The Ducks’ First Game May Be Their Most Important

Garrett Sharp-Craig Editorials

Every year at about this time, I begin to start deeply missing Oregon Ducks football and the roaring crowd of Autzen Stadium.

Unfortunately, my calendar reads February 7th, which means we have to wait a bit more… 210 days to be exact.

We have months to read articles, make predictions and attempt to contain our excitement for the upcoming season. But, once the wait is finally over and the Ducks open their season, it will be against FCS opponent North Dakota State. To the casual fan, an FCS opponent like NDSU seems like a “non-threat”.

However, this NDSU team is not your typical non-conference cupcake opponent. North Dakota State has won the FCS National Championship in eight of the last nine years and have not lost a game since 2017. The Bison of NDSU are a talented, veteran team and will not be scared to come into Autzen to face a superiorly talented Oregon team.

With that said, it is crucial that the Ducks do not fall into a trap game and start their season 0-1.

Who are the Bison?

Due to their lack of national coverage, not too many people know what NDSU has cooking up in Fargo.

This past season, the undefeated Bison relied on the excellent quarterback play of redshirt freshman Trey Lance. In 16 games, Lance threw for 2,800 yards and 28 touchdowns while not throwing a single interception. Lance also was an acrobat with his legs, rushing for 1,100 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. Alongside Lance, NDSU returns almost all their important skill players and offensive line.

Lance rushes for 166 yards in FCS Championship.

As for the defense, the Bison return their top three tacklers, including safety Michael Tustie, who had a team-high seven interceptions last season. The Bison did lose their top pass rusher; however, with a plethora of young and hungry players on roster, they should be just fine.

The Ducks Biggest Question Mark

By the time the game kicks off we will know a lot more about the Ducks roster, but as of now there are a whole bunch of question marks.

The most important is at the quarterback position.

For starters, QB1 has yet to be decided. Although redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough will be the odds on favorite, other QB’s such as sophomore Cale Millen and incoming freshmen Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford are likely to compete. Coach Mario Cristobal has even emphasized that the Ducks will have “an open competition” at QB.

Will QB1 be Shough’s to lose?

With all the unknowns at quarterback, the only guarantee is that whoever wins the job will be playing in their first start and it will not a cupcake. They will need to limit mistakes and make sure they can get the ball to their playmakers in space. The Bison offense can compete with anyone, so if the Ducks do run into a shootout, they better be prepared to unleash their quarterback.

What to Expect from the Defense?

Now granted, this may seem like a bit of a softball question. The defense was excellent last year, finishing 8th nationally in total defense with nine returning starters and an excellent incoming recruiting class that includes three five-stars.

The question I have about the defense is not how good will they be, but rather how will they all play together?

The Ducks have incredible depth at nearly every position but with only 11 starting spots, some of Oregon’s talented defense may be frustrated with a lack of playing time. In the past, Cristobal has rarely used redshirts, so it will be interesting to see how some players cope with riding the pine.

Brady Breeze looks primed to play a big role in the upcoming season.

Luckily for us, the Ducks have months to figure out how the defense will come together and prepare for the high-powered Bison offense.

Although the Bison have been the definition of success in the FCS, I think their undefeated streak will come to an end at the hands of the Ducks.

Oregon will be more talented in all facets of the game and will be coming in with momentum after their Rose Bowl victory. The Ducks will also have months to prepare for this specific game and will have the Autzen crowd working with them.

The only way I see the Ducks losing this game is if they get caught looking ahead to Ohio State. The Ducks will meet the Buckeyes in Autzen the following week for the first time since the 2015 CFB National Championship. This week two matchup will be buzzing around Eugene throughout the entire summer and may even be a destination for College Gameday.

If the Ducks want to be a CFB Playoff threat next season they will need to take it one game at a time. That means not looking ahead to Ohio State and taking care of the Bison at home.

Final Prediction: Oregon: 31, North Dakota State: 20

Garrett Sharp-Craig
Eugene, ORTop Photo From Twitter

Chris Brouilette, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon  and is from Sterling, Illinois.


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