OREGON

JUSTIN HERBERT

Numbers: The junior quarterback, who announced he will return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft, is just 15 yards away from becoming the fifth player in program history with 3,000 passing yards in a season. Herbert has passed for at least one touchdown in 27 consecutive games, the nation’s longest active streak.

Role: The 6-foot-6, 237-pounder is the face and leader of a program that expects to contend for the Pac-12 championship and perhaps a College Football Playoff berth in 2019.

Watch to see: If the Spartans, who have the nation’s top run defense, bottle up CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, look for Herbert to show the Fox national television audience why he was considered the top NFL quarterback prospect this year by taking advantage of a Michigan State secondary missing its top cornerback.

PENEI SEWELL

Numbers: Sewell, the highest-ranked player from Oregon’s 2018 recruiting class, was graded out as the No. 4 offensive lineman in the Pac-12 and the No. 10 tackle nationally by Pro Football Focus.

Role: The 6-foot-6, 345-pound left tackle is responsible for protecting Herbert’s blind side against a ferocious Michigan State defensive line.

Watch to see: If Sewell, the first true freshman to start on Oregon’s offensive line since Lee Gundy in 1997, can return to his dominant form after missing the final six games of the regular season with a leg injury.

TROY DYE

Numbers: Dye enters his 32 consecutive start with 17 career double-digit tackle games. The junior has led Oregon in tackles for three consecutive seasons and is one of only 15 players in school history with 300 career tackles.

Role: The “Jack” linebacker is the primary play-maker in Jim Leavitt’s 3-4 defense. Dye, who has not announced if he’s returning for his senior season or leaving for the NFL, sets the tone at inside linebacker, whether senior Kaulana Apelu is healthy enough to play beside him or if sophomore Sampson Niu fills in.

Watch to see: If Dye can help keep the struggling Spartans’ offense from getting any momentum. He will have to fill the gaps to help stop senior running back LJ Scott, who is returning to the Michigan State backfield after missing eight games due to injury.

 

MICHIGAN STATE

 

KENNY WILLEKES

Numbers: Willekes leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss (20.5 for 84 yards) and is fourth in sacks (8.5). According to Pro Football Focus, the junior leads all FBS defensive ends with 21 quarterback hits this season.

Role: The former walk-on has developed into one of the nation’s elite pass rushers and also anchors Michigan State’s top-ranked run defense.

Watch to see: If Willekes is able to get some shots on Herbert, who was unable to finish the Oregon State game due to a shoulder injury. If Herbert were to sustain another injury that would be a major problem for the Ducks, who would like to redshirt backup Braxton Burmeister.

BRIAN LEWERKE

Numbers: The junior quarterback ranks ninth in the Big Ten in passing (186.8 ypg) after completing 54 percent of his passes for 1,868 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Role: Lewerke, who had his streak of 20 consecutive starts snapped earlier this season due to a shoulder injury, is healthier and the Spartans’ best hope to spark a sputtering offense.

Watch to see: If the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Lewerke can return to his 2017 form, when he had 2,793 passing yards and was named the offensive most valuable player in the Holiday Bowl.

LJ SCOTT

Numbers: The senior running back was limited to four games in the regular season due to injury but enters his final game for the Spartans with 2,771 yards and 25 touchdowns over his career.

Role: Michigan State will lean on Scott to move the chains and keep Herbert and the Ducks on the sideline.

Watch to see: If Scott can carry Michigan State to another win over Oregon. As a freshman in 2015, Scott rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns on only 11 carries during the Spartans’ 31-28 win over the Ducks in a top-10 matchup in East Lansing.