SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Only one team was able to figure Kansas State out this season and now that game against Baylor more than a month ago is the hot topic here as both the Wildcats and Oregon Ducks get set for the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday night.
The Wildcats were cruising to a possible national title game appearance, ranked No. 1 after winning 10 straight games before getting thumped in Waco, 42-24. The same night, the No. 2 Ducks also watched their title hopes fall by the wayside when they were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by eventual Pac-12 champ Stanford.
But it’s the Wildcats’ loss to Baylor that is still getting much of the attention, because at first glance, its easy to draw some comparisons between the Bears and the Ducks team K-State will see later this week.
Another reason is that Baylor just did to No. 16 UCLA on Thursday night what it did to K-State back on Nov. 17. The Bears finished their season with a decisive 49-26 victory over the Bruins in the Holiday Bowl, their fourth straight win to finish 8-5.
Baylor’s strong finish perhaps made its win over K-State look less like a fluke, but maybe a mismatch nightmare, one that K-State coach Bill Snyder hopes to avoid this week against an equally as impressive Ducks offense.
Oregon — ranked fourth in the BCS — goes into the Fiesta Bowl (7:30 p.m. CST on ESPN) boasting the No. 4 offense in America and is second in scoring, averaging 51 points per game.
“As you saw (Thursday night), Baylor is a for-real team,” Snyder said Friday upon his team’s arrival in Arizona. “There is a great deal of similarity between the two teams. They are two offensive football teams and not to be denied is that fact that they are very good on defense. Baylor was against us — they were against UCLA — and Oregon has been very good on defense all year. Their defense goes somewhat unnoticed because of the tremendous scoring power of their offense.”
Snyder said there were many lessons his fifth-ranked Wildcats (11-1) learned from the loss at Baylor.
“You can’t stand around against a team that moves awful fast,” Snyder said. “We did that. That was a ballgame that we learned a lot. I think we learned a lot about how we reacted or responded to the preparation during the course of the week. We learned a lot about who was willing to make the immense sacrifices that it takes to compete against a team like that.”
Though Baylor (11-1) had the answer that night against K-State, Ducks players say they’re taking into account what every team did against the Wildcats this season to find the right formula for success. But certainly, the Bears’ winning strategy has the Oregon defense’s attention.
“You’ve got to take into account what all the teams have done,” Oregon strong safety Brian Jackson said. “I mean, just because Baylor won the game, that doesn’t mean they’re the only team that was successful on defense. We have quite a few games that we have that we can watch, and of course Baylor is one of those.
“There’s a lot of things that you’ve really got to watch. All teams played Kansas State differently, so when we think about certain defenses that we’ll run, we’ll watch this certain team. It’s never just one team that you should watch to get a full understanding of how to beat someone else.”
At the end of the day, Jackson said its what takes place on the field that matters.
“There’s never a magic formula,” he said. “You have things that you can look at to help, but it really boils down to how will you perform when you’re in that situation.”