- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are three Oregon keys for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl:
1. Win the turnover battle: Kansas State is No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin. Oregon is No. 3. The Wildcats are ranked that highly because they've given away only 10. The Ducks are that high because they've taken away 38. In Kansas State's lone loss to Baylor, QB Collin Klein threw three interceptions. In fact, Klein threw five of his seven interceptions in the final three games. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota threw only one pick over the final six games, but that interception came in the loss to Stanford. As Oregon coach Chip Kelly would tell you, winning the turnover battle is not just about getting them. It's about what you do with them or what you do when you give them away. Defenses need to make a stand; offenses need to take advantage.
2. Special teams: Both teams are good on special teams, but Kansas State might be the best in the nation. The Wildcats are No. 1 in the nation in punt and kick returns and have a good field goal kicker. As many Ducks fans know, Oregon hasn't been very good at kicker the past two seasons. If the game comes down to field goals, the Ducks are probably going to lose. Further, special teams dictate field position. Beyond that, it seems as if big bowl games feature at least one or two big plays on special teams -- a big return, a blown kick, a blocked kick, etc. In a close game, special teams often make the difference.
3. Get Klein down on first contact: It's strange to say that a quarterback is a physical runner, but that is Klein's game. He runs hard, breaks tackles and is his most aggressive near the goal line, and he gets better as the game goes along, like a good running back. He averaged 13.2 designed running plays per game in Big 12 games, averaged 5 yards per carry and had at least one touchdown in all nine conference games, including five games with at least two touchdowns. Further, he is averaging 1.4 more yards per run on such plays in the second half compared to the first. The Ducks need to be sound tacklers. They need to hit Klein hard. And they need to gang-tackle.
2hChantel Jennings and Ted Miller
1dChantel Jennings and Ted Miller