Fiesta Bowl Forecast
By Phil Steele
We’re starting to wind down our bowl season. Tonight Kansas St and Oregon meet in the Fiesta Bowl at 830 pm! Each day there is a bowl I will have a breakdown of the game here on my blog. But if you can’t wait for the actual writeup, make sure you download my FREE Bowl Guide which gives you a glimpse of each game being played this bowl season. The Bowl Guide includes Stat Leaders, Past Meetings, Bowl Records, Game By Game Stats and Previous Bowl Game Results. Everything you need for this post season at your fingertips! Here is the forecast for today’s bowl. Make sure you check back on Friday for the Cotton Bowl forecast and download that Bowl Guide today!
8:30 pm • ESPN • U of Phoenix Stadium • Glendale, AZ
This is the 1st meeting of these 2 programs who, with 2 games left in the season, looked to be paired in the BCS Title game but would end up in Glendale instead after upset losses. The Cats won their first Big 12 Championship since ‘03 which is also the last time they played in this game as they are 1-1 in previous Fiesta Bowls (35-18 win over Syracuse ‘97, 35-28 loss to Ohio St ‘03). Snyder is 6-7 overall in bowls including 0-2 since returning from his “retirement.” Oregon is back in a BCS bowl for the 4th time in as many years although you would have to think they are wondering “what if?” after blowing a late lead to Stanford and losing in OT just a few weeks ago. Last year for the first time under HC Chip Kelly the Ducks were victorious in a bowl knocking off Wisconsin by 7 in the Rose Bowl (Kelly 1-2 in bowls).
The Cats were picked #6 in the Big 12 preseason poll but wound up on top by playing clean football as they led the FBS with a +21 TO margin (UO is #3, +19) and eliminating mistakes (#3 FBS in penalties) led by Unitas winner QB Klein. Although known primarily as a bruising runner, Klein improved his passing as a Sr finishing #16 in the FBS in pass eff (208 ypg). He was supported in the run game by #1 rusher Hubert, a small (5’7”) yet punishing runner who had four 100 yard games. The top rec is Oregon transfer Harper who played QB for the Ducks before transferring. The OL (6’4” 298) has no Sr starters and allowed just 13 sacks (4.6%). KSU has my #23 offense and #12 D including 8 Sr starters. The Cats had a Big 12 best 31 sacks led by DE Williams’ 9.5 (#1 conference). The DL (6’1” 271) starts 4 Sr’s and finished #16 in the FBS in rush D (119, 3.7). Brown is the top tackler although the D missed Walker who was absent for the final 3 games due to a knee injury vs TT. The Cats have my #24 pass eff D (255, 63%, 16-18) with 3 secondary starters grabbing 5 int including S Zimmerman who missed the final 2 games (foot). ST’s have always been the great equalizer under Snyder as the Cats finished with my #1 unit. KSU led the FBS in PR (22.0) and KR (29.2) with Lockett and Thompson combining for 3 td’s. K Cantele hit 18-21 FG’s including 4-5 from 40+. P Doerr had a 38.5 net. The coverage units allowed 2.2 on PR although the 23.0 they allowed on KR (2 td) may mean a lot more work for that unit in bowl practices.
The Ducks #1 offense avg 51 ppg and 550 ypg led by the duo of QB Mariota and RB Barner. Mariota was a darkhorse contender for the starting spot heading into spring but after an excellent spring game and good summer camp he took over the duties and hasn’t looked back with more than 3,000 total yards and 34 combined td’s. Barner lived in the shadow of LaMichael James the previous 2 seasons but became a constant workhorse this year finishing in the Top 5 on the NCAA’s rushing list and earning 1st Team All-American. Thomas (18 all-purpose td’s in ‘11) remains a dangerous part of the Duck offense this year with 16 all-purpose td’s as he is 3rd on the team in rushing and leads the team in rec’s. The OL avg 6’5” 299 and is led by C Hroniss Grasu and has paved the way for 323 ypg (6.1), good for 4th best in the NCAA while being sacked 18 times (5.2%). The D has my #13 ranking allowing 22 ppg and 382 ypg led by 13 year DC Aliotti. The DL avg 6’5” 283 and has tallied 16 of the team’s 27 sacks (59%) with the DE combo of Hart (8 sacks) and Jordan (5 sacks) leading the way. LB’s Clay and Alonso are #1 and #2 on the team in tackles while the Ducks are #6 in pass eff D (236 ypg, 59%, 18-24 ratio) as CB Ekpre-Olomu got some much deserved post season recognition. The Oregon ST’s unit has my #17 ranking led by Thomas and his 17.1 avg on PR.
This game could go two different ways. First, Kansas St could win outright in a low scoring affair OR the Ducks could jump out to a huge lead and coasting in the 2H like they’ve done all year as Kansas St could have serious issues adjusting to the Ducks speed. However when a team has extra time to prep for Oregon’s offense and a good front 7, it has been proven that the Ducks can be held far below their point production average (‘09 Rose Bowl held 21 pts under, ‘10 National Championship held 30 pts under). This will give Kansas St a chance to but in the end Mariota and Co will be too much in what could be Chip Kelly’s final game in the green and golden as this one goes down to the wire.
PHIL’S FORECAST: OREGON 38 KANSAS ST 31
Phil Steele is a college football analyst who has been publishing his annual College Football Preview since 1995. His magazine is regarded as one of the best in the business.