Forget the Tostitos, Grab Some Popcorn: 2013 Fiesta Bowl Preview

Collin-Klein-Kansas-State

On the morning of November 17, Kansas State and Oregon appeared headed for a titanic matchup to end the season.

That indeed came to pass, just not in the manner both teams would have preferred.

Both the Ducks and the Wildcats were undefeated and sitting at 1-2 in the BCS standings. However, both teams suffered shocking upsets that evening that knocked them out of the running for the national championship. Instead, they’ll have to settle for what should be a compelling Fiesta Bowl and one of the most-anticipated games of the bowl slate.

#4 Oregon Ducks (11-1) vs. #5 Kansas State Wildcats (11-1)

These two teams could not be more diametrically opposed. Oregon is flashy—seemingly debuting a new uniform combination every week—and all about speed. The Ducks operate at a frenetic speed and utilize an explosive offensive attack that leaves opposing defenses shell-shocked and gasping for air. Oregon eschews the old conventions of ball control and time of possession. The Ducks want to score as fast and as often as possible.

Oregon’s potent offense is led by running back Kenjon Barner and his 1,624 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. His backup, De’Anthony Thomas, is the Ducks’ second-leading receiver and is a dynamic return man. He has contributed 16 touchdowns total on the season. Quarterback Marcus Mariota became the first freshman quarterback in 23 years to earn Pac-12 first-team all-conference honors after throwing for 2,511 yards with 30 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions to go along with 690 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground.

Kansas State is far from flashy. The Wildcats epitomize their head coach, Bill Snyder. They are not outstanding in any one area, but they are competent at everything. Kansas State is disciplined and tough, and the Wildcats don’t make mistakes. Their offense isn’t innovative or cutting edge like Oregon’s, but it is highly effective, averaging 40.7 points per game.

K-State is led by senior quarterback Collin Klein, this season’s second runner-up for the Heisman trophy. He threw for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns, with 7 interceptions, but he is a tremendous runner, tallying 890 yards and a whopping 22 touchdowns. He’s joined in the backfield by running back John Hubert and his 892 yards and 15 touchdowns. Both guys will look to exploit an Oregon defense what was leaky against the run down the stretch.

On defense, the Wildcats are led by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Arthur Brown. The linebacker led the team in tackles and was named a second-team All-American. He keys a stout run defense that held opponents to under 100 yards rushing a game but will be severely tested by the country’s third-ranked rushing offense.

Keys to the Game

Kansas State must exploit Oregon’s defensive vulnerabilities and keep the Duck offense off the field. That means running the football and sustaining long drives. Chew up some clock and allow the defense time to rest. When the Wildcats get down close to the end zone, they have to score touchdowns; Kansas State can’t settle for field goals. On defense, K-State must stay disciplined and not give up the big play. Oregon has tremendous quick-strike ability and can change the momentum of a game in an instant.

For Oregon, the Duck defense must shore up its recent holes against the run and figure out a way to bottle up Klein and Hubert. Klein isn’t the most effective passer, so the Ducks must force him to try and beat them with his arm. On offense, Oregon has to stay patient and not get anxious. Kansas State is going to want to slow the game down and limit the Ducks’ offensive possessions. If that happens, Oregon must resist the temptation to try and score all at once on every play. The Ducks mustn’t get frustrated about their lack of offensive possessions.

The Verdict

This is a tough game to call, which is why it’s such a highly-anticipated matchup. Oregon has an abundance of offensive firepower and speed. Kansas State is disciplined and rugged. Which style will win out in the end?

Oregon’s tempo and speed may be too much for Kansas State—after all, the Wildcats were thrashed by Baylor’s up-tempo attack—but I think the Wildcats can handle it. There are plenty of explosive offenses in the Big 12, and Kansas State was up to the task against them. Klein will be able to find some running room against a smaller Oregon front seven, and the Ducks won’t be able to capitalize on the Wildcats’ mistakes because Kansas State simply doesn’t make any. Bill Snyder will have his team focused and ready to play, while the rampant rumors of Chip Kelly’s departure to the NFL may be a distraction for Oregon. Kansas State wins a barn-burner.

