In the run up to the January 3 Fiesta Bowl between K-State and Oregon, The Jug will be running a series of potentially overlooked variables that should determine the game’s final outcome. Up next: interceptions.
One of the surest predictors of success is a team’s turnover ratio: can you force more than you give up? We know K-State has made a living off of turnovers all year, as Allen Chapman, Nigel Malone and Ty Zimmerman are all tied for ninth nationally with five interceptions apiece. The Wildcats recorded 18 interceptions overall, good enough for second in the Big 12 and tied for tenth nationally. When quarterbacks throw passes against K-State, the ball eventually finds its way into the hands of a defender.
However, as good as the Wildcats have gotten at shouting oskie!, the Ducks have been even better. While no Oregon player ranks in the top 25 in interceptions, the team leads the nation overall with 24. Both the Oregon secondary and the linebacking corps have proven capable of sniffing out the ball.
Oregon recorded six more interceptions than K-State, but don’t automatically expect that trend to hold in the Fiesta Bowl. The Big 12 unquestionably showcases the best quarterback play in the nation. Every interception is earned, but K-State’s defenders have to try work just a little harder to pick off superior competition. Additionally, Oregon ran up scores quickly during the first half of the season, while the Wildcats were more methodical in their attacks. With Oregon’s opponents playing from behind earlier in the game, they were forced to throw downfield and take more chances while becoming 0ne-dimensional. It’s easier to pick off the deep ball when you know it’s coming.
The flip side of that last paragraph is that Oregon was good enough to jump out to devastating leads in the first place. That’s why they were ranked #1 at one point in the year. Yet K-State isn’t Washington State, and won’t roll over so easily. Something else to consider: Oregon threw nine interceptions on the season. K-State threw seven, but three of those were against Baylor when Collin Klein appeared to still be suffering a hangover from a concussion that knocked him out of the TCU game the night before. Klein will be fully healthy on January third. More than one bowl game has hinged on an unexpected interception, and with interception machine Ty Zimmerman back in uniform, there’s no reason the ball can’t bounce K-State’s way.