Quack Preview: Michigan State vs. Oregon

In easily the biggest matchup of the young college football season, Michigan State visits Oregon tonight. (6:30, FOX.) Both teams are very much in contention for a berth in the brand new College Football Playoff, and the outcome of this game figures to go a long way toward determining whether the Spartans or Ducks will find themselves in college football’s new final four.

Despite their dynamic style, Oregon essentially is a known quantity, at least in broad terms. That doesn’t mean they’re easy to handle, and their junior quarterback, Marcus Mariota, is a strong Heisman contender.

Due to some key graduations and departures (e.g., Darqueze Dennard), coupled with an added year of experience for the younger players, Michigan State figures to remain about as strong as last season, while trading a little defense for a little offense.

The question remains: can Michigan State’s defense stop Oregon’s offense? In what I thought was a neat video that included actually understandable game scheme film clips, ESPN’s Trevor Matich explains why the Spartan D might have a chance:

He doesn’t pick MSU to win, of course, and Vegas has the visitors as twelve-point underdogs. Michigan State is better than the Stanford team that ended Oregon’s undefeated run last year, though, and with Jacksonville State as their week-one opponent, Mark Dantonio, Pat Narduzzi, and everyone else in East Lansing has had all spring and summer to prepare for this one. You, on the other hand, have just a few hours to prepare for what should be a fun game.

In the meantime, join Michael Weinreb, now apparently of SB Nation, for a very nice look back at the last time these two teams played each other.

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No doubt about it: Michigan State is headed to the Rose Bowl

Michigan State beat previously undefeated Ohio State in Indianapolis last night to claim the Big Ten championship, a 12-1 record (9-0 in conference), and a berth in the Rose Bowl, the Spartans’ first trip to Pasadena since 1987-88.

ALDLAND takes you live to the battle for the Mitten

A glutton for entertaining punishment (my teams are 0-fer when I’ve seen them live this fall), I’ll be back on the road this weekend, this time joining Brendan in Ann Arbor for the Michigan/Michigan State game. No current Michigan player has beat Michigan State– the Spartans have beaten the Wolverines four straight times– and MSU has made life difficult for Michigan QB Denard Robinson in particular.

I was in the Big House at the beginning of this current streak, when MSU won for the first time in Ann Arbor in eighteen years. I am worried that I will be there when the streak ends, too, and it has a good chance of ending tomorrow. Before the season started, I was sure that Michigan would win this game. After the first couple weeks of the season, MSU definitely looked like the better team, though, but after what we’ve seen recently from each squad, I’ve reverted to my preseason position: this is Michigan’s game to lose.

Michigan State has not looked good at all in recent weeks. For them to win tomorrow afternoon, they’ll have to have a complete game on both sides of the ball, something they have yet to accomplish this season. The X factor this week is coach Mark Dantonio. The MSU staff hasn’t been the same since the departure of offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, but Dantonio always seems to save something for big games. I don’t think he’s in danger of losing his job right now, but with now-dashed Rose Bowl hopes running high headed into this season, his seat may be feeling a bit warm. He has to know, though, that all will be forgiven in East Lansing if his team beats Michigan tomorrow.

Whatever happens, we all can agree that the Paul Bunyan trophy is ugly.