Game of the Week: No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Oregon

posted September 4, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Kris Rogers

One week in, and the landscape of college football has already been shaken up. Thanks to the brand new College Football Playoff postseason system, every game is crucial for teams to win over the selection committee.

Week two features the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans traveling to Eugene to take on the No. 3 Oregon Ducks in a matchup that seems more suited for New Year’s Day in Pasadena. The stout Spartans defense will face possibly its toughest test of the season against the high-flying Ducks.

A 12-point favorite, the Ducks’ up-tempo offense will be a tough test against a stalwart Spartans defense. Led by quarterback Marcus Mariotta, the Ducks signal caller looks to add to his case for the Heisman Trophy. In a 62-13 blowout of FCS South Dakota, Mariotta threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns while also running for another in one half of action.

Not to be outdone, Michigan State has a capable quarterback of their own in junior Connor Cook. Cook completed 12 of 13 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns in the Spartans 45-7 rout of Jacksonville State before also being relieved in the second half.

If Oregon is to knock off their Big Ten Opponent, then they must dominate at the point of attack. The read-option is vital to the Ducks’ offense, and if the Spartans defense can stop it, the home favorites will be scrambling for an alternative.

The plan for the Spartans on offense is to control the game clock with the ground game and capitalize on every possession. It’s a game plan as boring as the stone-faced Mark Dantonio speaking to the media, but it may be the most effective strategy.

In his weekly press conference, Dantonio said that he wasn’t worried about his team performing on the big stage.

“We've played in big games, we've won away from home in every stadium in this conference. We've won our last three bowl games, played against good competition. We've been on a big stage at the Rose Bowl. We've been on a big stage with the championship games at Penn State or wherever. I don't really worry about that”

Who to Watch For

RB Byron Marshall (Oregon) – A duel-threat back, Marshall rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2013 as the backup to D’Anthony Thomas. Against South Dakota State, the 5-10, 200 pound junior rushed for 90 yards and also caught eight passes for 138 yards and three total touchdowns.

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon) – The only returning starter in the Ducks secondary, Ekpre-Olomu is considered by many to be a first-round talent in the 2015 NFL Draft. Known as a ball hawk, the senior defensive back has recorded seven interceptions over the past two seasons. However, he suffered an ankle injury last week, so his status for Saturday is still unknown.

DE Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State) – A preseason All-American, Calhoun recorded 7.5 sacks as a redshirt sophomore last year. He will have to have a dominating performance in order for the Spartans to stay competitive and control the line of scrimmage against the read-option.

RB Jeremy Langford (Michigan State) – A fifth year senior who was the Spartans workhorse last season, Langford rushed for more than 1,400 yards and ten touchdowns. He missed time last week against Jacksonville State with an ankle injury, but should be fine for the clash with the Ducks.

By the Numbers

5: This is the fifth time the Ducks and Spartans have faced each other; each winning two of the four previous contests. They last played in 1999, with Michigan State edging out a 27-20 victory. The home team has won every matchup between the two programs.

429: The difference between Oregon’s offensive yards per game and Michigan State’s defensive yards allowed.

1966: The last time Michigan State played in a top-ten regular season matchup. The second-ranked Spartans tied the number-one Fighting Irish, 10-10.

Final Thoughts

Oregon is the 12-point favorite, but they’ve struggled against aggressive defenses that dominate in the trenches, like Stanford and Auburn. Michigan State lost several starters to graduation, but should still bolster a top-10 defense.

Final prediction: 31-24 Michigan State

Kristopher Rogers is a senior broadcast journalism major. To contact him, email klr5374@psu.edu