Fiesta promises to be a Star Party

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The first team to make four straight Bowl Championship Series games, Miami, went 3-1; USC was 6-1 in its seven straight, and Ohio State went 3-3 while making six BCS games in a row.

This year, Oregon became the fourth different school to make at least four straight BCS games. On Thursday, against Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, the Ducks will try to join the other three in going at least .500, having rebounded from losses in the 2010 Rose Bowl and 2011 title game with a Rose Bowl win in January.

To do so, the No. 5 Ducks will need to get past the No. 7 Wildcats. The two bring eerily similar résumés into Thursday's game, each having gone 11-1 and lost out on a BCS title shot with a loss Nov. 17, on a weekend Oregon was No. 1 in the polls, followed by K-State.

The Ducks were undone that day by a loss to Stanford, which plays the sort of physical, disciplined defensive style the Wildcats favor. K-State was knocked off track by Baylor, which plays the kind of up-tempo, spread offense Oregon employs.

"It's pretty much a physical matchup — who wants it more," UO center Hroniss Grasu. "That's what's going to win the game."

K-State's physicality is embodied by quarterback Collin Klein, a Heisman Trophy finalist. He ran 194 times for 890 yards in the regular season, with 22 rushing touchdowns — one more than star UO running back Kenjon Barner.

"Everything revolves around him," UO coach Chip Kelly said. "You may have a great scheme and have a guy come unblocked, and he may run over him."

With that style, Kelly said, Klein presents a challenge similar to those faced by the Ducks in the 2010 Rose Bowl — Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State — and the 2011 BCS Championship, when they took on Cam Newton of Auburn. Those are the two quarterbacks to beat Oregon during its current BCS run, before a win over Russell Wilson and Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl this year.

Kansas State's offense also features quick little tailback John Hubert, who stands all of 5-feet-7, former UO quarterback and receiver Chris Harper at wideout, and a couple of bruising tight ends in Travis Tannahill and Zach Trujillo, similar to those of the Cardinal.

The Wildcats look like Stanford on the other side of the ball, too, with a tough defense that plays conservatively to limit big plays.

"I've been thinking a lot about that Stanford game, what went wrong," Grasu said. "It pretty much went down to who was more physical. They were more physical than us. "… We can't make that mistake again, because Kansas State plays very similar."

Kansas State's defense is strong up front, with ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis. There's a freakishly athletic linebacker patrolling the middle, in Arthur Brown, and the Wildcats figure to welcome back from injury free safety Ty Zimmerman, their version of John Boyett.

Zimmerman missed the loss to Baylor, when the Wildcats gave up 52 points.

"Oregon is similar — high-tempo offense, big-play team," Zimmerman said. "We're going to have to play a lot better than we did against Baylor if we're going to have a chance against Oregon."

K-State faced the Bears after a tough road victory at Texas Christian, spending a week of practice trying to prepare to face an up-tempo offense. Now, they'll have the luxury of a month of preparations before facing the Ducks, armed with lessons learned from the Baylor game.

"They are going to snap the ball every 16 or 17 seconds, sometimes faster than that," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "Just to be able to get lined back up on defense is not an easy task. You have your routine in practice, and you'll run two offenses at your defense. You can replicate that time to a certain degree, but not with the same people. ...

"You can't stand around against a team that moves awful fast. We did that."

The specter of Nov. 17 looms large over both Fiesta Bowl participants. The winner may very well be the team that best corrects the mistakes it made that fateful day.


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