Fiesta Bowl Countdown: John Hubert could make a big difference in the Fiesta Bowl

The countdown is coming to an end. It’s sad, I know. This is my final blog before the Fiesta Bowl starts at 7:30 tonight at University of Phoenix Stadium. Before I get to it, though, I want to thank everyone who sent blog ideas my way. Your suggestions were a big help.

I think the key matchup in tonight’s Fiesta Bowl will be John Hubert vs. Kenjon Barner.

Even though the running backs won’t face each other directly, the ball-carrier who gains the most yards will give his team a big advantage.

Of all the weird stats that came out of Oregon’s lone loss to Stanford, Barner’s 66 rushing yards sticks out most. He averaged more than 135 yards this season, and basically beat USC all by himself, but on that night the Cardinal held him to pedestrian yardage on 21 carries.

Marcus Mariota ran pretty well, finishing with 89 yards, but it didn’t matter. Without Barner churning out yards, Oregon’s offense struggled. It scored 14 points and lost in overtime. Stopping him should be K-State’s top priority on defense.

If the Wildcats hold to him fewer than 100 yards, they will take their chances. But they will also need Hubert to get going in their own backfield.

When you look back at K-State’s season, the Wildcats were often at their best when Hubert was running strong. He had 130 yards and a touchdown in a crucial victory at Oklahoma. He rushed for more than 100 yards in easy wins over Kansas and Miami. And he scored three touchdowns while rushing for 66 yards against Texas.

But when he was less effective, so was K-State. The Wildcats’ worst two offensive performances came against TCU, when Hubert ran for 23 yards, and at Baylor, when he ran for 43 yards.

He hasn’t hit the 100-yard mark since early October, but he did look good against the Longhorns. With a month between games, he has had plenty of time to rest and is eager to make a run at a 1,000-yard season. He needs 108 yards to get there.

If he does, he might help K-State win the Fiesta Bowl.