Games don’t get much bigger than this in the regular season. Two top ten teams with legit playoff aspirations matching up is one thing. A whole extra layer of intrigue is added when you factor in Michigan State representing the Big Ten. We have heard it all before though. The Big Ten is weak, it can’t win big games against quality opponents. Wisconsin didn’t help the image but choking the game away against LSU this past weekend despite mounting injuries. MSU coach Mark Dantonio bristled at the talk on the coaches conference call this week. When asked about a possible MSU win changing the perception:
“We won the Rose Bowl last year.”
That may be so coach but perception is reality and until the Big Ten can string some wins together on the big stage, it won’t change.
The thing that everyone has their eyes on in this game is the high powered Oregon offense led by Marcus Mariota against the rugged Spartans defense led by Shilique Calhoun. The Spartans have typically played well against spread teams and did beat Ohio State last year to win the Big Ten. However, Mariota and the Ducks are a completely different ball of wax. the Ducks will need to run the ball effectively against the Spartans which is no easy task. However, getting the ground game going will open up clear lanes for Mariota to throw in because Sparty will have to cheat up to stop the run.
Oregon replaces six starters on defense and that is nothing to brush off. Michigan State does not have a flashy offense but they do have perhaps the most improved QB in the country in Connor Cook. He has good RBs at his disposal and a slew of big WRs to throw the ball to. The key to this game may not be if the Spartans can slow down Oregon but if the Ducks can get enough stops vs a balanced MSU offense. Look for Michigan St to take some shots down the field as three of those lost starters were in the secondary and their fantastic CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu could be slowed by an ankle injury he suffered in the first game.
This game is the story of one team in Oregon who has had their own struggles living up to hype and expectations vs what feels like the entire reputation of the Big Ten being carried by Michigan St. MSU does have the clear coaching advantage in my mind and it’s a wildcard factor. In the end, I think the Ducks are too talented and with the game being in Eugene it will prove too tough for Sparty to handle. They won’t get embarrassed but Michigan State won’t win this one for the Big Ten.
Oregon 38-Michigan State 28.