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Oregon adds another ugly win to the Pac-12 win column with Redbox Bowl victory over Michigan State

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On a day that saw Stanford win an absolutely ugly game to get the Pac-12 a second bowl victory, Oregon added one more. The Ducks (9-4) held on to win a scrappy and ugly Redbox Bowl against Michigan State (7-6) by scoring just one touchdown in a 7-6 win.

Oregon did not score until early in the fourth quarter with a Justin Herbert 28-yard pass to Dillon Mitchell. Michigan State had a 6-0 lead on the strength of a pair of field goals, both of which came in the third quarter following a scoreless first half.

Oregon nearly cost themselves a win in the fourth quarter with a bizarre fake punt, in which the punter never even got off a pass on the fourth down call aimed to catch Michigan State off guard. It failed miserably.

Although Oregon’s gamble did not pay off, it ended up not hurting them either. Michigan State put themselves in position for a potential go-ahead field goal on the ensuing possession, but a botched handle of the snap forced Lewerke to try picking the ball up and getting the ball to any open receiver on a whim, and Oregon stayed in good coverage to prevent any miracle play from developing.

Oregon’s offense could not slam the door shut on the game, however, which led to one last offensive opportunity for the Spartans. But the defense for the Ducks held strong one final time as Brian Lewerke had a fourth-down pass fall incomplete for a turnover on downs.

Lewerke completed 21 of 39 passes for 174 yards and an interception. Herbert completed 19 of 33 passes for 166 yards and the game’s only touchdown. Oregon never got going on the ground but was able to keep the Spartans from posing much of a threat. LJ Scott rushed for a game-high 84 yards on 24 rushing attempts for the Spartans, who combined for 157 rushing yards. Michiagn State out-gained Oregon 331-203 but was unable to win the game where it counts the most.

This is the first bowl victory for Cristobal since the 2010 season as head coach of FIU, when his Panthers won the Little Caesars Bowl. With a record of 9-4, this is now Cristobal’s most successful season in terms of win total, topping the eight wins he previously had at FIU in 2011. His counterpart, Mark Dantonio, suffered his first defeat in a non-College Football Playoff bowl game since the 2010 season. Michigan State had won five straight bowl games in years they played a non-playoff bowl game. The Spartans lost in the Cotton Bowl to Alabama in the College Football Playoff in 2015 and the Spartans did not meet bowl eligibility requirement in 2016.

Next year should be pretty interesting for Oregon. The Ducks, with Herbert coming back and a large number of starters projected to return on top of a solid recruiting class just signed, will likely be one of the top contenders in the Pac-12 next fall. A race between Oregon and Washington could be fun, but the Ducks will start the 2019 season in Arlington, Texas against Auburn, the team Washington’s 2018 started out against. Will Oregon be able to get a win against an SEC team on a neutral field to start the year, unlike Washington? Expect some good preseason hype for Oregon to build in the offseason and a win over Auburn could really raise the bar for the Ducks early on next season.

Michigan State and Oregon locked in scoreless Redbox Bowl

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Michigan State and Oregon are certainly delivering plenty of defense in the Redbox Bowl. The two teams are scoreless at the half in Santa Clara, the final game to be played in Levi’s Stadium before next week’s national championship game between Alabama and Clemson. This has been hardly the worthy appetizer for the main course to come.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio took a gamble late in the first half when he decided to run a pass play on a fourth and one from the Oregon 23-yard line. Brian Lewerke was unable to get the ball to a wide receiver though and the ball fell incomplete short of the intended receiver for a turnover on downs.

Spartans running back LJ Scott did start the game, as anticipated, but he left the game temporarily to be checked on for a possible injury. He would return to the game late in the second quarter though, giving the Spartans offense a key player to rely on. But offense has been hard to come by against a steady Oregon defense.

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, who announced his decision to return to the Ducks in 2019, has completed 10 of 19 passes for 72 yards. Lewerke’s production is also stumbling with 94 yards on 14/22 passing in the first half with an interception.

CFT Previews: Redbox Bowl

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WHO: Michigan State (7-5) vs. Oregon (8-4)
WHAT: The 17th Redbox Bowl
WHEN: 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX
WHERE: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
THE SKINNY: The moment Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert announced his decision to return for the 2019 season in Eugene, this game immediately became a bit more notable. With Herbert coming back next season, the chances he would sit out of this bowl game were practically eliminated, which means we get to see one of the top quarterbacks in the nation play in a bowl game and attempt to set the tone heading to the offseason leading up to what could be a promising 2019 campaign for the Oregon Ducks.

Herbert will lead an Oregon offense that isn’t quite like the glory days under former head coach Chip Kelly, but one that is continuing to build confidence in their own style under first-year head coach Mario Cristobal. In addition to an efficient passing game with Herbert, the Ducks know how to run the ball as well. Freshmen CJ Verdell and Travis Dye combined for 1,696 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns (Verdell getting a healthy share of the scores with 10 touchdowns).

