This is the second in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.
Week 2: At Oregon
Time and Date: 6:30 p.m. (ET), Sept. 6
Venue: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
Ducks at a glance
Coach: Mark Helfrich (second season, 11-2)
Last season: 11-2 overall; 7-2 Pac-12 (tie-1st, North Division)
Returning starters: 14 (nine offense, five defense)
Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 11-2 overall, 7-2 Pac 12; 1st, Pac-12 North Division; ranked No. 6 nationally
Lindy’s: 1st, Pac-12 North; ranked No. 4
Sporting News: 1st, Pac-12 North; ranked No. 2
Why they’ll beat the Spartans
The Ducks are loaded again offensively, returning the bulk of a unit that averaged 565 yards and nearly 46 points per game last year. Among those returners, Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Marcus Mariota, the running back tandem of Byron Marshal and Thomas Tyner and all five starting linemen.
Oregon’s offense is the prototype for all uptempo attacks. It’s fast and relentless, with big-time athletes. Games can snowball on opponents in a hurry. And it’s the only style of offense that’s sometimes given MSU fits over the last few years, with lesser teams, such as Indiana, able to move the ball consistently.
Why they won’t
While uptempo offenses seem to flummox MSU, Oregon’s own Kryptonite has been foes similar to the Spartans, those that hit the Ducks in the mouth and don’t let up. That was MSU’s approach last season, and it isn’t expected to change, even if a few of the parts up front offensively and throughout the defense are somewhat unproven. Of Oregon’s three losses in the last two seasons, two are to Stanford, a program similar in mindset and ability to MSU.
The Spartans’ offense this season should be a formidable group early, and Oregon is replacing six starters on defense. The trip west, the hostile venue — none of it is likely to faze MSU junior QB Connor Cook or his teammates. It’s a group that won at Iowa and Nebraska by double digits last season, and in front of a Ohio State-heavy crowd in the Big Ten championship game, before besting Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The Cardinal were only there because they beat Oregon.
This is a matchup that would have been fun to see last season — Oregon’s mighty offense against an equally special Spartan defense. This year, in Week 2, it’s unclear if both programs will be rolling in the same gear they were in 2013. Still, it’ll be interesting to watch, and a terrific and relatively safe barometer for MSU. Even a loss, as long as its competitive, shouldn’t hinder MSU’s hopes for a berth in the inaugural college football playoff. That’s good news for the Spartans, because the Ducks are 33-2 at home over the last five years, playing at their intimate and noisy little stadium.