The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl kicks off tonight in the only matchup of top-five BCS teams outside of the BCS National Championship between the No. 4 Oregon Ducks and No. 5 Kansas State Wildcats. It looks to be a matchup of offenses that know how to score, with the fast-paced Oregon attack ranking No. 2 in the country and the methodical Wildcat barrage ranking No. 8 in scoring offenses. However, it could be the defenses that decide this game, and the difference maker for Oregon will be linebacker Kiko Alonso.
The senior linebacker has been a leader of the Ducks’ defense all season long. He ranks second on the team with 75 tackles and first in tackles for loss with 12. He also shares the team lead with four interceptions on the season and has recorded a sack and forced two turnovers. His disruptive defensive style will be pivotal if Oregon hopes to disrupt the K-State offense.
The Wildcats run everything through their Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Collin Klein. The senior does everything for the Cats’ offense, passing for 2,490 yards while rushing for 890 with 37 total touchdowns. The entire offense runs through Klein, whether it’s on an option with running back John Hubert, a straight QB keeper, or some play-action pass off of that. To stop Kansas State, a team has to stop Collin Klein.
That’s where Alonso comes in. Alonso has shown a nose for playing downhill against the run which will serve him well against the Wildcats’ running game. Being able to get into the backfield and force the ball carrier to make their first move behind the line of scrimmage is going to allow the rest of the defense to swarm to the ball if he doesn’t finish off the play himself. When the Wildcats go to their passing game, Alonso has shown the ability to drop in coverage and make plays there as well.
For Oregon to come out on top, they will need their defense to show up and give Kansas State trouble. To do that, they have to have Kiko Alonso play another great defensive game where he is busting up plays in the backfield and baiting bad throws in coverage. If he can do that, Oregon will be able to pull away and bring home their second straight BCS bowl win.