Oregon vs. Michigan State Prediction, In-Depth Game Preview

    Oregon vs. Michigan State prediction and game preview for Saturday's top 10 showdown between the Ducks and Spartans. Find out who's picked to win this heavyweight showdown.

    September 9, 2015

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    If it’s not the biggest non-conference game of the 2015 season, it’s right up there. It could be a preview of the Rose Bowl, it could be a preview of a playoff game, or it could be a preview of the national championship if everything breaks the right way. At the very least, for one team, it’s going to be one of the season’s biggest early statements.

    Below we dive into the Oregon vs. Michigan State prediction and full game preview.

    Oregon vs. Michigan State Prediction & Preview

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    Broadcast

    Date: Saturday, September 12
    Game Time: 8:00 ET
    Network: ABC

    Why You Need To Care

    Oregon’s shot to show the world that it’s right back on track for a playoff spot starts here. Beat Michigan State in East Lansing, and all of a sudden, the post-Marcus Mariota era begins. For Michigan State, this is it. Win, and it’s all about holding serve until travelling to Ohio State in November.

    There were bigger games and bigger plays in the 2014 college football season, but the final 20 minutes of Oregon’s victory over Michigan State might have been the most defining.

    Michigan State had its perfect scenario to pull off the upset win with a 27-18 lead late in the third. With their vaunted defense and grinding, tough attack, all the Spartans had to do was come up with a few more scoring drives, hang on to the ball, and come away with the massive win. Instead, Marcus Mariota decided it was time to win the Heisman.

    It wasn’t just that Oregon scored the final 28 points of the game to win 46-27, it’s how breathtaking it all was.

    This was the big, bad, Big Ten best, coming off a Rose Bowl season and with hopes of making a serious run to the playoff, but instead, the Ducks ripped off three scoring drives that each took fewer than 140 seconds, and finished off with a terrific 11 play, 96-yard march that ate up the clock and took the game away.

    If Michigan State wins, then the 11-1 regular season might have still been enough to make a case to be in the playoff, and considering the later loss to Arizona, would’ve eventually proved to have been a deathblow to Oregon’s chances.

    Instead, it showed that the Duck system really did work against a nasty D. After problems with a similar-styled Stanford over the previous years, the win turned out to be Oregon’s big statement on the way to the playoff. Taking the revenge game on the road might do the exact same thing.

    The Mariota-less Ducks had no problems offensively in the opener against Eastern Washington, coming up with a business-as-usual 731 yards of total offense on the way to a 61-42 win. The defense might not have shown up, but it didn’t matter – the game was about sharpening up Vernon Adams and the offense for the Spartans.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum was Michigan State’s opener, an uneven 37-24 win over Western Michigan that seemed designed to not show too much, but also raised more questions about a defense that has the big-time reputation, but was big-time torched against some of the better offenses throughout last year.

    Like last season’s game, this should be another big moment in the playoff race with Oregon having relatively easy sailing for a while until going to Arizona State in late October and dealing with USC in late November.

    If Michigan State wins, like last year, it could lost to Ohio State and be deep in the hunt for the playoff – only more so considering how much better the Buckeyes are perceived to be this season.

    Why Oregon Will Win

    Despite all the talent and all the great coaching, the Michigan State pass defense has been absolutely ripped to shreds by good passing teams.

    Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell came up with 365 yards and two touchdowns last week. Bryce Petty and Baylor came up with 603 yards and four touchdowns in last season’s Cotton Bowl. J.T. Barrett threw for 300 yards in Ohio State’s win, and Marcus Mariota went off for 318 yards and three scores. Terrell didn’t come up with too many big plays, but Mariota, Barrett, and Petty all averaged over 11.4 yards per pass.

    Oregon makes a living off of tempo, spacing, and keeping defenses on their heels by finding the wide-open alleys and areas to throw to. Michigan State might be able to swarm, and it might have a dangerous pass rush, but that can be offset a bit by a mobile veteran quarterback who knows how to make the quick, right read. Vernon Adams can do that.

    Why Michigan State Will Win

    The same gameplan that worked over the first forty minutes of last year’s game with the Ducks should work again. Now the Spartans have to do it for a full sixty.

    Oregon has never cared a lick about time of possession, operating with brilliant quickness and efficiency in short, explosive drives that takes the will away from teams. How did Ohio State keep this from happening in the national title game? It got to Marcus Mariota before he could make his easy open read, and it kept pounding the ball until the holes started opening up wide for Ezekiel Elliott. Michigan State can bring the pass rush to get to Vernon Adams, and the offensive line can certainly crank up the blast for the ground game.

    Oregon is a finesse team – and that’s not the negative Duck players think it is. It’s about speed and quickness over bulk and power, and while Michigan State might not have the road graters like a Wisconsin, it has a tough offensive front that should be able to use the right formula to keep its defense off the field, control the game, and most importantly, take the Ducks out of a rhythm. Everyone tries to do that, but if Oregon has to start pressing and has to start pushing the ball down the field, Michigan State has the secondary that can make up for the yards allowed with a key pick or three.

    Player Who Matters

    Okay, Vernon Adams. Your turn.

    The Eastern Washington transfer fired at will on his old team completing 19-of-25 passes for 246 yards and two scores to go along with 94 rushing yards – until he got knocked out of the game with an apparent concussion. He’s supposedly fine and ready to go, but considering how the hit looked and how he left the field – to speculate – it doesn’t seem like he can take too many big shots so soon after. As long as he’s fine, this is the type of game he came to Oregon to play, and this is why he’s supposed to be such a good fit for his new team. He doesn’t throw picks, he doesn’t make massive mistakes, and he’s deadly accurate. More than anything else, this is where his overall experience has to kick in, even if dealing with Michigan State is going to be a whole new world.

    Adams’ counterpart is looking for his moment, too.

    Connor Cook has been through the wars over the last few years, leading the Spartans to a Big Ten title, along with some huge bowl performances, but in terms of Heisman hype, NFL analysis, and needing the really big early season win the program hasn’t had in a while – Michigan State hasn’t gotten to October unbeaten since 2010 – it’s his spotlight.

    Good enough last week against Western Michigan to come up with the win, he usually saves his 300-yarders for the monsters – 314 against Baylor, 358 against Ohio State, and last year’s game against Oregon, 343 yards and two touchdowns. However, the two interceptions he threw against the Ducks accounted for his only multi-interception game of the regular season. If Michigan State wins this game, he can’t give Oregon easy chances.

    What’s Going To Happen?

    Vernon Adams isn’t Marcus Mariota. The Oregon offense will have its moments and it’ll keep up in a fun shootout, but this is when the Spartans are about to break through. They’ve been on the cusp of being among the true elite, and this win will put them there this season. The defense is going to take its share of hits, but Cook will be smart, efficient, and poised leading a balanced offense that will keep the ball for over 35 minutes and come away with a huge, huge victory for the Big Ten.

    Oregon vs. Michigan State Score Prediction

    Without further ado, the Oregon vs. Michigan State prediction is …

    Final Score: Michigan State 44, Oregon 37

    Must See Rating: 5: Ferrell Takes the Field – 1: A Walk in The Woods … 5

    MORE: Week 1 College Football Rankings, From No. 1-128

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