Five things to watch – Oregon

It’s finally gameday here in the Valley of the Sun – here’s my article from yesterday about Kansas State’s amazing turnout to Wednesday’s pep rally at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. Wildcat fans turned out 25,000 strong at the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Hopefully you’ve already gone here to take a look at the coverage of today’s game from Bob Lutz, Kellis Robinett, Travis Heying and myself, and if you’re Wichita you’ve probably grabbed a copy of our Fiesta Bowl special edition.

I’ve been heavy on the Oregon stuff this week – here’s 5 things to watch for the Ducks tonight:

1. The Black Mamba

De’Anthony Thomas is one of the most exciting players in all of college football – the sophomore running back/wide receiver/returner for Oregon can turn a game on its head in 1 or 2 plays. Crenshaw High’s favorite son.

ME: So De’Anthony is pretty fun to be around off the field, is that what you’re saying?

CHIP KELLY: That’s exactly what I’m saying. He’s also fun to be around on the field. Especially when he has the ball in his hands. 

2. The battle up front

K-State seems to have an advantage up front on both sides of the ball. But that could swing on one player – if the Wildcats can’t stop Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan from getting to Collin Klein in passing situations, that could be the game.

3. A Star is Born? 

If you follow college football, you probably have heard of Oregon freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota. Tonight is his first chance at having the entire nation’s attention. This could be one of those “I remember the first time I saw him play…” moments.

4. The Main Distraction

Oregon coach Chip Kelly has insisted all week that the NFL rumors surrounding him aren’t a distraction from Oregon. Hard to believe that his players – so many of whom are underclassmen – can’t have that thought weighing heavily in their minds.

5. The fans

Kansas State athletic director John Currie told me he expected between 30,000-40,000 KSU fans to be in attendance tonight. If he’s right on the high end of that, this turns into a home game for the Wildcats. And they like to play at home.