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Oregon vs. Michigan State Preview: Defense

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Last weekend, Vernon Adams Jr. threw for 246 yards and two touchdown passes. This week, Oregon will welcome the return of the electric Charles Nelson.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the late hit Vernon Adams Jr. took against Eastern Washington, the senior will play against Michigan State on Saturday. Oregon will need it after Michigan State only allowed 18 rushing yards last weekend when they played at Western Michigan. The Spartans had two interceptions and forced Western Michigan to go 8-18 on third downs.

Defensive Line

The defense is led by redshirt senior, Shilique Calhoun, a two-time second-team All-American. Calhoun recorded one sack against Western Michigan. Over the course of Calhoun's career he has recorded 16.5 sacks. Lawrence Thomas is the other defensive end for the Spartans. Thomas has played multiple positions during his college career, including linebacker and fullback. Statistically the defensive line didn't put up a lot of numbers against Western Michigan, but it could be a different story this weekend against the Ducks.

Linebackers

The Spartans leading tackler this season is Riley Bullough. Last weekend, Bullough recorded nine tackles and three sacks. Earlier this week Bullough said the Spartans will "definitely be ready for Oregon." Michigan State has another great linebacker in Jon Reschke. If it wasn't for a season ending injury Reshcke would be a backup to Ed Davis. Instead, Reshcke started along side Bullough and nine total tackles in his starting debut.

Secondary

This is the weakest part of the Michigan State defense. The Spartans lost three key players in the secondary to the NFL, but they intercepted two balls last weekend. Montae Nicholson had a monster game against the Broncos, the sophomore had seven tackles and one interception. Last year against Oregon the Spartans gave up 318 passing yards and failed to force an interception. The Ducks don't have Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, but Adams has had many opportunities to play in big games.

X-Factor: The passing game

The Michigan State secondary played well against Western Michigan, but the Oregon offense is much better than the Broncos. Adams will need to make plays down field in order for the Ducks to win. If the Spartan defense forces a couple of interceptions it will be hard for the Oregon offense to get going. Adams under threw a couple of passes that ended in dropped interceptions last weekend. Those bad passes could be costly this weekend.