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BCS Bowl Bash Continues: 2013 Sugar Bowl Preview

 

After last night’s 31-10 Florida State victory in the Orange Bowl, tonight’s Sugar Bowl figures to be another big win for a team from the Sunshine State. Louisville started the year 9-0 before losing two-of-its-last-three games but will be facing a step up in competition against a Florida squad that has four wins over teams in the BCS top-12.

#3 Florida Gators (11-1) vs. #21 Louisville Cardinals (10-2)

Much like last night’s Orange Bowl, this game figures to be a mismatch on paper. Louisville features an ultra-talented quarterback but played a dubious schedule and will be facing an elite Florida team boasting a tough, physical defense. Adding another layer of intrigue to this game is the fact that Louisville coach Charlie Strong was the defensive coordinator for Florida’s past two national championship teams.

Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sensational for the Cardinals this year, completing 69 percent of his passes for 3,452 yards with 25 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions en route to leading Louisville to its first BCS game since 2007.

However, he’ll have to be at his best against a Gator defense that was third in the country in scoring defense (12.9 points a game) and hellacious on opposing quarterbacks. Florida has yielded only five touchdown passes all year and holds the opposition for only 186 passing yards a game. Heisman Trophy-winner Johnny Manziel had his season-low in passing yardage against Florida. Bridgewater will have his work cut out for him.  

On the other side of the ball, Florida likes to hand the ball off early and often to senior running back Mike Gillislee. The All-SEC performer rushed for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns and figures to see plenty of action against a Louisville defense that was second-to-last in the Big East at stopping the run, allowing almost 175 yards a game on the ground.

Keys to the Game

Just like the Orange Bowl, this game will revolve around whether the underdog’s offense can get anything going against a stout defense and whether its own defense can hold up against a physical running attack. Northern Illinois was done in by its offense getting dominated by Florida State’s defense. The Huskies couldn’t sustain drives, and eventually, the Seminoles wore down the smaller NIU defense.

Louisville needs to prevent that from happening. Bridgewater & Co. have to string together some first downs to allow the Cardinal defense to rest. Establishing some semblance of a running game will be paramount so that the Gators can’t pin their ears back and get after Bridgewater. If the Cardinals can put up some points and grab the lead, they’ll force Florida to pass the ball, something the Gators are loath to do considering quarterback Jeff Driskel averages less than 20 pass attempts a game and a measly 133.7 yards a game.

For Florida, the recipe is simple. The Gators need to bottle up Bridgewater and pound the rock early and often with Gillislee. Louisville is weak against the run, which plays to Florida’s strength. If the Gators can have success running the football, they can protect Driskel and have some play-action pass opportunities. If they can stop Louisville’s ground game and force the Cardinals to be one-dimensional, then the defense can focus on harassing Bridgewater and making his life miserable.

The Verdict

There’s not much doubt here. Florida is simply too good. Strong will have his team ready to play, but Louisville can’t hang with the Gators for 60 minutes. Louisville’s struggles stopping the run don’t bode well. Florida wins it.

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Dicks Sporting Goods Has a Sense of Humor

This is a photo a Redditor submitted at a local New York Dicks Sporting Goods store. Take a close look at what #15 is sitting on.

Thoughts when I first saw it? “I AM FOREVER A CUSTOMER”.  More stores need to have a sense of humor about things like this. Just for our pure amusement.

#ButTheyLiedtoHim

tebow jets dicks sporting goods

 

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Romo Chokes Again. This and Other NFL Random Thoughts

Poor Tony Romo.  He has been labeled a choke artist for a long time now and probably nothing short of a Super Bowl will lose that moniker for him.  I’d looked at his numbers in the past and concluded that Romo wasn’t really that much more choke-y than a lot of players, but Sunday’s debacle against the Redskins, in which Romo threw three picks including the one that put the nail in the Cowboys’ coffin will only make the label stick harder in the future.

Sorry, Tony, but this time you deserve it.  In the biggest game of the season, Romo came up unbelievably small.

Hit the title/continue reading to read more. . .
nfl, cowboys, redksins, tony romo
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