Michigan State’s season had more than a few bumps in the road with key injuries and tough losses, but the hope for the Spartans is that having a healthy Brian Lewerke at quarterback and running back LJ Scott should give the Spartans a needed boost on offense. If healthy, Michigan State should be able to move the ball on the Ducks, but Michigan State’s offense has come up small at times this season. Michigan State combined for 26 points total in their final three games of the season. They won’t be able to afford a sputtering offense in this matchup.

THE LINE: Oregon -3.0
THE PREDICTION: Oregon 27, Michigan State 24

No. 10 Ohio State keeps Big Ten and playoff hopes alive with slugfest win at Michigan State

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It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t have to be. No. 10 Ohio State (9-1, 6-1) leaving No. 18 Michigan State (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) with a 26-6 win means the Buckeyes are still in position to make their own case not just for the Big Ten championship, but also for a spot in the College Football Playoff field. For either of those goals to be obtained, however, Ohio State still ha some work to do moving into the final few weeks.

Ohio State’s defense certainly looked improved in the road win in East Lansing. After being dominated by Purdue two games ago and then after a shaky performance after a bye week against Nebraska last week, Ohio State’s defense played much better on Saturday. Of course, the Spartans offense has been a bit damaged and may have served as the perfect recipe for an ailing Ohio State defense. The Spartans had just two third-down conversion in 15 tries and the running game never found a way to get going.

Things were so difficult for Michigan State, Mark Dantonio called for a signature trick play that seemingly worked for a go-ahead touchdown only to see a penalty bring the score off the board. The Spartans also took an intentional safety in a 7-6 game and the punter backed up at the back of the endzone. In a defensive battle like the one unfolding, that appeared to be a decent gamble in an attempt to flip the field. Ohio State punted after four plays, but the Spartans were still pinned deep in their end, and the Buckeyes recovered a fumble in the end zone on the first play run by the Michigan State offense. Suddenly, a one-point game had turned into a 16-6 lead for Ohio State.

Ohio State added a field goal to extend the lead to 19-6 after Michigan State fumbled on the first play of their next possession (for two fumbles in as many snaps by the Spartans, who had switched from quarterback Brian Lewerke to Rocky Lombardi). The teams then exchanged turnovers with Ohio State fumbling on the Michigan State four-yard line and Lewerke (who had returned to the game) being picked off by Shaun Wade.

Dwayne Haskins passed for 227 yards with a touchdown, and Urban Meyer found spots to get Tate Martell in the game as well. Although Michigan State’s Big Ten-leading rushing defense had contained Ohio State for much of the game, Mike Weber accounted for 104 yards and a touchdown in the game.

With the win, Ohio State continues to keep relative pace with Big Ten East-leading Michigan. The Buckeyes trail Michigan by one game in the loss column but will have a chance to win a head-to-head tiebreaker in the final game of the regular season as long as Ohio State does not lose next week. Ohio State will play at Maryland next week before returning home to host the Wolverines in two weeks, when a spot in the Big Ten championship game is expected to be on the line. And, of course, the game could carry some College Football Playoff implications.

Michigan State remains in third place in the Big Ten East, tied with Penn State but with a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Nittany Lions. A shot at the Big Ten East is now out of reach for Michigan State with head-to-head losses to Ohio State and Michigan. The Spartans now head to Lincoln, Nebraska next week to play a recently charged up Nebraska team. It could be a dangerous spot to be in for Michigan State.

Late touchdown gives Ohio State 7-3 lead in defensive battle with Michigan State

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You want defense and punting? Ohio State and Michigan State have you covered up in East Lansing. The Buckeyes and Spartans are in a battle for second place in the Big Ten East Division and points appear to be at a premium this afternoon in Big Ten play. At halftime in Spartan Stadium, Ohio State is leading Michigan State 7-0 thanks to a late touchdown drive capped by a short touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins to Parris Campbell form the one-yard line.

The Big Ten’s leading rushing defense of Michigan State has not allowed Ohio State to get their running game going. J.K. Dobbins had just 11 rushing yards with five minutes to play in the first half, and that was nullified by Haskins being taken down for a loss of 11 yards in the half. Haskins now is up to 23 yards. Michigan State’s running game has fared only marginally better with a combined team rushing total of 10 yards. Connor Heyward had zero rushing yards in the first half.

In need of a spark, Michigan State has switched quarterbacks as well with Rocky Lombardi taking over for Lewerke late in the first half.

Michigan fans are likely paying close attention to this result, as it will impact the division-clinching scenarios for the Wolverines. A win by Michigan State could mean Michigan can build a two-game cushion on Ohio State in the Big Ten standings with a win against Rutgers later today. A win by the Buckeyes will leave the possibility of a regular season finale to determine the Big Ten East crown on the table.