With all this talk of the match-ups between quarterbacks, offenses, and defenses little attention has been payed to the most commonly neglected phase of football: special teams. Special teams has the potential to play a crucial role in the Fiesta Bowl, especially if the game comes down to the wire in the 4th quarter.
Kansas State allows 23 yards per return on kickoffs, which ranks 85th nationally. This could potentially play a huge role for the Ducks, especially if the always dangerous Deanthony Thomas is able to get his hands on the ball and expose holes in the Wildcats’ coverage. However the Wildcats also have two very explosive returners on special teams, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson, both of whom have breakaway speed and the ability to burn Oregon’s 58th ranked kickoff coverage. The Wildcats rank first in both kick returns and punt returns, so Oregon must be weary of keeping the ball out of Thompson and Lockett’s hands.
The match-up between kickers certainly favors Kansas State, so Oregon must come out hard early and take the lead going into the fourth quarter, so the game doesn’t have to be decided by a field goal. The Wildcats kicker Anthony Cantele is 18/21 on field goals this year and 4/5 from 40-49 yards away. The Ducks are notorious for some inconsistent kicking in the last couple seasons from Beard and Maldonado. The kicking match-up definitely favors Kansas St., however it will be very interesting to see how big of a role special teams plays in the Fiesta Bowl, especially the match-up between Oregon’s return star Deanthony Thomas, and Kansas St.’s returners.