Considering the struggles the Michigan State offense has had throughout the 2018 season, the Spartans appear to have a tall task of trying to keep up with Oregon’s high-powered offense in the Redbox Bowl on December 31st in Santa Clara, California.
But the Spartans may be able to find enough success against an Oregon defense that ranks No. 62 in the country in total defense, but No. 96 in passing defense, though those numbers may be a bit skewed as the Ducks play in the pass-happy PAC 12 Conference.
As head coach Mark Dantonioand the offensive staff, which has been heavily criticized and scrutinized this season, and rightfully so, prepare for the Ducks, it is safe to assume that Michigan State will make the time of possession battle as priority No. 1 on New Year’s Eve.
A big key to the Spartans being able to accomplish that will be running back L.J. Scott, who announced he would be declaring for the NFL Draft but not before playing in the Redbox Bowl, which will be his final appearance as a Spartan. Fans can expect a highly motivated Scott, who, after a disappointing, injury-riddled season, will have one last opportunity to showcase his skills before the draft process begins.
“I think it makes a statement first of all, in terms of how he feels about our football team,” Dantonio said of Scott’s decision. “I had conversations with him throughout, he played in only four games so he could redshirt. It fluctuated back and forth in terms of what he was going to do, but he decided he's going to play. He'll bring something, he's been a guy that's been out most of the season, so we'll look forward to his progress and returning, but it's been positive talk throughout the entire year.”
For Michigan State to be successful against the Oregon defense, the Spartans will have to game plan for a number of standouts in the Ducks’ front seven in an aggressive 3-4 scheme, starting with junior linebacker Troy Dye, who has 107 tackles on the season and is closing in on 300 career tackles.
Along with Dye, the Ducks also have a pair of players that wreak havoc on opposing backfields in linebacker Justin Hollins, who has registered 12 tackles for loss and five sacks and defensive end Jalen Jelks, who has 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.
Dantonio said that the Spartans will need to be ready for the Ducks’ and their defensive scheme which likes to try and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and added that he can see some similarities between the two teams.
“Defensively, they're going to play extremely hard out of a 3-4 front,” he said. “Outstanding football team and they're right there much like our football team. You can look at the games that they've played and they had an opportunity to win every one of them. Should be a great game and a great matchup.”
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