It’s a little ironic that the company that put Blockbuster out of business is now sponsoring a bowl game. Blockbuster was one of the first corporate sponsors of a bowl game, running the Blockbuster Bowl from 1990 to 1993. That was in the heyday of the video rental chain, and 25 years later Redbox is once again following in their footsteps. This is the first iteration of the Redbox Bowl, and the new leader in video game and movie rentals is hoping not to follow in the footsteps of Blockbuster. The game will pit the Oregon Ducks against the Michigan State Spartans.
Oregon Ducks vs. Michigan State Spartans Redbox Bowl Betting Odds: Oregon -3, O/U 48 Location: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California Date and Time: Monday, December 31, 2018, 3 p.m. ET Redbox Bowl TV Coverage: FOX
Willie who? Oregon proved that they didn’t need Willie Taggart this season. Mario Cristobal was able to keep things going in the right direction and the Ducks finished the year at 8-4. Oregon could have started the year 6-0 if it didn’t blow a late lead against Stanford, but the Ducks stumbled in the second half of the year. They lost road games against Washington State, Arizona, and Utah after knocking off Washington in an overtime thriller and finished up just 5-4 in conference.
Offensive woes killed Michigan State this year. The Spartans finished the year with five losses and scored an average of 10.2 PPG in those defeats. That undermined a defense that was one of the best in the country, finishing second in the nation per S&P+. Things only got worse as the season progressed too with Michigan State failing to score more than 24 points in each of its last eight games.
Injuries and Absences
Oregon is not going to have some key players for this game. The linebacking corps is the hardest hit with Kaulana Apelu and Isaac Slade-Matautia both out for this game, but the Ducks got good news when Justin Herbert announced that he would play in the bowl game. Many expected Herbert to skip the game as he is seen as the top quarterback prospect in the upcoming draft, but he has decided to play one more game although he has a dinged-up shoulder too.
The Spartans have lost Mufi Hunt and Felton Davis III for the season, and some other players may miss the Redbox Bowl. CB Josh Butler, OT Luke Campbell, DE Dillon Alexander, and TE Noah Davis are all questionable, while RB LJ Scott is probable. Scott was another player some thought would skip the bowl game, but he has announced he will play as well.
Few coaches are as entrenched in their jobs as Mark Dantonio. Dantonio has been the head coach of the Spartans for the past 12 seasons, and he has won three Big Ten titles with the program. His hard-nosed defensive style isn’t very appealing to the eye, but it gets results. Dantonio has a bowl record of 6-5, but he has won five of his last six bowl games.
It was only a matter of time before Mario Cristobal got another shot, and his first year in charge of Oregon was a success. The former Florida International coach was the first to have success at the program, but he was let go by a short-sighted athletic director and he has bounced around as an assistant for the last few years. He has kept things fast-paced in Eugene, and he is a great recruiter. He will want to use a win as a springboard in recruiting.
Matchup to Watch
Michigan State couldn’t do anything on offense all year long. The Spartans finished 114th in the country in S&P+, and the lack of a passing game undermined their desire to run the ball. Neither Brian Lewerke or Rocky Lombardi could move the ball well, and Michigan State averaged just 5.8 yards per pass and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Opponents could single cover the Spartans’ wide receivers, and that led to the running game averaging just 3.5 yards per carry.
The Ducks didn’t have a great defense this year, and they don’t have a lot of depth up front. Dantonio is likely to have his Spartans run the ball as much as possible in this one to wear down the front seven.
Redbox Bowl Pick
Herbert is the top quarterback prospect, but he has not seen a defense like the Spartans. Michigan State frustrated some of the top offenses in the country in the Big Ten, and I expect them to do the same here. It will be close for a while, but I think the Spartans will eventually wear down the Ducks defense through their run game and score a narrow victory.