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Michigan State football looks to finish strong with win over Oregon in Redbox Bowl

Spartans battle Ducks for third time in five seasons

Cornerback Josiah Scott celebrates with linebacker Antjuan Simmons and safety Khari Willis after intercepting a pass by quarterback against Rutgers at Spartan Stadium on Nov. 24, 2018, in East Lansing, Michigan. (Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Michigan State Spartans are looking to finish the 2018 season on a strong note Monday against Oregon in the Redbox Bowl.

Michigan State comes into the Redbox Bowl with a 7-5 record and 5-4 mark in the Big Ten. The Spartans finished fourth in the Big Ten East Division.

It was an up-and-down year for Mark Dantonio's squad, which picked up solid wins over Utah State, Penn State and Purdue but lost to the likes of Arizona State and Nebraska. A win over Oregon would be a solid finale to an eight-win season.

Quarterback play was expected to be a strength of this Michigan State team, which entered the season at No. 11 in the AP poll. Surprisingly, that strength turned into MSU's Achilles' heel, as neither Brian Lewerke nor Rocky Lombardi were effective.

Lewerke completed just 54.2 percent of his passes for 6.2 yards per attempt, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Lombardi completed 44.2 percent of his passes for 4.8 yards per attempt, three touchdowns and three interceptions.

It's been the opposite for Oregon, as NFL draft prospect Justin Herbert had another solid year under center. Herbert threw for 2.985 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight picks while completing 59.6 percent of his passes for 8 yards per attempt.

A stout defense led the way for a winning season in East Lansing, as Michigan State finished 14th in the nation by allowing 311.5 yards per game. Nobody stops the run better than MSU, which allowed 81.33 rushing yards per game, the lowest mark in the country by more than 10 yards.

Opponents are averaging just 2.67 yards per run against Michigan State, second only to Clemson nationally.

Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans walks on the field with the team before the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 17, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

The pass defense has been less effective, but still solid enough to give the Spartans an excellent defensive unit overall.

Michigan State will play without top defensive back Justin Layne, who finished the season with 72 tackles, 15 passes defended and an interception. Layne declared for the NFL draft and announced he won't play in the Redbox Bowl.

Michigan State and Oregon played a home-and-home series in 2014 and 2015, with both teams holding serve at home. Oregon pulled away for a 46-27 win in 2014 and Michigan State avenged the loss with a 31-28 victory the following season in East Lansing.

The all-time series is tied 3-3, with Michigan State winning the first meeting at home in 1979 and again in 1999, also at home. Oregon beat Michigan State twice between those meetings, in 1980 and 1998, both in Eugene, Oregon.

The Redbox Bowl will kick off at 3 p.m. Monday and air on FOX. Oregon is a slight favorite.

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