Oregon (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) vs. Michigan State (7-5, 5-4 Big-10)
Where: Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California
When: Monday, December 31st at 12 p.m.
Play-by-Play: Joe Davis
Analyst: Brady Quinn
Sideline Reporter: Bruce Feldman
Radio: Oregon IMG Sports Network
Play-by-Play: Jerry Allen
Analyst: Mike Jorgensen
Sideline Reporter: Joey McMurry
Pre-Game Show: Terry Jonz
Betting Line: Oregon (-2.5) — Over/Under = 48
Series History: 3-3. This has been as good a series there is college football with both teams evenly matched. While the Spartans have often brought the physicality, the Ducks have countered with the speed, making the games must-see between two contrasting styles. Oregon won 46-27 in 2014, using a big fourth quarter to run away with the win as quarterback Marcus Mariota used the big game to shot put his Heisman-winning campaign. The Spartans responded in 2015 with a 31-28 victory, a game in which they stopped the Ducks on a drive late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Oregon Storyline: Oregon survived one of its biggest scares of the New Year when quarterback Justin Herbert elected to return for his senior season. Then yesterday, the Ducks got news that head coach Mario Cristobal took his name out of the running for the Miami job opening, spurning his alma mater for a chance at greatness with Oregon. The next step for the Ducks is when their first bowl game since the 2014 Rose Bowl victory over Florida State en route to the national championship. The Ducks 0-3 since then so a win tomorrow would go a long way into starting the 2019 hype train. But Oregon must go through Michigan State’s No. 1 ranked rush defense if it wants the win.
Michigan State Storyline: The return of running back LJ Scott should help revitalize Michigan State’s porous offense — and help offset the turnover-prone play of quarterback Brian Lewerke. A successful running game will not only keep Oregon’s offense on the sidelines, it will help keep the Ducks’ opportunistic secondary at bay. Altogether, it’s been a struggle of a season for the Spartans but a win over a talented Oregon team could help ease the pain of 2018 and prove the future is much brighter in 2019.
Oregon Players to Watch: Junior QB Justin Herbert; Senior DE Jalen Jelks; Freshman RB CJ Verdell; Junior LB Troy Dye
Michigan State Players to Watch: Senior RB LJ Scott; Junior DE Kenny Willekes; Junior LB Joe Bachie; Sophomore WR Cody White
Matchup to Watch: Oregon Rush Offense vs. Michigan State Rush Defense
Weather Forecast: 53 degrees and sunny at kickoff. Zero-percent chance of rain with 35-percent humidity. Winds expected at 18 mph.
Prediction: Oregon enters the game with the better mojo and more momentum. Buoyed by the return of Herbert and staying of Cristobal, I expect the Ducks to ride that wave and break their losing streak in bowl games. This game should be close in the beginning with the Spartans defense playing tough and the offense slowing down the tempo. But a Michigan State turnover combined with a big-play by the Ducks opens up the game in the first half. Oregon then pulls away in the second half for the win, beginning the Herbert-hype train for the 2019 Heisman and igniting Oregon’s return to national prominence.
OREGON 31 — Michigan State 17