(7) Michigan State (1-0) at (3) Oregon (1-0)|
Saturday, September 6, 6:30 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
GAME NOTES: A top-10 showdown takes center stage in the Pacific Northwest this
Saturday, as the seventh-ranked Michigan State Spartans come calling on the
third-ranked Oregon Ducks.
Both teams had an easy time of it in their respective season openers, with
Michigan State dispatching Jacksonville State (45-7), and Oregon whipping
South Dakota (62-13).
Michigan State is the defending Big Ten Conference champion, and coach Mark
Dantonio's squad is hoping for a repeat performance as it prepares for what
should be another treacherous league slate. Following this clash, the Spartans
return home to take on Eastern Michigan and Wyoming, then host Nebraska in the
Big Ten opener on Oct. 4.
The Ducks, who won their third straight season opener and will start with
three straight home games, will also play Wyoming (Sept. 13), and then get
right into Pac-12 Conference action when they visit Washington State a week
The all-time series between these two is knotted at 2-2, with the home team
winning each time. The last tussle took place in the 1999 season opener, with
Michigan State taking a 27-20 decision in East Lansing.
Michigan State imposed its will from the outset in last week's rout of
Jacksonville State, amassing 565 yards of total offense, compared to only 244
for the visitors.
Quarterback Connor Cook was nearly perfect in hitting the mark on 12-of-13
pass attempts for 285 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Tony
Lippett certainly made the most of his opportunities, turning four catches
into 167 yards and a pair of scores.
The run game was solid in that it generated 211 yards and three TDs, but there
wasn't one specific guy who carried the load. In all, 10 guys logged at least
one carry, with Jeremy Langford leading the way with 57 yards on 13 totes.
Nick Hill scored twice, and the Spartans totaled 25 first downs, did not turn
the ball over, and came away with points on all five of their trips to the red
zone (four TDs).
Defensively, MSU stacked the line of scrimmage and allowed the Gamecocks a
mere 22 net rushing yards on 25 attempts. That effort of course, was aided by
the five sacks the team had, resulting in a loss of 49 yards.
The Spartans proved to be an opportunistic bunch in coming up with three
interceptions. Darien Harris paced the unit with five tackles, while six
others finished with four. MSU was credited with seven TFL.
Dantonio was happy with the overall effort of his team in the opener, but
knows you can't dwell on that one performance.
"I thought we made a statement. We wanted to make sure that we weren't flat
coming out and I don't think we were, other than the first play of the game.
We played very crisp. Connor (Cook) was very effective in the first half and
then we pulled him after that. We moved the ball very, very effectively. We
can probably run the ball a little bit better than we did, although I thought
Nick Hill did some very nice things in there. No turnovers and very few
penalties, we stopped them on fourth down and forced a few turnovers. Based on
that, I think we came out and did what we needed to do. We played a dominant
football game, and we will now move on to the next one."
Oregon's win over South Dakota was certainly impressive, and the play of
Heisman hopeful quarterback Marcus Mariota really stood out. Mariota tossed
three touchdown passes, tying Darron Thomas for the school's career record
(66). Mariota also extended his streak of throwing at least one TD to 27
straight games (every game of his career), and with four total TDs (he added
one on the ground), the gifted signal caller broke a tie with Joey Harrington
for most total touchdowns in UO history (82 -- 66 passing, 15 rushing, one
Helping Mariota succeed down the field was Byron Marshall, who posted career-
highs with eight catches and 138 yards. He also had a game-high 90 yards on
the ground. Royce Freeman added 75 yards and a pair of TDs.
The Ducks were perfect in the red zone (5-of-5, all TDs), and they went 7-of-9
on third-down conversion attempts. The special teams even got in on the
scoring, as Charles Nelson returned a punt 50 yards for a TD midway through
the third quarter, becoming the first freshman in the school's modern era to
return a punt for a score.
While the offense was clicking along, the Oregon defense showed signs of
weakness by allowing South Dakota 120 yards on the ground in the first half
alone. In all, the Coyotes tallied 370 total yards, but gave up three sacks.
The Ducks were almost doubled up in time of possession (39:04 to 20.56),
meaning the defense was on the field for an extended period of time. As a
result, 27 guys logged at least one tackle, with Erick Dargan and Reggie
Daniels leading the way with seven stops each. Alex Balducci made two of his
four tackles behind the line of scrimmage, as Oregon finished with six TFL in
Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich too was pleased with the outcome of the
opener, but knows tougher tests await, starting this week.
"We'll be excited to compete. They played great in every phase in their
opener. And we're excited to get back out in front of the Autzen fans as well.
We'll need them as we get ready for these guys."
This is one of the premier non-conference matchups this season, and it should
be a tremendous game. Expect the teams to trade blows throughout, but if
Oregon's defense doesn't show up in a big way, it could spell doom for the
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 24, Oregon 23
09/03 10:53:34 ET