It’s been more than a month since the Oregon Ducks last took the field, but not much has changed since the Nov. 24 routing of the Oregon State Beavers. The quad from Eugene is still one of the best teams in the country, and even though they’re not in the bowl game they hoped for, they still have a chance to assert their dominance on a national stage.
At one point it was almost assumed that Oregon would play the Kansas State Wildcats in the BCS National Championship. That didn’t play out, but the two teams are still set to face off Jan. 3 in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
So what do the Ducks need to do to take down their opponents? Simply put, stick to the game plan.
Run the Football
It’s no secret that the Ducks like to run the football. They were the third-best running team in the country this season, and its the part of their attack that helps set up the passing game.
The problem in this one is that they are going up against one of the top running defenses in the country. The last time they played an elite run defense they lost in overtime to Stanford, and Kenjon Barner was held to an unprecedented 66 yards on 21 carries.
The Ducks have had problems running against bigger teams in the past, but last year’s Rose Bowl against the Wisconsin Badgers showed that they can get it done.
Score a lot of Points
Although it may sound simple on the surface, the Ducks need to score a lot of points in order to win football games.
In Chip Kelly’s career as the head coach at Oregon, he has seven losses, and the team has averaged just about 23 points per game in those contests. That’s a stark difference from the 50.8 points they averaged throughout the 2012 season.
The other reason Oregon needs points is because they’re going up against the best offense they’ve seen all season. Kansas State scores 40.7 points per game, and they have one of the most dangerous players in the country in quarterback Colin Klein.
Nobody in their right mind would ever question the confidence of a Chip Kelly-coached team, especially when they’ve encountered so much success in such a short amount of time. But when it comes down to it, any team in the country can be shaken, and if Oregon gets down early, they need to keep their confidence high.
Whether it be on offense or defense, the Ducks need to remain confident for an entire 60 minutes. If Kansas State comes out and shows in the first quarter why they’re a top-5 team, Oregon must remember how many times they’ve started slowly and dominated late.
Confidence shouldn’t be an issue in this game, but sticking to the game plan doesn’t exclude emotions.
Swarm Colin Klein, Make Him Pass
Before K-State’s unexpected loss to the Baylor Bears, quarterback Colin Klein was considered one of the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy. However, a horrible Baylor defense forced him to throw the ball 50 times, and he threw three interceptions as a result.
Klein has a decent enough arm to keep defenses honest, but where he’s going to make his impact felt is in the running game. Twenty-two of his 37 scores this season came on the ground, and he recorded 890 yards in the rushing game by the time the year came to an end.
Klein has yet to face a defense of Oregon’s stature, and while the Ducks have a tendency to give up yards, a big reason for that is the reserves saw a lot of playing time in blowouts. The starting lineup has the athletes at every position to make a difference, and if they can bring the heat from every spot, Klein won’t know which direction to turn in times of adversity.
Protect the Football
Turnover ratio has been a huge part of both team’s success this season. The Wildcats lead the nation with a positive margin of 1.75, while the Ducks are third at 1.58.
If Oregon wants to win this game, they have to keep Kansas State from taking advantage in that department.
Despite the success Oregon found on defense this year, they’re going to be challenged by the Wildcats’ offense. Protecting the ball is the No. 1 way of keeping Kansas State off the field, and in a game that could be quite a shootout, the Ducks need as many points as they can get.