Pack your bags, it’s official. Kansas State secured a Fiesta Bowl invitation Saturday night by whooping Texas 42-24, winning the Big 12 championship outright and securing their automatic bid. After that, the only thing left to do was wait. Oregon was widely speculated to be the Wildcats’ opponent for several weeks following their loss to Stanford, assuming both teams won out the rest of the year. K-State upheld its end of the bargain, and Oregon followed through with theirs by downing Oregon State, 48-24, last week. The final regular season BCS rankings had K-State at #5 and Oregon at #4.
After the automatic bids were awarded to BCS conference champions (including K-State’s), the Fiesta Bowl received first priority in choosing its match up. Several promising options were available. Theoretically, Georgia demonstrated its ability to hang with anyone after narrowly missing on converting a red zone opportunity as time expired against Alabama in the SEC championship game. Also in SEC were LSU and Florida, who finished the season 10-2 and 11-1, respectively. Texas A&M, which also finished 10-2 and defeated Alabama, offered a meeting between the two leading Heisman trophy candidates in Collin Klein and Johnny Manziel. However, Florida received an automatic BCS bowl bid by finishing #3 without winning their conference championship – leaving their SEC brethren on the outside looking in as only two teams from any conference can receive a bid.
Clemson also held a (very) outside chance after finishing the season 10-2, 7-1 in the ACC, but an obvious lack of marquee wins would have made the Tigers a highly questionable pick. In the end, it was Oregon who offered a fan base on the West Coast (the Fiesta Bowl is played in Arizona) and a team ranked number three in the USA Today Poll (Florida was ranked ahead of Oregon in the Coaches Poll).
The match up will be intriguing as both teams were expected to meet in the national championship game one month ago before losing on the same night (K-State to Baylor and Oregon to Stanford). Klein will not be the only dual-threat quarterback on the field, as Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has burned defenders with both his legs and arm all year. It also promises to provide an epic coaching duel, as Bill Snyder will face off against Chip Kelly, who has become the head coaching candidate in the NFL this year due to his consistently dangerous offensive units.
The Fiesta Bowl will be televised January 3 on ESPN. If you have any interest in attending the game, The Jug suggests booking a hotel yesterday. Short of that, please don’t delay later than tomorrow. In fact, do it tonight. Don’t worry about asking off for work – your boss will understand. They’ll probably be there too.