Michigan State's Redbox Bowl: Five things to know about Oregon

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Justin Herbert

Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News has five things to know about Oregon, Michigan State's opponent in the Redbox Bowl.

Common opponent

Michigan State and Oregon had one common opponent this season – Arizona State. The Spartans lost to the Sun Devils, 16-13, in the second week of the season while the Ducks beat the Sun Devils, 31-29, at home on Nov. 17. Quarterback Justin Herbert threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns while Travis Dye ran for 105 yards and CJ Verdell gained 70 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns. Michigan State, like much of the season, couldn’t take advantage of a solid defensive performance as the Spartans kept the Sun Devils out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter. “The score of the game is a pretty good indication of what that was,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said of MSU vs. Arizona State. “It was a very hard-nose, tough football game that both defenses played really, really well.”

More: Michigan State seeks 'feel-good' finish vs. Oregon in Redbox Bowl

Herbert highly rated

Herbert has had an outstanding junior season, throwing for 2,985 yards and 28 touchdowns with eight interceptions while completing 59.6 percent of his passes. He is one of the top-rated quarterbacks in next spring’s NFL draft if he opts to forgo his final season with the Ducks. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranks him the No. 1 quarterback in the draft, while he’s rated third by CBS Sports. Cristobal said Herbert will play against Michigan State, even after suffering what was described as a “deep bruise” to his shoulder on Nov. 23 in Oregon’s game against Oregon State.

'Tremendous opportunity' 

The Ducks enter the postseason on a two-game win streak after victories over Arizona State and Oregon State. They had some notable wins, as well, beating then-No. 24 California on the road before knocking off eventual conference champion Washington the next week when the Huskies were ranked No. 7. Oregon is also returning to California for a bowl game for the first time since the Rose Bowl following the 2014 season, the last bowl victory for the Ducks. “Great game, great location, great opponent,” Cristobal said. “It's certainly a tremendous opportunity for us, on a big stage.” Oregon is making its 32nd bowl appearance and is playing for the 12th time in California. The Ducks reached the postseason for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons.

Ugochukwu Amadi

Dynamic Ducks 'D'

As good as Oregon has been offensively this season, it has played well on the defensive side of the ball, too, allowing 27 points a game and creating 22 turnovers. The Ducks have four players with three or more interceptions and they are second in the Pac-12 and tied for 11th nationally with 16 interceptions on the season. Freshman safety Jevon Holland has four interceptions while senior safety Ugochukwu Amadi, and sophomore cornerbacks Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham Jr. each have three.

Familiar foes

The Spartans and Ducks have some history, especially in recent seasons as they met in 2014 and 2015, with each season ending in a trip to the College Football Playoff for the winner. It was Oregon that used a big second half from QB Marcus Mariota in ’14 to beat Michigan State and eventually reach the national title game. And in ’15, the Spartans got to the playoffs after getting an early signature victory at home over the Ducks. Interestingly, when Michigan State took on Alabama in the Cotton Bowl that season, it was current Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal who was the offensive line coach for the Crimson Tide. Also, former Michigan State coach Bobby Williams is special teams coordinator for the Ducks.