The Oregon Ducks are a 8-point favorite over K-State in Thursday’s Fiesta Bowl. Media discussion suggests a social parallel: Picture KSU as the stable, reliable girl you want to bring home to your parents, and Oregon is the hot, flashy number in the fancy wardrobe you want to be seen hanging with.
That may end up being a fair view. But it says here that most of the national analysis is overlooking six aspects of the teams’ performance that favor K-State when the two teams take the field in Glendale.
1. K-State doesn’t play the uniform. Under Bill Snyder, this year’s Wildcats in particular have shown a non-aversion to being intimidated by name opponents. They went in to Norman when Landry Jones and the Sooners were the hot, flashy chicks and they won. They went in to Morgantown when West Virginia and Geno Smith were the hot, flashy chicks and they won. They beat Texas … but then they always do that. They beat Oklahoma State, the defending conference champs. In fact, K-State’s toughest games have come against its least glamorous foes: Baylor and Iowa State.
2. K-State has more veterans. The Wildcats start 15 seniors, and they have eight more playing important backup minutes. Oregon only has 17 seniors on its entire roster.
3. K-State doesn’t beat itself. In the six most important conference contests it played this season — against Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas — the Wildcats committed just four turnovers, drew an average of just 4.5 penalties for fewer than 40 yards. In their six most important conference games — against Oregon State, Stanford, USC, Arizona State, Washington and Arizona — Oregon committed nine turnovers and averaged nearly eight penalties for about 67 yards per game. In short, Oregon is far more likely than K-State to screw something up Thursday.
4. K-State is used to Oregon’s up-tempo game. In the six aforementioned games, Oregon averaged 88.5 offensive plays per game. That’s real good, but it’s nothing K-State hasn’t seen over and over in the Big 12. In their six most important conference games, K-State faced three opponents who ran up 80 or more offensive plays. In its six critical conference games, K-State opponents averaged 77.5 offensive plays.
5. K-State plays keep-away. It’s the best weapon against a high-octane offense, and it’s K-State’s bread and butter. In those six Big 12 games cited above, K-State averaged nearly 33 minutes of possession. In its six toughest Pac 12 games, Oregon only averaged 28.5 minutes of possession.
6. K-State has played tougher competition. The Wildcats beat OU when the Sooners were rated No. 6, West Virginia when the Mountaineer were rated No. 13, Texas tech when the Red Raiders were rated No. 14, and Texas when the Longhorns were rated No. 18. Oregon played only three teams rated in the top 20 at the time of the game, and none of them were ranked higher than No. 13 Stanford, which won. The Ducks’ only wins against teams in the top 20 were No. 15 Oregon State and the since-discredited No. 17 USC. The Sagarin ratings list six KSU foes in the top 31, but just four Oregon opponents. ther 3end o fthe spectrum, the six worst teams K-State played had an average final Sagarin rating of 74. Oregon’s six worst opponents had an average final Sagarin of 104.
7. Ty Zimmerman is back. From his safety position, Zimmerman is a defensive binding force, and his absence due to an injury was fully exploited by Baylor quarterback Nick Florence when the Bears beat K-State in mid-November.