By DWIGHT JAYNES
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On paper, the Oregon Ducks should have their way with Kansas State Thursday night in the Fiesta Bowl. Bigger, faster, stronger -- especially faster -- usually leads to victory.
But as we get close to gametime, a few things are of concern, if you are looking to pick a winner of this game.
No. 1, and most important, I'm beginning to have my doubts yet again about the Pac-12 Conference. I have thought most of the season that the league was much improved. When all those teams punched tickets for a bowl game and with just about all of them favored to win their games, I was sure of it.
But those teams have not done well, overall, and when I watched Stanford, whom I'd assumed to be one of the best teams in the country, struggle to beat mediocre Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, I begin to wonder about the Ducks.
And with the Big 12 seemingly doing better in bowl games than anyone expected, that's enough to make you worry a little bit about Oregon.
Add to that the disappointment, deep down, that Oregon players may still be feeling about not being in the national championship game, and you see how the Ducks could lose. On top of that, Chip Kelly was able to keep his NFL flirtations out of the public eye for weeks but on the day before the game, the story exploded.
He'd like to think his players aren't concerned about it, but there's a distinct possibility that some of them are concerned. Their life is likely about to change in a big way. New coaches can bring very big change -- even when it's an assistant coach moving into the job.
I'm still picking Oregon to win, but by a closer margin than I would have predicted a couple of weeks ago. Let's say 35-31.
And don't forget to tune in CSN Game Day, our live pre-game show with hits from the field in Glendale, at 4:30 p.m. Then we'll be back at 10 o'clock for all your post-game needs on College Football Postgame Live on CSN.