Dallas Colleges: Fiesta Bowl-2012
Who to watch: The Fiesta Bowl features two of the nation's best quarterbacks, Kansas State's Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who was first-team All-Pac-12 as a redshirt freshman. They are the QBs for high-powered, though very different, offenses. Klein carries far more of the load for the Wildcats than Mariota does for the Ducks, but if one of them turns in an uncharacteristically mediocre or sloppy game, it probably will cost his team the win. And that's not too far out of the realm of possibility. While both teams protect the ball well, both also rank among the nation's leaders in forcing turnovers. It will be interesting to see what happens if things are still in doubt in the fourth quarter, as most expect. Mariota played only one close game this season, and the Ducks lost that one to Stanford.
What to watch: Tackling. Klein is the Wildcats' best runner, and he thrives at getting yards after contact, especially when he smells the end zone. He has 40 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons and is one of four Football Bowl Subdivision players with more than 200 rushing yards in the red zone this season. He gained 35.7 percent of his red zone yards after contact. Running back John Hubert isn't big but runs hard, so the Ducks need to make their first hit count. Oregon is all about speed. If Mariota, Kenjon Barner, Josh Huff or De'Anthony Thomas make the first defender miss, the odds are good they'll go yard, or at least gain a big chunk of yards. Tackling will be interesting to watch early and late. Early because both teams are dealing with a long layoff (just over a month), and late because that's when fatigue -- and pressure -- sets in.
Why watch: This is the only bowl game that matches top-five teams other than the national title game between Alabama and Notre Dame. It features well-coached teams with plenty of star power and sets up to be highly competitive. It's a nice Pac-12 versus Big 12 showdown, a conference pairing the Big 12 has dominated this bowl season. And it could be Chip Kelly's final game as the Ducks coach before he takes an NFL job.
Predictions: Ted Miller says Oregon 33, Kansas State 24. Kevin Gemmell says Oregon 49, Kansas State 38. David Ubben says Oregon 38, Kansas State 31. For full predictions from the Pac-12's Miller and Gemmell, click here. For Ubben's full prediction on the Big 12 blog, click here.
As always, these come courtesy of our crack team at ESPN Stats & Information and sports information departments across the Big 12. Let's get started:
Did you know ...
- Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel has 784 of his 1,181 rushing yards on scrambles, averaging 9.7 yards a carry on those plays.
- Manziel has been forced out of the pocket on 27.6 percent of drop backs this season.
- Over the last three games, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is completing 77.7 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and no interceptions when he's blitzed.
- On the season, he has eight touchdowns and one pick when blitzed.
- Jones has thrown just 12.2 percent of his career passes from outside the pocket, but thrown 25.5 percent of his career interceptions from outside the pocket.
- In Oklahoma's first 10 games, Jones attempted 41 passes from outside the pocket. In the last two games, he's attempted just three such passes.
- Texas A&M is 4-8 in its 12 Cotton Bowl appearances.
- Oklahoma is 1-0 in its only appearance in the bowl, back in 2002.
- If Oklahoma wins, it will have its first four-game bowl winning streak since 1978-81.
- West Virginia's Pat White is the only player to ever go 4-0 in bowl games. Landry Jones could join him with a win.
- A&M hasn't won consecutive bowl games since 1985.
- A win would give Stoops 150 wins at Oklahoma, seven short of Barry Switzer's school record.
- A win would give Texas A&M its first 11-win season since 1998.
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