For the 13th time in 14 years — and 32nd overall — Oregon is playing in a bowl game.
On Sunday afternoon, Oregon formally accepted a bid to continue its season in the RedBox Bowl — awaiting the Ducks will be the Big-10’s Michigan State, a program Oregon is very familiar with.
The Ducks and Spartans will kickoff at 12 p.m. from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif, the home of the San Francisco 49ers and Pac-12 Championship game. The game will be broadcasted by FOX.
“Our players started full workouts last Wednesday… they’ll work out through finals, and then they’ll have a couple days off," Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. “Then we’ll go back to player workouts, where it’s team periods, 7-on-7, two-minute drill, lifting, running and conditioning to get back into shape for when we resume practices a week from Friday.”
Oregon sits at 8-4 in Cristobal’s first season at the helm.
The Ducks got off to a great start, rising to No. 11 in the country following a win 30-27 overtime win over Washington that put them at 5-1 on the year. But Oregon struggled over the next four games, going 1-3 and never showing any fight in the losses.
Eventually, the Ducks righted the ship with victories over Arizona State and Oregon State to close the season.
Meanwhile, Michigan State enters the postseason 7-5 after finishing the regular season with a lifeless 14-10 win over Rutgers.
The Spartans season found its way off the tracks early with a 16-13 loss to Arizona State in the second week of the season. Standing at 3-2 following a loss to division champ Northwestern, Michigan State upset Penn State 21-17 before falling to state-rival Michigan the following week.
Back-to-back wins had the Spartans at 6-3 but losses to Ohio State and Nebraska — games in with Michigan State scored 12 total points — derailed any momentum they had.
According to Cristobal, every player and staff member are expected to participate in the bowl game — or at least he has yet to hear different.
While a number of juniors, most notably quarterback Justin Herbert and wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, are awaiting word from the NFL on draft evaluations, seniors Jalen Jelks, Justin Hollins and Ugochukwu Amadi are expected to play and not sit out in preparation of the NFL combine.
Once coach whose status could potentially change is that of defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. He has often been linked to Kansas State, even having a clause in his contract with Oregon that if he is hired to lead the Wildcats, there will be no buyout. Kansas State’s job just opened up and Leavitt is expected to be a strong candidate.
Oregon and Michigan State last met in 2015, when the Spartans held off a late Ducks comeback to win 31-28. The year before, Oregon handled Michigan State 46-27 thanks to the brilliance of Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.