Regardless of whether Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein adds a Heisman to his trophy case at the end of the year, it’s already been an award-laden season for the 6-foot-5 senior. After accounting for 37 touchdowns (22 on rushing) and 3,380 yards of total offense, Klein took the 2012 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, given to the top senior QB in college football.
Now he has his Wildcats poised to battle their sixth ranked opponent of the year in the Oregon Ducks. Kansas State started out the year posting back-to-back 50-point games in wins over Missouri State and Miami. After a closer-than-it-should’ve-been win 35-21 win over North Texas, the then-No. 15 Wildcats traveled to then-No. 6 Oklahoma for their stiffest test of their young year.
Against the Sooners, however, it wasn’t Klein, but running back John Hubert who solidified the upset in Norman, Okla. Hubert ran for 130 yards and a touchdown in the 24-19 win.
The Wildcats shifted into autopilot with consecutive wins against Kansas and Iowa State before facing a daunting run against then-No. 13 West Virginia, then-No. 14 Texas Tech and then-No. 24 Oklahoma State. In the toughest three-game stretch of their year, the Wildcats put up 154 points — an Oregon-esque 51.3 points per game. Another gritty win on the road at TCU left Kansas State at 10-0 and the No. 1 team in the nation entering a Big-12 showdown with Baylor on Nov. 17.
Oregon fans remember what happened next — Kansas State lost, 52-24, opening the door for the No. 2 Ducks to run the tables all the way to the national championship in Miami. That is, until Stanford topped the Ducks later that night. One day, two upsets.
While Oregon took care of business in the Civil War, Kansas State enjoyed a bye, then beat No. 18 Texas to claim the Big-12 Championship and set up a collision course with the Ducks.
No, it may not be in Florida like many thought, but the Wildcats and the Ducks will face off anyway, and while the stakes could’ve been higher, no team will complain about a BCS berth.
Oregon senior running back Kenjon Barner could be in line for a big game — Kansas State’s rush defense hasn’t been impenetrable. In fact, in their loss to Baylor, the Wildcats gave up 342 yards on the ground. Against USC, Barner churned out 321. Add talented backfield mates De’Anthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota, and Oregon’s rushing attack is much more potent than Baylor’s.
The schedule similarities between Kansas State and Oregon are admittedly eerie. Both teams cruised through the regular season on strong quarterback play and an opportunistic defense before stumbling on Nov. 17 against an underdog. Both teams rebounded from their singular defeat to blow out a conference rival. And now, both teams travel to Glendale where the similarities will have to end.