E-mail Pete Fiutak
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Michigan State is going to get lumped into the upcoming national The Big Ten Really, Really Sucks narrative, but it doesn’t – it’s not fair. It’s not fair to the Spartans, and it’s not fair to an Oregon team that stepped up its game at home.
It’ll get totally lost in the aftermath, but Michigan State was up 27-18 with under 20 minutes left to play. Oregon was simply sharper, stronger, and better when it counted, and it’ll deserve credit for a fantastic win that’s going to be better than it appears right now as the season goes on.
In Connor Cook’s last four games, he threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the Big Ten Championship over Ohio State, 332 yards and two scores in the Rose Bowl win over Stanford, 285 yards and three touchdowns against Jacksonville State, and now 343 yards and three touchdowns against Oregon. Interceptions are a problem, but the Spartans have something in their quarterback, and they have a good enough overall team to get past this, run the table, go 12-1 and end up in the College Football Playoff.
But Oregon showed that is has a good enough team to go 15-0 and win the College Football Playoff.
The running game didn’t quite work like normal, but Michigan State can play a little bit of defense. Marcus Mariota hit on the big throws, didn’t make any massive mistakes, and when he had a chance to go for the jugular, he made all the right reads and all the right plays. Meanwhile, the defense proved it was up to snuff in the second half, holding up against the Spartan power just fine.
So what does it all mean? Even with the ugly final score, don’t be totally stunned if this was Round One.
E-mail Rich Cirminiello
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Nice Wisconsin impression, Michigan State. But your inability to close the deal in Eugene will go down as the exclamation point in an otherwise hideous weekend for the Big Ten.
For a while, it looked as if the Spartans might be carrying the Big Ten banner right to the College Football Playoff. They controlled the tempo going into—and coming out of—halftime, temporarily taking Oregon out of its usual rhythm. Taking out the Ducks, though, is a 60-minute task, and Michigan State simply wasn’t up to the challenge.
We’ve seen it countless times before, especially at Autzen Stadium—once Oregon begins rolling downhill, there’s just no way to slow them down. The Ducks gain energy, fed by the home crowd, while opponents are left looking dazed and thoroughly confused. Michigan State, an otherwise outstanding team, was the latest in a long line of victims.
If anyone is looking for an Alabama alternative at No. 2 in the rankings, Oregon could be it after snapping off the most impressive 20-minute stretch of the first two weeks of the season. Couple the latter with Stanford’s loss, and the Ducks now own the Pac-12’s yellow jersey. The Big Ten, on the other hand, suffered a crushing high-profile defeat for the second Saturday in a row. It’s early in the campaign, but it’s getting harder and harder by the hour to envision this year’s Big Ten champ grabbing one of the four playoff openings.
By Phil Harrison
That sound you just heard was the Big Ten’s perception sinking further into the abyss. The other sound you heard was Oregon telling everyone that it may have found the toughness that has kept it from breaking through to a national championship.
It’s not like Michigan State didn’t show some character by absorbing an early blow from an ultra-bright Oregon team that would make Tide laundry detergent proud, to take command of the game heading into halftime. But in the end there were just too many playmakers on offense for a somewhat rebuilt defense of Michigan State to handle.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was fantastic again with over 300 yards and three touchdowns through the air and almost fifty yards on the ground. He was one of the many athletic and fast skill position players that burned through the shell-shocked Spartan defense — especially in the second half.
The code needed to beat this Oregon team has been set by the likes of Stanford who has been able to get a great push from the defensive line to disrupt the Duck’s timing in the backfield by way of physical play. Before the game, you thought that Michigan State fit that bill, and at times, it did. Yet, the Ducks just keep coming, get you in space and make enough plays to break the spirit of a defense that doesn’t remain disciplined and true to the game plan.
For Oregon, it’s now off to a few manageable games before a big showdown at UCLA on October 11, followed by another tussle and donnybrook with the same Stanford team that seems to have the Ducks’ number on November 1. The sky is still the limit.
On the other sideline, Michigan State now must regroup and look to now make some hay in a Big Ten that’s going to need some things to break just right to get back into the College Football Playoff discussion. There’s damage to be done with an Ohio State team struggling to get going without Braxton Miller, a Michigan team that still seems to have identity crisis on offense, and no other contenders that seem to want to rise to the occasion.
Depending on how you look at the situation, that’s either good news, or news too sour to digest.
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