Oregon Ducks at Michigan State Spartans, Saturday Sept.12, 8 p.m. ET
Things suddenly get very real for these two National Championship contenders - or at least these two teams that think that they are National Championship contenders. They both won their openers - while making their outmatched opponents look a little better than they probably should have. Now they are playing for national respectability. A nonconference loss doesn't derail a national title hope, but it sure doesn't make things any easier. It means you likely need to win your conference to have a chance - and that will be tough in both cases. Unless the game is a complete dud, the winner will gain a whole lot of respect nationally. The stakes pretty much can't be higher in the second week of the season.
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Oregon at Michigan State Betting Storylines
New Oregon QB Vernon Adams Jr. was something of a question heading into the season. He was highly successful in his last stop, but he's jumping up to a much more challenging level, and his time with the team in the preseason was cut short because he had to graduate from Eastern Washington first. The first game was a strong indication that he could be productive. He was 19-of-25 for 246 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran for 94 yards. Strong showing. The further we have gotten from it, though, the harder it is to really accept it as anything more than just a decent beginning. After all, he was facing a defense that he had practiced against hundreds of times. He was doing it with better offensive weapons, led by Royce Freeman, than he has ever had before. He took advantage of the opportunity he had, but scoring well against such a familiar foe doesn't truly teach us a thing about how well he will fare on the road against a very good Michigan State defense. So, what can we expect from Adams here? It's hard to be anything more than cautiously optimistic.
Defense is more of a story for both teams than it should be. The Spartans let Western Michigan QB Zach Terrell pass for 365 yards. That's a whole lot, but it isn't as bad as it seems. The Broncos were completely incapable of running - they managed just 18 yards on 23 carries. Terrell had no choice but to pass - which he did 50 times. His average of 7.3 yards per attempt was solid but not so high that the Spartans need to panic - especially since they lost their top DBs to the NFL and are finding their legs with new personnel.
The news was less inspiring for the Ducks, though. Eastern Washington passed for 438 yards - a concerning eight yards per attempt. That included five touchdowns through the air. They also ran for 111 yards and another score. Remember, too, that the Eagles did all that with what should have been their backup QB - Adams was starting for them up until this season. He clearly had a favorite target - Cooper Cupp caught 15 passes for 246 yards. Both of those totals were records in Autzen Stadium. Ouch. It was a shootout of a game - more so than we could expect against Michigan State - but the fact that Oregon's defense was so permeable is a big issue. Connor Cook is a dangerous and experienced quarterback, and Oregon needs to be dramatically better without the ball than they were in their opener to stand any chance at all here.
Oregon at Michigan State NCAA Football Odds and Betting Trends
Michigan State opened favored at home by three points - essentially just the home-field advantage. A solid majority of bets have come in on the Spartans, so it is not surprising to see that the line has climbed up to four points. Given the action and the pace of movement, it would be surprising to see a dramatic shift between now and game time unless there is a major development. The total sits at 66.5.
The Ducks are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games and an impressive 11-2 ATS in their last 13 games on the road against teams with winning home records. The Spartans have gone "over" the total in their last seven nonconference games. This is a rematch of last September's showdown between the squads at Oregon. The Ducks cruised to a 46-27 win, though they were 14-point favorites, so the matchup wasn't as tight as it is seen to be this year.
Free College Football Picks: Oregon Ducks at Michigan State Expert Predictions
This is a tough game. There are plenty of reasons to respect both teams, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see either in the playoff. They both have flaws that make their success far from guaranteed, though. Of the two I find Michigan State easier to trust at this point. The defensive play of Oregon was a major concern last time out, and Michigan State has the experience at quarterback to exploit those woes. I liked the Spartans a lot more at three points than four, but they are still the pick at this price.
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