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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

West Virginia’s Will Grier and Michigan’s Shea Patterson among Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award finalists

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College football’s award season is drawing near. The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award is in the spirit of the season with the announcement of 10 finalists for their award this season, honoring the top fourth-year quarterback in college football using a number of conditions including character, scholastic achievement and leadership qualities in addition to on-field success. And because the award is designed for seniors and fourth-year juniors scheduled to graduate with their class, you won’t find Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa on this list.

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier and Michigan’s Shea Patterson are among the list of candidates up for the award as finalists this season, it was announced on Thursday. Both players have certainly played a key role in guiding their respective teams into position to play for and win their respective conference titles with the final weeks of the season underway. UCF’s McKenzie Milton is in a similar position and was named a finalist for the award as well.

Joining those three are a pair of ACC quarterbacks with Syracuse’s Eric Dungey and NC State’s Ryan Finley. Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Washington State’s Gardner Minshew are representing the Pac-12 and Penn State’s Trace McSorley joins Patterson as the Big Ten representatives on the list of finalists for the award. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is the lone SEC player named as a finalist and Boise State’s Brett Rypien is standing tall for the Mountain West Conference.

Past Golden Arm Award winners include Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Boston College’s Matt Ryan and Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn. Rudolph was last year’s recipient of the award.

Pac-12 Heisman hopefuls had a less-than-stellar Week 1

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Coming off a disappointing bowl season, the Pac-12 looked to turn the page and begin 2018 on a high note. As a whole, the conference of champions was 8-4, including a record of 1-2 against power conference opponents. There were some highs and some lows scattered throughout. Among the possible surprising disappointments, this weekend may have been the final box score for Heisman Trophy hopefuls Bryce Love and Khalil Tate.

Love, Stanford’s running back and a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2017, entered the new season as Bovada’s betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this fall, with 13/2 odds. After rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns last season though, teams will look to clamp down on him a little bit more this season. San Diego State did just that in their Friday night season opener on The Farm. Although Stanford won, 31-10, Love only managed to carry the ball for 29 yards on 18 carries, and he caught three passes for 18 yards. Love, a year after scoring a rushing touchdown in all but one game he played, was held out of the end zone in the season opener. Last year, in a loss to San Diego State, Love rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Is this a sign of what is to come from opposing defenses playing Stanford this season? We’ll see. Next up for Love is a big early-season matchup on national television against USC.

Late last night, against BYU, Arizona’s dynamic QB Khalil Tate (12/1 Heisman odds) ushered in the Kevin Sumlin era with a 28-23 setback at home, and Tate’s final line left room for some improvement as well. Tate completed 17-of-34 passes on an erratic night for 197 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 14 yards on eight rushing attempts. It was the lowest rushing total for Tate in his time at Arizona since back-to-back games against Colorado and Oregon State toward the end of the 2016 season as a backup. Credit BYU for not allowing Tate to get in a rhythm, but that was not the kind of performance that Heisman Trophy voters with a ballot may have wanted to stay up late to see.

Washington quarterback Jake Browning (25/1) had the toughest draw among the Pac-12’s top Heisman favorites according to the oddsmakers at the start of the season. Browning had two costly turnovers against a ferocious Auburn defense in Atlanta, and Browning and the Huskies returned home with a tough loss to open the season.

It has only been one week, and even Heisman Trophy winners have been known to have one letdown performance at times, so it would be unwise to rule out Love or Tate in the Heisman picture after just one full weekend of college football. There was a possible bright spot, however, with Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (30/1) helping Oregon shrug off a slow start against Bowling Green and celebrate a 58-24 win against the Falcons in Eugene. Herbert completed just 10 of his 21 pass attempts for 281 yards and five touchdowns, and he added 41 rushing yards and a touchdown to help overcome his two interceptions thrown.

Among the Pac-12’s finest, Herbert had the best opening weekend as far as the Heisman race is concerned, but this race is barely even just begun. If a Heisman Trophy cannot be won in early September, then it should not be lost in the first full weekend of college football either.