Mark Dantonio: Redbox Bowl vs. Oregon is game between national programs
In Mark Dantonio’s 12 seasons as Michigan State’s head football coach, he’s gone to 11 bowl games, with the 11th a New Year's Eve meeting with Oregon in the Redbox Bowl.
But to reach that success, Dantonio said it’s not a routine.
“You got to work to get there,” Dantonio said in a teleconference Sunday. “It’s hard to win football games, and the margin of error is very, very small in many cases. And I think you can see that this year and when you look back at the past. So, I don’t take anything for granted in that respect.”
And that doesn't only apply to on the field, but also to what players can experience in San Francisco.
“It’ll be exciting for our guys,” Dantonio said. “A lot of our players have never been out there. And from my experience, San Francisco is an amazing town, and they have a lot to offer and a lot of things to see for our football team.”
This will be the seventh matchup between MSU (7-5, 5-4 in Big Ten) and Oregon (8-4, 5-4 in Pac-12). The Redbox Bowl will be the tiebreaker between the two programs, as the Spartans took the last matchup 31-28 at Spartan Stadium in 2015.
The Spartans’ 14th-ranked defense (allowing 18 points per game) will take on the Ducks’ 18th-ranked scoring offense (37.2 points per game), which is led by one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Justin Herbert (2,985 passing yards for 28 touchdowns, which is tied for ninth in the nation).
And when it comes to evaluating a bowl game, Dantonio said there’s several factors, including the brands of the programs.
“Oregon’s got a national brand, we've got a national brand, so I think that matches up and we’ve had some great games recently,” Dantonio said. “But when I look at locale, I really look at the city and what there is to do for our fans and for our players, have we been there before, what kind of environment are we playing in — I think the 49ers stadium (Levi’s Stadium) is a first class environment.”
Dantonio said if the Spartans don’t go to the Rose Bowl or any other New Year's Six bowl like this season, there’s pros and cons to each bowl, such as location and where Spartan fans are, and he has to weigh them.
“I’ve always looked at the glass as being half full, and I’m extremely excited about going out to play Oregon,” Dantonio said. “It’s going to be a great matchup.”
Brian Lewerke, Josiah Scott’s statuses unsure for Redbox Bowl
Dantonio said quarterback Brian Lewerke has “improved” his unknown right-shoulder injury, but as far as the junior's status for Oregon, it's ultimately is up to Lewerke, himself.
“I think it’s a type of injury where he has to feel comfortable throwing,” Dantonio said. “But I do think it’s improved when he throws. It’s just a matter of how well he’s throwing. That would be my take on it, but we’ll make those decisions later.
Dantonio also said he’s still not sure whether cornerback Josiah Scott will play against Oregon.
Scott has played four games this season after tearing his left meniscus before preseason camp, and under the new NCAA redshirt rule, Scott’s eligible to take a redshirt this season. If he plays on New Year’s Eve, he would lose the qualification.
Dantonio said like with Lewerke, he hasn’t given it too much thought because he’s been out recruiting for the last week.
“That’ll be something that Josiah decides,” Dantonio said. “That’s a football decision at a later time.”