No. 5 Oregon Ducks (11-1 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. No. 6 Kansas State Wildcats (11-1 SU, 9-2-1 ATS)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Date/Time: Thursday, January 3rd, 2012, 8:30 p.m. EST
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
TV: ESPN/DirecTV 206
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OR -9/KSU +9
Over/Under Total: 76
It’s not the game that either the 5th-ranked Oregon Ducks or the 7th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats wanted to be in, but at least the two will play in a highly anticipated BCS Bowl when both one-loss teams meet in the Fiesta Bowl on January 3rd at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
As late as mid-November these two schools were being predicted to meet in the BCS Championship, but then both lost in the same weekend (Nov. 17th) to dash their hopes of a national title and drop them into the consolation prize of an appearance in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl.
Oregon’s misstep came at home in overtime against Stanford, 17-14, when kicker Alejandro Maldonado’s field goal kick on the opening possession of overtime hit off the left upright. Stanford’s Jordan Williamson hit his 37-yard attempt three plays later and the Cardinal stunned the Ducks in Autzen Stadium and knock the Ducks from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Kansas State’s lone loss this season happened on the same day, but it was much more disheartening as the Baylor Bears ran them off the field in a, 52-24, win in Waco. Heisman hopeful Collin Klein threw for 286 yards and two scores, but his three interceptions crushed the Wildcats hopes of winning and staying alive in the BCS title hunt.
Both teams rebounded and won in their regular season finales to set up the Fiesta Bowl matchup, but with them sitting at 4th and 5th in the BCS standings and in need of an improbable miracle to get any higher in the standings, you have to wonder if missing out on the big BCS prize will affect their motivation despite the fact they’re still playing for a big BCS bowl payday.
Oddsmakers set the opening point spread for the Fiesta Bowl with Oregon as large 9-point favorites. The early action on the game has been mixed, since the number has gone up the hook at a few offshore sportsbooks to minus -9.5, while most of the properties in Las Vegas have moved the other direction to -8.5 after the early steam.
The over/under total opened at 77 and has since dropped to 76. 75.5 or even 75 depending a where you wager.
The folks associated with the Fiesta Bowl have to be pleased the Ducks and Wildcats fell into their laps, since the game will feature two of country’s most high-powered offenses. Oregon plays at a pace that would make some basketball teams blush, and their 50.8 points per game (2nd in FBS) proves it just about every week. Kansas State is only a few scores behind the Ducks, averaging 40.7 per game for the 10th best mark in the land.
The key to slowing down these offenses is getting them into 3rd-and-long situations and making both Klein and Oregon QB Marcus Mariota throw the ball, something both are accomplished at (Klein 66%, 2,490 yards and 15 TD; Mariota 70%, 2,511 yards and 30 TD) but not nearly as skilled at as running the rock.
All of this translates into which team is better equipped at stopping the other one from imposing their own pace and will with better defense. Statistically the edge would appear to go to Kansas State (allow 375 ypg – 42nd; Ore. 382 ypg – 48th), but after watching Baylor run up 342 yards on the ground (7.0 ypc) you have to shutter when you imagine what Oregon with Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas and Mariota will do with over three weeks to prepare.
Ironically, these two teams were originally scheduled to meet on the field with a home-and-home series starting in 2011, but when the Ducks had a chance to open 2011 with a game against LSU they called the Wildcats and asked them to move the series back a year. Kansas State decide to just cancel the games, and Oregon agreed, setting the stage for the first meeting between these two programs in the Fiesta Bowl on January 3rd.
Oregon hasn’t done very well covering in either non-conference games (2-5 ATS in L7) or neutral site games (1-5 ATS), but considering they’ve been forced to chase some ridiculous numbers (favored by an average of 41 points in three non-conf. games this year) you have to take those trends for what they’re worth.
Kansas State hasn’t played in a BCS bowl since 2008, and their history in bowls is pretty sketchy since they’ve gone 0-4 ATS in their last four bowl games (10-21 ATS in L31 non-conf. games too).
The under is 5-2 in Oregon’s last seven bowl game appearances (four straight in BCS), and the under is also 6-2 when the Ducks play on Thursday, but those are the only betting trends that don’t point to an over in this game.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think Kansas St. has a shot of winning this game straight up so I’m excited to be getting 9 points here. My Fiesta Bowl prediction is KSU plus the points.
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