By Erich Hilkert
Oregon at Michigan State:
On the surface, this game pits the frenetic Oregon offense against the disciplined defense of Michigan State. However, many additional subplots exist in this non-conference contest. Ducks will find out just how good this season’s starting quarterback Vernon Adams can be compared to the uber-efficient Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota. Adams put up efficient numbers during his time at Eastern Washington. Time will tell whether the transfer can be as efficient at a major Pac-12 program. Adams likely won’t face as stiff a test as the defense of Michigan State during the remainder of the regular season.
Spartan defensive end Shilique Calhoun will apply pressure to Adams most of the game. The Spartans were skilled at limiting opponents on the ground last season, which will be key against Oregon with Royce Freeman being the centerpiece of the Oregon offense. Whether Adams can make the throws under pressure may be one key to the game.
However, the match-up on the other side of the field may be the key to the game. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook performed well as a game manager quarterback all season last season except in two games: versus Oregon and Ohio State. He threw two costly interceptions against the Ducks during last season’s loss. Cook will have to perform better this year. The belief here is he will. Don’t forget: he will have the advantage of having the home crowd behind him this season.
Michigan State 38, Oregon 30
Oklahoma at Tennessee:
While there is a lot to like about the Tennessee offense—athletic quarterback Josh Dobbs, running back Alvin Kamara and an experienced, talented offensive line. The Vols tacked up 59 points last week but are up against a much tougher opponent this week in the form of the Sooners, with a defense anchored by Eric Striker.
Oklahoma’s transition to the fabled Air Raid offense is still a work in progress, but should look better this week, especially with Tennessee’s questionable secondary. It wasn’t as if quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t start the season with a bang, shattering Sam Bradford’s school-record for yards in a game, tossing 388 yards last week. Oklahoma starting running back Samaje Perine should put up enough yards if the Sooners need to turn to the running game. The thought here is they won’t need to do so.
Oklahoma 38, Tennessee 17