EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Pat Narduzzi will have enough to worry about when Michigan State takes on Oregon this weekend, so the talkative defensive coordinator dismissed the idea that jet lag or the heat might play a significant role in the outcome.
"You can say food's a factor, the airplane's a factor. We can name all kinds of factors, if you let it be a factor," Narduzzi said. "The factor is that offense. That's what we're looking at, so that's the only factor we care about."
Narduzzi has helped turn Michigan State into one of the nation's top defensive teams over the last few years, but Saturday's game at No. 3 Oregon might be his biggest test yet. The matchup between the seventh-ranked Spartans and the high-scoring Ducks is perhaps the most intriguing nonconference game on this year's college football schedule — and Oregon's quick-paced offense will put plenty of pressure on Narduzzi's talented unit.
"They're a lot faster than we are, if you watch the tape," Narduzzi said. "We'll have our hands full."
Narduzzi may have been posturing a bit with that comment. There's no reason to sell Michigan State short after the Spartans finished second in the nation in total defense last season. Michigan State won the Big Ten and then beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
In one November victory over rival Michigan, the Spartans held the Wolverines to minus-48 yards rushing. In the Big Ten title game against Ohio State, the Buckeyes were actually able to run the ball effectively, but they completed only eight passes against Michigan State's stingy secondary.
"They have some of the best defensive backs in the country. They really trust those guys outside and they like to bring pressure," Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota said. "We'll have to be able to communicate up front and make sure we're good in our protections and try and take our shots."
Oregon averaged 45 points per game last season, but the Ducks did lose twice, including against Stanford when they allowed three sacks and didn't score until the fourth quarter. Now it's Michigan State — with defensive standouts lineman Shilique Calhoun and safety Kurtis Drummond — that will try to slow Mariota's team.
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