GLENDALE, Ariz. — With kickoff fast approaching, here are a few keys to the game for both teams.
1. Win third down: Everybody knows at this point that the Wildcats offense revolves around dual-threat quarterback, Collin Klein. The Heisman finalist had 22 rushing touchdowns this season, but unlike other mobile quarterbacks he isn’t a threat to break off a 50-yard run on every play. That doesn’t make him any easier to bring down. Klein can pick up chunks of yards — five here, ten there — with maddening consistency which makes K-State near impossible to stop on third and short. If the Ducks can force the Wildcats into throwing situations on third down, they can take big part of Klein’s game off the table.
2. Play disciplined: Oregon is among the most penalized teams in the nation, and while some would blame that on Pac-12 officiating, the Ducks were flagged for almost as many penalty yards in last season’s Rose Bowl as they had averaged that season even without Pac-12 refs. Even if Oregon does force Kansas State into long third downs, a pass interference penalty would work just as well as a completion for the Wildcats.
3. Distribute, distribute, distribute: Kansas State has had some trouble this season defending against a rushing attack that has more than one option. Luckily for the Ducks, they have two running backs capable of gaining more than 100 yards in any given game, not to mention a mobile quarterback of their own in Marcus Mariota. If Oregon becomes predictable on offense they become much easier to deal with, though the Ducks pace, and perhaps more importantly the way they vary their pace, is still enough to drive defenses crazy.
1. Control the ball: Oregon doesn’t have to win the time of possession battle to win a game, but if Kansas State can march down the field on long drives they can hope to throw off Oregon’s tempo and tire out the Ducks defense. If the Wildcats try and match the Ducks two-minute-or-less touchdown drives they risk getting into a shootout with the Ducks, and the Ducks have shown that once they get a lead they can continue to hold serve even if their opponents respond.
2. Protect the football: More than a few Ducks game this year have turned on big turnovers, especially interceptions, that have given the Ducks life and deflated their opponents. If the Ducks can pick Klein off and go up by two scores it may be too much for Kansas State to come back from, especially given the chunks of time Kansas State scoring drives tend to take off the clock.
3. Stay composed: “Act like you’ve been there before” may not be the appropriate moniker for Kansas State, given that nobody on their team has played in a BCS Bowl. It’s unlikely that a Bill Snyder coached team will be overwhelmed by the size of the stage it’s playing on, but college athletes are often a little unpredictable. Kansas State needs to be composed from the start if they want to stay in the game.