Michigan State football: 5 things I'd like to see from Spartans in Redbox Bowl
Michigan State’s 7-5 season wasn’t what it hoped for, but there is a high-profile opponent waiting for them in Monday’s Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif.
The Oregon Ducks, one of the premier programs in the Pac-12, will take on the Spartans at Levi’s Stadium, the home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. The game is at 3 p.m. ET (TV: FOX).
Here are five things I want to see from the Spartans on Monday in the Redbox Bowl against Oregon:
1. Starting QB Brian Lewerke really is healthy
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Friday that veteran Brian Lewerke will start at quarterback in Monday’s game. Let’s hope that means he’s healthy, because he’s played hurt battling through an injury in his throwing shoulder for much of this season, and even missed three games. “We wanted to let things take its course through bowl preparation and everything,” Dantonio said Friday about the decision to start Lewerke over freshman Rocky Lombardi. “Brian Lewerke will start the game. He’s taken all the reps pretty much throughout bowl practices, so we feel good about that.”
2. Running back LJ Scott has a fond farewell
LJ Scott has had a brilliant career at Michigan State, and it comes to an end in Monday’s game in the most bizarre of ways. Scott missed eight games of his senior season because of a serious ankle injury. He could have redshirted since he only played in four games, but he chose to turn pro instead. Even more surprising, he opted to play in the bowl game instead of prepping for the NFL Draft. Since he’s suiting up, it would be nice to see him have a big finish. He’s rushed for 2,771 yards and 25 touchdowns in his career, so it will be nice to see him go out in style.
3. Offensive line ends season on a high note
This position group has dealt with injuries and rotation issues all season, and they’ve struggled because of it. When your running game bogs down, the offensive line gets criticized. When pass protection breaks down, it’s the same thing. This group has dealt with it all year, especially in a few of those losses where the offensive production was practically non-existent. Going into the offseason with some positive feelings would be a good thing.
4. Defense gets after Oregon QB Justin Herbert
Michigan State has a test on its hands with Oregon’s potent offense, led by quarterback Justin Herbert. They averaged 445 yards per game, and are dangerous both through the air (254 yards per game) and on the ground (191 yards). Herbert, who announced this week that he was coming back to Oregon for his senior year, is considered NFL ready right now. The MSU defense has been great against the run all year, so making Oregon one-dimensional would be a good thing.
5. Postseason energy level is there from the beginning
The crazy thing about bowl season is trying to figure out which teams really want to be there, and which ones don’t. It’s hard to tell with this Michigan State team. They’ve usually showed up well in bowl games under Mark Dantonio, but this has been an odd year. The Spartans are far away from home, their travel party isn’t very big and they are definitely the road team in northern California. So it will be interesting to see if they can bring their own energy right from the start. This is not a team built to come from behind, so getting off to a good start is critical.