The Oregon Ducks and the Kansas State Wildcats will play each other this season in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. Earlier in the year, the Wildcats backed out of playing Oregon in Eugene and gained national attention as they tried to go undefeated. These two factors made many Oregon fans angry. Kansas State claimed that the game didn’t fit its schedule and left a gaping hole for Oregon to fill.
The only school that worked for the Ducks to fill the slot was FCS Tennessee Tech. Oregon finished in a 63-14 rout.
Late in the year many people around the country were anticipating a national championship game between Oregon and Kansas State. Those plans fell apart on the same day when Oregon lost in overtime to Stanford, and K-State lost to Baylor. The Fiesta Bowl this year could match the hype.
Oregon has two of the most dynamic and explosive running backs in the country in Kenjon Barner, senior, and De’Anthony Thomas, sophomore. Barner had a season like no other. By the end of the year, Barner had eclipsed over 1,500 rushing yards and found the endzone 21 times.
On Nov. 3, Barner burned the USC defense for 321 yards and five scores, helping the Ducks to a 62-51 victory. Thomas backed up Barner and ran like a starter, scoring 11 touchdowns and rushing for 686 yards all season. Thomas came up big against Oregon State, leading the Ducks to a 48-24 victory with three touchdowns of his own.
Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota has had a prolific freshman campaign. He set a record for freshman with 30 passing touchdowns with only six interceptions. He gained national attention as a dual-threat quarterback, one who can run and throw. If Mariota plays well in the Fiesta Bowl, he will pass the single-season passing efficiency rating as a freshman over previous record holder Sam Bradford, who plays in the National Football League for the St. Louis Rams.
In what may be Chip Kelly’s final game as the Oregon head coach before possibly leaving for the NFL, a Fiesta Bowl victory would put the cherry on top of a wondrous coaching career. After taking over in 2009, Kelly has lead Oregon to a 45-7 record with four straight Bowl Championship Series appearances. He also led Oregon to its first ever National Championship game against the Auburn Tigers in 2011, and won the 2012 Rose Bowl over the Wisconsin Badgers. No team from the so-called powerhouse of the Southeastern Conference has been able to achieve such a feat.
If Oregon wins the Fiesta Bowl, the Ducks will have finished with three straight 12 win seasons, which no team from this year’s National Championship, Notre Dame and Alabama, can say.
It’s not like Kansas State made it to the Fiesta Bowl without a few star players. Collin Klein, senior, seemingly came out of nowhere and was on fire all season, receiving not only national attention, but attention from Heisman voters. With 15 passing touchdowns and 22 rushing touchdowns, Klein has been on of the statistically best quarterbacks in the Big-12 Conference. He led the Wildcats to their first Big-12 conference title since 2003, and will try to win their first bowl game since 2002.
Running back John Hubert, junior, will try to bust past Oregon’s tough defensive front. With 892 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, Hubert isn’t one to be taken lightly.
With the 2013 Fiesta Bowl set for Jan. 3rd, two high powered offenses and two elite defenses will battle in the desert with the right to call themselves “Fiesta Bowl Champions”.