SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Methodical, structured, balanced and led by playmaking quarterback Collin Klein, Kansas State's offense can generate yards and points. The Wildcats produced 40.7 points and 411.2 yards offense per game, topping 50 points five times during their 11-1 season.
Those numbers, however, would pale in comparison to the 11-1 team on the other sideline in Thursday's Fiesta Bowl. So, how would Kansas State like to win the game, by outscoring the Oregon Ducks in a shootout, or beating them in a Stanford kind of way say, 17-14?
"I have no idea," K-State coach Bill Snyder says. "I can't project how the ballgame will go. I can't project that we could hold their point total down."
Snyder says a likely path to victory would be to hold Chip Kelly's Ducks below 50.8 points, their season average.
"Obviously, it would be significant for us to be able to score," he adds. "We've scored reasonably well from time to time, but not as consistently throughout the course of the year. It is going to be significant for us to be able to score, play defense, the whole bit. ... The obvious says, I think what everybody would say: Hold on to the ball, keep the ball out of Oregon's hands as much as you can. That's all fine and dandy as long as you can get the ball in the end zone and score, too."
K-State has been held below 30 points four times in 12 games; before the Stanford game, the Ducks had gone 13 consecutive games scoring 42 points or more and 23 games in a row topping the 30-point mark, the latter an NCAA record.
Snyder knows that slowing QB Marcus Mariota, running back Kenjon Barner, slash player De'Anthony Thomas, tight end Colt Lyerla, wide receiver Josh Huff and the UO offensive machine won't be easy for linebacker Arthur Brown and the K-State defense.
"The major dialogue is about the tempo of the game, how fast they are," he says. "They are a fast, offensive football team in two ways: One is the tempo and the other is the speed of the people that execute the offense, whether it's the linemen, receivers, backs, quarterback, etc. They have dangerous speed, so to speak.
"Chip doesn't overlook it, we don't overlook it, but they are very successful with the defense and they have the capacity to run extremely well, defensively. And, their special teams have some excellent return guys. They're a complete football team."
Snyder has high praise for Mariota, the sensational redshirt freshman quarterback.
"He does so many things from the skill standpoint his quickness, his speed, his ability to throw the ball accurately two out of three times," he says, referencing Mariota's 69.9 completion percentage, to go with 2,511 yards passing, 30 TDs and only six interceptions, not to mention Mariota's 690 yards rushing (7.0 per carry) and four scores.
"As much as anything, (for) a very young person on the field playing in some very highly competitive environments, he seems to be a very, very poised young guy. He doesn't seem to get ruffled. Makes good decisions. I think his game management is beyond his years."
The Ducks will be playing in their fourth consecutive BCS game. The Wildcats, enjoying a second tenure of Snyder's, have been to three consecutive bowls, losing to Syracuse in 2010 in the Pinstripe Bowl and to Arkansas in the January 2012 Cotton Bowl. Whereas the Duck seniors take a 45-7 record into the Fiesta Bowl, K-State's seniors have gone 34-16 in the past four years with Snyder back at the helm. He has a 170-82-1 career record at K-State, including his first stint as coach from 1989 to 2005.
Klein, a Heisman Trophy finalist, has been the ringleader the past two seasons, starring mostly with his legs, rushing 511 times for 2,031 yards and 49 TDs. He has also thrown for 4,408 yards and 28 TDs.
Snyder has enjoyed coaching Klein, but not only for his playing ability. He says Klein took all of his notoriety in stride.
"He's genuine," Snyder says.
Linebacker Brown has been another difference-maker. And, the Wildcats have excellent return games, both among national leaders with Tyler Lockett (16 kickoff returns, 33.3-yard average, 2 TDs) and Tramaine Thompson (13 punt returns, 23.7-yard average, TD).
"When you take all six units, special teams units, we're ranked No. 1 in the country," Snyder says. "It'll be extremely significant for us in the course of this ballgame."
It'll be imperative for the Wildcats to be productive offensively early in the game, the coach says. But the game needs to be played out, and Snyder also realizes he has quite a foe wearing a headset on the other sideline. The seven teams that have beaten Kelly's Ducks, including Stanford this year, have combined to go 82-12.
"I told him in private how much I appreciated what he did for college football, what he's done for college football, and the fact that I admired the way he handled his program," Snyder says. "I wasn't talking about his offense. I was just talking about how he managed the entirety of his program."
As for the flashy UO uniforms?
"It's not what we do," Snyder says. "As I've said so many times, it's not the uniform you have, it's who's got it on. They've got a lot of good guys who have those uniforms on. Doesn't make any difference what color they're in, they're good."