Jan. 3, 2013
Oregon (11-1) vs. Kansas State (11-1)
Oregon's key player: RB Kenjon Barner
Oregon has a lot of offensive weapons, so it's tough to choose just one, but defenses always have to be aware of Barner in the backfield because he can change a game on one run. Barner, once a Heisman hopeful before a hand injury, ranks No. 5 nationally in rushing with 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns. He had seven 100-yard games this season, including 321 against USC and 198 in the season finale against Oregon State. Kansas State yielded 342 yards against Baylor, the one team it faced this season with an elite running corps. Barner could put up more gaudy numbers.
Kansas State's key player: QB Collin Klein
Klein is a true dual-threat quarterback with a decent arm and a solid body that he doesn't mind using to barrel his way through defensive lines. For weeks, Klein was the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, but an injury against Oklahoma State seemed to affect him and his statistics slipped. Still, with a month to heal and prepare, he should have no trouble carving up an Oregon defense that hasn't had a lot of success stopping many of the better teams on its schedule this season. Klein has thrown for 2,490 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and rushed for 890 yards and two scores.
An early look at the matchup: A few weeks ago, this was the national championship game. These two teams were atop the BCS standings and on a collision course for Miami. But a Kansas State loss to Baylor and an Oregon loss to Stanford knocked both teams out of contention, but we still get the pleasure of seeing them face off. This is a contrast of old vs. new offensive styles. Kansas State plays a physical running style while Oregon is a spread-it-out finesse team. The Ducks present a tough challenge for a Kansas State defense that has seen just one team as offensively multiple (Baylor) and it lost 52-24. Kansas State should be able to score on Oregon, but it won't be able to score as quickly. The key will be keeping the Ducks off the field.
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