Michigan State (7-5) vs Oregon (8-4)

The Redbox Bowl kicks off at noon EST on the final day of 2018. FOX will televise the game so we can look forward to some good football between lengthy commercial breaks! Michigan State and Oregon recently played a home & home in 2014 and 2015 with the home team winning each matchup. The winners of the series both went on to make the playoff in their respective years (Oregon 2014, MSU 2015).

How they got here: Michigan State

Michigan State came into the season with some big aspirations. Early losses to Arizona State and Northwestern deterred those dreams as the Spartans’ season turned into a slog reminiscent of the Wehrmacht’s Autumn advance into the Soviet Union. The Spartan offense stagnated and winnable games turned into losses. Aside from the road upset of Penn State, this has been a season to forget in East Lansing. 

How they got here: Oregon

Oregon got off to a hot start before losses to Washington State and Arizona derailed a promising season. Year one under head coach Mario Cristobal has been good for the Ducks. The Redbox Bowl seems to be their floor heading into the future.

Player to watch: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Justin Herbert projects as a first round NFL talent and could be the first quarterback off the board when the NFL draft comes around. That is, if he declares for the draft. Herbert is reportedly heavily considering staying for his senior year at Oregon. 

The Redbox Bowl gives him the opportunity to play against one of the best defenses in the nation. Michigan State defensive end Kenny Willekes has gotten after QBs all season. Oregon will need to keep him away from Herbert.

Betting Lines

Oregon is favored by three points and the over/under sits at an even 48 points. 

Prediction

Oregon by three sounds about right. Michigan State has been stout on defense all year, allowing more than thirty points one time. There are so many unknowns to this Spartan team heading into the bowl game that any prediction right now might not be viable come December 31st. MSU has a month to prepare for the Oregon offense. More importantly, they have a month to prepare an offensive game plan. Mark Dantonio always has State ready to go in the postseason (2015 aside).

This game has the feel of a defensive battle. The team that wins the turnover battle should obviously have the upper hand. But an MSU team that desperately needs to make the most of every single possession must have the better turnover margin to have a good opportunity for success. Oregon has the ability to make big plays on offense consistently and that alone separates them from the Spartans enough for me to think they should come out with the win.

It won’t be a pretty game, but 21-13 in favor of the Ducks feels about right.

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