(7) Oregon Ducks at (5) Michigan State Spartans (-4.5, 64.5 o/u)
The no. 7 Oregon Ducks (1-0, 0-0 Away) dominated the no. 5 Michigan State Spartans (1-0, 0-0 Home) in Eugene last season, scoring 28 unanswered points to emerge with a 46-27 win. But the Ducks will be hard-pressed to repeat that performance this Saturday (Sep. 12 at 8:00 PM Eastern), as they’ll have to travel to East Lansing sans Heisman-winning QB Marcus Mariota.
In Week 1, the Ducks found themselves in a shootout with the Eastern Washington Eagles, emerging with a 61-42 win.
Despite losing Mariota to the NFL, the addition of transfer quarterback Vernon Adams kept the Duck offense rolling. In his first game with the team, the senior led the Ducks to an astonishing 731 total yards (against his former team no less). The diminutive, duel-threat QB completed 19 of 25 passes for 246 yards and two scores while adding another 94 yards on the ground on just 14 carries. As good as Adams was, sophomore tailback Royce Freeman was even better. He ran all over the Eagles to the tune of 180 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
The defense was a different story. The unit gave up 549 total yards to Eastern Washington – an FCS school. Oregon coach Mark Helfrich was sorely disappointed with the effort on that side of the ball
“Just a bunch of little things that turn into huge things. We have a defensive lineman spin out of a gap and create a huge hole, that’s not a [defensive back’s] fault. It’s everybody just focusing on their job. Nothing more, nothing less,” Helfrich said to the Lansing State Journal.
The Spartans, meanwhile, had their own defensive issues in Week 1. They downed the Western Michigan Broncos, 37-24, but gave up 383 total yards to what should have been an overmatched team. The Spartans went up by 20, but allowed the Broncos to crawl back into the game and needed two takeaways to seal the win.
Senior QB Connor Cook – whose name has been mentioned in the early Heisman chatter – didn’t get off to the best start. He threw for just 256 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite looking a bit porous at times in Week 1, Helfrich knows Michigan State’s defense will present a much bigger challenge for his high-scoring squad.
“[Michigan State is r]eally good defensively, they’ve added quite a bit schematically from when we saw them last and they still make you earn every inch,” Helfrich said of the Spartans. “They do a great job in their pressures of disguising and creating some issues. They were up 27-7 and had that game very much in control. Western Michigan made some plays late but [MSU] got after the quarterback a lot, and that jumps out.”
Looking at the trends, not only did the Ducks take last year’s game straight up, they also managed to cover the 14-point spread, running their record to 3-0 ATS against Michigan State since 1999. The Spartans, meanwhile, are 2-6 ATS in their last eight games as a home favorite of 3.5-10.0 points.
This game should be another shootout, as neither defense looks built to generate stops with any regularity. In a last-score wins type of contest, I’ll take the high-scoring Ducks and the points (+4.5).
Pick: Oregon +4.5.
(Photo credit: John Martinez Pavliga (Flickr: IMG_0020) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)