Ducks' NFL-Ready QB Herbert - Spartan D Is Up To The Test

Ducks' NFL-Ready QB Herbert - Spartan D Is Up To The Test

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Ducks' NFL-Ready QB Herbert - Spartan D Is Up To The Test

Perhaps the biggest challenge Michigan State will face in going up against the Oregon Ducks in the Redbox Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Santa Clara will be trying to corral NFL-bound, superstar quarterback Justin Herbert.

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The coaches have changed but the high-powered offenses – directed by NFL-quality quarterbacks – have remained a constant for the Oregon Ducks over the years.

Michigan State managed to have Marcus Mariota and the Ducks on the ropes well into the 3rd quarter of a Top 10 clash in Eugene back in 2014 – but Mariota eventually managed to find the opportunities to wave his magic wand and lead the Ducks to a 46-27 win over the Spartans that afternoon.

While Justin Herbert might not have created the hype that followed Mariota (and, that hype was very much deserved) everywhere he went during his time as the Oregon field general and Heisman Trophy winner, it’s possible that when all is said and done, Herbert might end up being an Oregon quarterback with an even greater impact on the NFL than Mariota has had.

Herbert is a junior who just completed a regular season with extremely impressive numbers.

The kid is a 6’6″, 233 pound superstar.

Understandably, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Herbert as the #1 quarterback on his 2019 NFL Draft board.

He finished the 2018 regular season having completed 221 of 371 passes – good for a 59.6 completion percentage – and piled up 2985 yards of offense through the air.

Herbert threw 28 touchdowns over 12 games – and he had only 8 interceptions.

His quarterback rating is 147.7.

He threw 5 touchdowns in the season opener against Bowling Green.

His season-high for passing yards came in the Ducks’ crushing overtime loss to Stanford when he threw for 346 yards.

In the Ducks’ 30-27 overtime win against then-#7 Washington in October, Herbert had decent numbers – he was 18 for 32, gained 202 yards through the air and threw for 2 touchdowns.

His only real “dud” came in a head-scratching 44-15 loss at Arizona when he was 24 for 48 and only gained 186 yards, had 2 touchdowns and an interception.

There isn’t necessarily a rip of games where Herbert exploded and became a Heisman Trophy candidate, a household name, and guy who’s face and name would wind up on a candy bar.

But he’s been consistently very, very good – and he’s 6’6″, 233 pounds.

It’s not as if he burst on the scene out of the blue this season.

Herbert has had good success dating back to his freshman season in 2016.

A quick peek at his freshman and sophomore years:

  • Freshman season, 2016: In 8 games, he was 162 for 255 (63.5%) and racked up 1936 yards of offense.  He threw 19 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions and had a QBR of 148.8.
  • Sophomore season, 2017: In 8 games, he was 136 of 306 (67.5%) for 1983 yards of offense.  He had 15 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions and his QBR was 167.5.

Herbert is the real deal, is experienced, and has a long, bright future as an NFL quarterback ahead of him.

But what about how he’ll do in the next game he’ll play as the quarterback of the Ducks?

Has Herbert faced a defense that is as strong as Michigan State’s?

Herbert got good protection from his offensive line throughout the season – Oregon finished tied for 30th in the nation in allowing a total of 19 sacks over 12 games, an average of 1.6 sacks a game.

Not bad.

Have the Ducks gone up against a team with the aggressiveness, toughness, speed, and ability in the defensive front to create pressure in the pocket like Michigan State?

After a slow start, Michigan State’s pass defense shored itself up and has played extremely well over the last few games of the season.

Dwayne Haskins and the Ohio State Buckeyes, as you might have heard, put up some decent numbers in the last two games they played.

In the Buckeyes’ final regular season game, I read a report or two that said Haskins was 20 for 31, piled up 396 yards and threw 6 touchdowns in a game that he and the Buckeyes won by the score of 62-39.

Comparatively, Haskins finished this way in the Buckeyes’ 26-6 win against Michigan State at Spartan Stadium:

  • 24 for 39, 227 yards, 1 touchdown.

Michigan State’s pass defense played a strong, tough game against Ohio State – had the offense managed to be even slightly competent that afternoon (let alone all season), who knows how that game might have ended…

Herbert and the Ducks certainly have a strong offense – but Ohio State finished the season with the #2 overall offense in all of FBS and the Spartans more than held their own against the Buckeyes.

Oregon finished the season with the #32 overall offense in FBS, respectively.

Michigan State faced Trace McSorley and Penn State earlier this season and the Spartans’ pass defense was, again, very strong that afternoon.

In Michigan State’s 21-17 win at Penn State, McSorley finished the game 19 of 32 for 192 yards and a touchdown.

The best comparison to Herbert on Michigan State’s 2018 schedule might actually be Jordan Love of Utah State.

In the season opener against the Aggies at Spartan Stadium, Love – 6’4″ and 225 pounds – had a great day against the Spartans.

Love finished 29 of 44 for 319 yards.

However, in that season opener, the Spartan pass defense didn’t allow a touchdown, picked off Love twice, and was without lock down cornerback Josiah Scott.

We’ll be looking much more closely at Justin Herbert in the leadup to the Redbox Bowl in the weeks ahead.

But the initial thought is that the Michigan State defense has already fared quite well against offenses with more firepower, more muscle, more mobility at quarterback than Herbert and the Ducks will bring to this matchup.

Michigan State should have confidence in its ability to limit Herbert thanks to a secondary that has improved all season and a front seven that has improved all season when it’s come to pressuring, hurrying, and sacking the quarterback.

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