One-loss teams Oregon and Kansas State meet Thursday in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Kansas State and Oregon were in ideal position entering their Nov. 17 games, Nos. 1 and 2 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, seemingly on a crash course toward the BCS National Championship Game.
By day’s end, the Wildcats had been run over 52-24 at Baylor, the Ducks lost a 17-14 overtime heartbreaker to visiting Stanford, and both of their national-title hopes were all but gone.
Disappointing? Certainly. Every team goes into the season hoping to play for a national championship, and to have it snatched away so late in the year is unquestionably a letdown.
Unlike many teams in college football, Kansas State and Oregon ended up with a nice consolation prize: a trip to the Valley of the Sun to face each other in Thursday’s Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
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“This game could have been for the national championship,” Oregon linebacker Boseko Lokombo said. “A couple weeks ago, that’s where we were both headed.”
They headed to the desert instead, setting up one of the most anticipated games this bowl season.
A year ago, the Fiesta Bowl hit it big with Oklahoma State and the Stanford Cardinal, two high-profile programs that didn’t disappoint, putting on an offensive show won by the Cowboys 41-38 in overtime.
Oregon (11-1) is in its fourth straight BCS bowl game under coach Chip Kelly.
The Ducks fly fast, overwhelming opponents with where-did-they-all-come-from speed, their touchdown drives measured not in minutes but seconds.
Oregon has one of the nation’s most explosive running-back tandems in Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas, threats to score on every touch, and redshirt-freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota played well beyond his years while proving to be a dynamic force in his own right.
The Ducks were second nationally with 50.83 points and 323.25 yards rushing per game and fourth in total offense at 550.08.
Kansas State (11-1) doesn’t play nearly as fast as the Ducks, but can put up points in a hurry — ninth nationally with 40.67 per game — and is led by a Heisman Trophy finalist, do-everything senior quarterback Collin Klein.
A sturdy 6 feet 5 and 226 pounds, Klein became the first quarterback in the BCS era to run for at least 20 TDs and throw for 10 in consecutive seasons, and set a Football Bowl Subdivision record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in two seasons with 49.
“He’s very good; he runs that offense efficiently. He’s a poised guy, appears to be a very smart football player,” Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said.
• Top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama arrived to prepare for Monday’s BCS National Championship Game in Miami Gardens, Fla.
“It’s something that you dream about when you play this game and when you coach this game,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said of competing for the title.
All-America center Barrett Jones of Alabama wore a walking boot to protect the left foot he sprained Dec. 1 but said he was ready to play.
• Pennsylvania’s governor, in a challenge to the NCAA’s powers, claimed in a lawsuit college sports’ governing body overstepped its authority and “piled on” when it penalized Penn State over the Jerry Sandusky child-molestation scandal.
Gov. Tom Corbett asked a federal judge to throw out the sanctions, which include an unprecedented $60 million fine and a four-year ban on bowl games, arguing the measures have harmed students, business owners and others who had nothing to do with Sandusky’s crimes.
The case, filed under federal-antitrust law, could define how far the NCAA’s authority extends. In a statement, the NCAA said the lawsuit has no merit and called it an “affront” to Sandusky’s victims.
Sandusky, 68, was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys, some of them on Penn State’s campus. He is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence but insists he is innocent.
• Utah defensive end Joe Kruger has opted not to return for his senior season and instead will enter the NFL draft.