K-State faces Oregon tonight in the Fiesta Bowl. David Piper of SB Nation's Oregon blog, Addicted to Quack, answers a few questions to get us ready for the game.
K-State makes its third Fiesta Bowl appearance tonight against the Oregon Ducks, who are playing in their fourth consecutive BCS bowl. To get ready for this game, David Piper of SB Nation's Oregon blog, Addicted to Quack (great name) joins us for a few questions. Keep an eye on ATQ this morning for my answers to their questions.
BOTC: Oregon is playing in its fourth consecutive BCS bowl game, a stretch of success unprecedented in its history. What did it take to change the Ducks from a middling program to one that's at the front of the national consciousness each year?
ATQ: A little bit of luck, and a whole lot of Phil Knight’s money. Oregon’s unexpected run to the Rose Bowl in 1994—their first conference title since 1957—was really the team’s first taste of something more than middling success. When the Ducks followed it up with a Cotton Bowl appearance a year later, the legend goes that Phil Knight asked Mike Bellotti what it would take to have this kind of success regularly, Bellotti talked about an indoor practice facility. Knight got it built. That started both the facilities boom and the Nike relationship (uniforms, etc.) that are widely credited with making Oregon "cool" and getting the team on the map of recruits.
BOTC: Jumping off from the first question, the best of Oregon's success has been under Chip Kelly. Can UO sustain this momentum if Kelly moves on?
ATQ: Look, even if Kelly stays, going to a BCS game every year from now to eternity is unlikely. USC isn’t going to be down forever. Washington, UCLA, and the Arizona schools are slowly making improvements. Stanford has proven a worthy adversary. But, even if we completely disregard the Chip Kelly era, Mike Bellotti had four ten win seasons this decade, two conference championships, won a BCS bowl, and finished #2 in the country. This program isn’t falling off the map any time soon.
BOTC: Back to the game. Oregon's offense terrifies us. What makes the Ducks so hard to slow down, let alone stop?
ATQ: The pace and the speed. Oregon’s no-huddle actually doesn’t go nearly as fast as it did a few years ago, but it still goes pretty quickly and teams just get gassed by the fourth quarter. And if you put tired defenders up against Pac-12 Championship quality speedsters like DeAnthony Thomas or Kenjon Barner, then watch out.
BOTC: The Duck defense had its issues giving up yards and points at times this season. What do you need to see early against K-State to feel confident?
ATQ: I feel really good about the defense. There are a couple of things to mention about the yards and points this team has given up. One is that a lot of those yards and points were given up by the backups that played most second halves after the games were well in hand. The other is that most of the first half issues the team had came in the last four games, when starting nose tackle Wade Keliikipi, who demands a double team on every play, was hurt. Keliikipi is back for the Fiesta Bowl, so I feel pretty good.
BOTC: Give us one player on both sides of the ball that K-State fans should keep an eye on.
ATQ: Everybody knows about Kenjon Barner, DeAnthony Thomas, and Marcus Mariota, but I’m going to say great things about Mariota here anyway. Most people think of Oregon as an overwhelmingly run team, but Mariota is perfectly happy to pass for 300 yards per game, which he did on three occasions this season. The defense is such an underrated unit altogether, but look at the two corners, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell, who are as good as any in the country.
BOTC: Given Oregon's general dominance this season, I'd have to think Duck fans feel pretty confident headed into this one. If not a score prediction, give us an idea of how you see this one playing out.
ATQ: We have our BCS demons, for sure, but there does seem to be a sense of calm for this game, mainly emanating from the fact that it’s not for the national title, and that Oregon got the Rose Bowl monkey off its back last season. My biggest concern is that it comes down to special teams, where Oregon has been terrible this season (and can’t kick a field goal, period). If the Ducks can play from ahead, I’ll feel really good. If its close at the end, I’ll feel impending doom. I just look at the Baylor game, though, and can’t help but think Oregon can do a lot of the same things. I like the Ducks, somewhere in the 7-10 point range.