NOTES/QUOTES/PLAYERS TO WATCH
-- Justin Herbert, QB: Herbert will be the main attraction when the Redbox Bowl kicks off on New Year’s Eve. The quarterback announced this past week that he will forgo the NFL draft and millions of dollars to suit up for the Ducks one last time. The matchup against one of the nation’s top defense could be the perfect launching point to 2019 season that should feature a Heisman trophy run.
-- Jalen Jelks, DE: He announced a few weeks ago that he would be playing in the bowl game instead of skipping it in preparation for the NFL draft. This a huge boost for the Oregon defense as Jelks is arguably their most talented player, often drawing a double-team and freeing up his teammates for one-on-one opportunities. Jelks also has the chance to boost his draft status as he’s currently seen going anywhere in rounds 1-3.
-- CJ Verdell, RB: Verdell is finally healthy, and that’s huge news for Oregon. Verdell has been banged up for the second half of the season but still managed to finish the regular season with 1,287 total yards and 12 touchdowns, including a career-high 187 rushing yards and five total touchdowns in the regular season-finale. Verdell’s strength and explosiveness could help take pressure of Herbert if he can find success against the nation’s top rush defense.
-- Troy Dye, LB: Dye has yet to make a decision on his future as the junior is available to enter the NFL draft. Before any of that takes place, Dye will line up opposite the Spartans physical offensive linemen and healthy running back LJ Scott. With Michigan State’s passing offense inept at best, the Spartans will lean heavily on Scott, which will make Dye a very important person come Monday.
Series History: 3-3. This has been as good a series there is college football with both teams evenly matched. While the Spartans have often brought the physicality, the Ducks have countered with the speed, making the games must-see between two contrasting styles. Oregon won 46-27 in 2014, using a big fourth quarter to run away with the win as quarterback Marcus Mariota used the big game to shot put his Heisman-winning campaign. The Spartans responded in 2015 with a 31-28 victory, a game in which they stopped the Ducks on a drive late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Quote to Note: "The University of Oregon has been a special place to me for as long as I can remember. Words will never be able to express my feelings of gratitude toward the people that have built and maintain our program," Herbert said. "What I have come to realize, though, is that nothing could pull me away from the opportunities that we have in front of us. As we prepare for our bowl game, I would like to ensure that there are no distractions outside of this game. My commitment to my teammates, our coaches, Duck fans, and the University of Oregon has never been stronger. I'll be returning to the University of Oregon for my senior year. Go Ducks,” is the statement quarterback Justin Herbert released through the team about returning for his senior season.
-- QB Justin Herbert announced he will be back for his senior season
-- WR Dillon Mitchell and LB Troy Dye — juniors — have yet to make announcements on their status following the bowl game
-- OL Shane Lemieux has announced he will return for his senior season
-- OL Calvin Throckmorton has not announced a decision on his future, but has stated that he loves playing for Oregon and wants to return next year
-- Hebert has thrown a touchdown pass in 27 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the college football
-- Mitchell is 27 yards away from breaking Oregon’s single season receiving record, previously held by Josh Huff
-- LT Penei Sewell is healthy and will start for the Ducks after missing the second half of the season with an ankle injury
-- LB Kaulana Apelu will also return for the bowl game after missing the final one-third of the season with a leg injury
-- The Ducks are relatively healthy entering the bowl game, getting back nearly every player on their season-opening two-deep depth chart
-- Transfer LB DJ Johnson will make his season debut for Oregon, providing instant depth and giving fans a glimpse of what he will look like next season
-- With 25 rushing yards by RB CJ Verdell, the Ducks will be one of three teams in the FBS with a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard receiver and 1,000-yard rusher