Fiesta Bowl Preview: When K-State Has The Ball

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

Klein has looked great passing the ball all year, but what’s been amazing is how many of his passes have gone to wide open receivers. It starts with Chris Harper, who has an uncanny ability to shake cornerbacks and make Klein’s job easy. Harper averages 15.7 yards per reception. On the other side of the field, Lockett has been almost more dangerous in averaging 16.3 yards per attempt (but averaging 11 fewer yards per game). Lockett was injured in the same TCU game as Klein, and should be back to full health on Thursday. Punt returner Tramaine Thompson also bears recognition as an explosive slot receiver, with his 14.3 yards per reception. Finally, tight end Travis Tannahill has made a strong case for an NFL career in never shying away from going across the middle while averaging 12.7 yards per catch.If you chose to skip that last paragraph, here’s all you really needed to know: Klein completes most of his passes, and his top four receivers turn those passes into big gains. Klein has a lot of options, and the secondary will be very spread out when K-State chooses. In addition, Klein’s ability to run means there are a lot easier QBs to sack than K-State’s. The one thing the Wildcats must look out for is not taking too many chances – the Ducks do lead the nation with 24 interceptions on the year.

When the team gets back to the run, everyone knows what K-State plans to do. Klein is one of the best option quarterbacks in the country, and never shies away from a big hit. When the pitch occurs, the 5-7 John Hubert is almost impossible to tackle in space. The duo will run up against a typically 3-4 Oregon front that features one of the best linebacking corps in the nation, with three players expecting to have their names called on draft day. That includes OLB Dion Jordan, who is expected to be a first round pick.

If both phases of the game are working equally well (or poorly), expect an emphasis on the run as Snyder looks to keep his defense off the field and rested for the fourth quarter. Then again, Oregon will be expecting this too, and will sneak up its safeties in response. Such a scenario will beg Klein to throw the ball, especially as the secondary isn’t as talented as the linebackers. Which will make Oregon back off to cover the receivers. Let the chess match begin…