oregon was, but they still had wins with scores like 52-13, 56-16, 55-14, and 55-24. Collin Klein even emerged as the Heisman frontrunner on a classic best-player-on-the-best-team campaign. Then came a bad night in Waco, also in the team's eleventh game. Baylor put a hurting on the Wildcats to the tune 52-24, irrevocably removing KSU from the title discussion and keeping Klein from having a shot at the stiff-arming statuette. The Wildcats too closed the year with a blowout win with almost the same score (42-24), but the damage was already done. At least this team got a conference title for its troubles.

College football fans care because: It's a remarkable contrast in styles between the sleek, uptempo Oregon (82.4 offensive plays per game on average) and the old school, bruising Kansas State (64.25). Plus you never know how much longer the 73-year-old Bill Snyder will coach, and this might be Chip Kelly's last game as a college coach.

SEC fans care because: We care about good football, and short of the national title game, this is possibly the best matchup of bowl season.

Watch this game if...: You're near a TV. It should be a good one.

cocknfire's pick: Oregon 44, Kansas State 33

Line: Oregon by 8

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