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Offensive Player to Watch vs. Oregon: Xavier Hutchinson

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Throw up that X.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Iowa State Brian Powers-USA TODAY Sports

The Cyclones are playing in their first ever New Years 6 Bowl (which I guess any January bowl is a big deal?) and they’ll need to continue their offensive firepower to bring home that PlayStation Fiesta Bowl trophy. Iowa State’s offense made a couple mistakes against OU that ultimately cost them the game, but a bright spot was Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, Xavier Hutchinson.

Hutchinson hauled in a season-high 10 catches and 114 yards to lead Iowa State’s comeback attempt. He has become Brock Purdy’s go-to receiver this year (arguably surpassing Chuck Kolar in that role) and has made play after play in each game this season. The X-Man has racked up 60 catches for 726 yards and 4 touchdowns throughout his first season in Ames, silencing any doubters. He has been one of the most improved players on this squad from start to finish, and I expect some fireworks in the season finale.

Oregon’s defense does not have that big of a sample work from, and they’ve been inconsistent. They give up over 27 points per game, and rank in the middle (if not, lower) in every yardage stat. The Ducks corners are about average, standing at 5-11 mostly, so the Cyclones should be able to utilize the size advantage they typically have. A few key players on Oregon’s secondary to keep your eyes on are All-PAC 12 First Team corner Mykael Wright, and a guy who plays a little bit of nickel corner and safety, Jamal Hill. Wright leads the team with 8 pass deflections and Hill has 2 interceptions to lead the Quack Attack on D.

Oregon’s defensive line and linebackers have the capability to pressure Brock Purdy, but I don’t see it being as big of a problem as the OU defense (not to knock on Oregon, because Oklahoma’s defense is real good). I think Iowa State’s offensive line got all they could handle in the Big 12 title game and it was a good preparation for their matchup with the Ducks.

Xavier Hutchinson has gotten better as the season has gone on about getting himself open, and especially improved at getting great position to catch the football, most of the time. Another area he’s improved in throughout the season is the ““scramble drill,” an obviously important skill set to have when playing with an improviser like Brock Purdy. Hutch’s performance on Saturday could be critical to the Cyclones leaving Arizona with a win, and I think he’ll end this season with a boom when the Cyclones take on Oregon in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix this Saturday (3 pm, ESPN).