JASON SAYS: A Spartan feeling
Watching Oregon blowouts in recent years has delighted fans, but, in an odd way, it gets kind of boring for the media who follow the team and don't care who wins.
But, now Michigan State plays in Eugene in one of the biggest home non-conference matchups in UO history.
Saturday's game between the aspiring national championship teams should be competitive and close and, therefore, fun to watch.
I expect both teams to have their moments Oregon's on offense with QB Marcus Mariota and his bevy of playmakers; Michigan State's on defense with one of the country's best units and on offense with QB Connor Cook and the Spartans' run-pass attack.
I expect Michigan State to play ball control, a la Stanford, while also lighting things up with Cook and receivers. The question is whether the UO defense can make stops and plays. I'm not feeling it I'm not sure of the quality of the personnel, the stoutness of the front seven, the playmaking in the secondary (outside of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu) and the coaching of first-year coordinator Don Pellum.
It'll sure be a great matchup between UO offense and MSU defense at least on paper. I'll give the Spartans the edge, believing they'll be able to win battles at the line of scrimmage, tackle well and cover in space.
A key will be how the UO offensive tempo affects the game; can Michigan State keep up? Will expected hot weather change the game? And, then you have the Autzen Stadium crowd, and how does the noise bother the Spartans? (In 2003, the noise greatly affected Michigan in one of UO's signature home non-conference wins in history).
Many things will be clearer after Saturday. Win and the Ducks could be on their way to great things. A loss could be the first of three or four. Colleague Stephen Alexander picks Michigan State, 27-17, feeling the Spartans have the superior team at the moment. Sports Editor Steve Brandon thinks the Ducks may be able to put together their best game in a while and win 34-31, because of the great Mariota and Autzen influence.
Me, although I expect the UO offense to make plays, I think the Spartans hold the Duck running game in check and make key third-down stops. And, the Cook-led MSU offense consistently gets the better of the UO defense.
THE PICK: Michigan State 37, Oregon 32