Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 11/11/14
Proving Grounds The Oregon Ducks did not end up with the hardware they would have liked nor will they appear in the bowl that they had hoped for. And yet, after having to replace superstar running back La’Michael James and start a redshirt freshman quarterback in Marcus Mariota, finishing the regular season ranked fourth in the BCS Standings and heading to the Fiesta Bowl to face the Kansas State Wildcats is not too shabby. With their selection to the Fiesta Bowl the Ducks became the fourth team in BCS history to go to four straight BCS Bowls, an unprecedented number that goes to show how far the program has come and how high it has risen. While many Oregon fans would rather be in the BCS National Championship, the matchup against Kansas State is not a bad consolidation prize. In fact, just a few weeks ago many college football pundits predicted these teams would meet in the BCS National Championship. And, with a slew of rather uninteresting college football bowl games this season, Oregon’s game against Kansas State should be a nice break from watching the Florida State Seminoles slug it out against the Northern Illinois Huskies. Kelly has led the Ducks to four straight BCS Bowls. (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Here are five things to expect in the matchup between Oregon and Kansas State come January 3rd. Best Bowl Game of the Season As mentioned previously, this season’s bowl games, and especially BCS Bowl Games, are a little lackluster. Even with Alabama and Notre Dame going head-to-head in the BCS National Championship Game the Oregon vs. Kansas State matchup should prove to be a little more thrilling than a National Championship that could prove to be a 10-7 victory for one of the traditional programs. Not only do Kansas State and Oregon have two of the best offenses on the field, the two programs also feature some of the best players in the game. From Collin Klein of Kansas State to Kenjon Barner of the Ducks, there will definitely be an excess of talent on the field for this one. The storylines surrounding this game also heighten its appeal. From Chris Harper making a full circle in his college football career as he will face off against a team he once played for (Oregon) to the speed of Oregon vs. the brutality of Kansas State, the Fiesta Bowl will be an exciting one to keep track of. De’Anthony Thomas Hypes 2013 De’Anthony Thomas was once again stellar in 2012 after a breakout freshman season in 2011 that saw him hyped to be a Heisman frontrunner. However, with the emergence of Marcus Mariota and Kenjon Barner on the offensive side of the ball, Thomas did not have to put the team on his shoulders like many thought he would. As he will be one of the veterans on a talent loaded Oregon roster in 2013, expect Thomas to have a huge game against the Wildcats with the way he is able to press the edge and beat the best of coverage. His performance in the Fiesta Bowl will be a preview of even better things to come for the Ducks in 2013. Marcus Mariota Becomes a Heisman Favorite While Mariota did have his fair share of coverage in 2012, just his first year as a college quarterback, he was often shrouded by the hype of Collin Klein and Johnny Manziel. Expect all attention to shift to Mariota following a Fiesta Bowl in which he could very well emerge as one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Mariota should be a frontrunner for the 2013 Heisman trophy. (Photo: Bruce Ely/Oregonian.com) The statement he makes in this game, especially when going against Collin Klein, will pay huge dividends in making him an early favorite for the Heisman in 2013 and go to show the nation why Manziel did not feel confident he would have started at Oregon. Slow Start, Big Finish As with many Duck bowl games under Chip Kelly (save Oregon’s shootout against Wisconsin last year), fans can expect the Ducks to start off a little out of rhythm after over a month away from the field. Though they may start out a little off tempo from their normal pace, the Ducks should be able to get back into the swing of things later in the game and put up some big numbers against a defense that has struggled against elite offenses. Chip Kelly’s Last Game? One thing that we definitely know will be talked about before, during, and after the Fiesta Bowl is whether or not Chip Kelly will remain Oregon’s head coach in 2013. The speculation surrounding this topic will be a monster of its own during the game as Kelly will be placed right under the national spotlight against a team that has more than a few NFL-caliber players on its roster. Expect this to be a widely commented issue by all parties covering the Fiesta Bowl. CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE DUCKS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!

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