In the last few days it feels like life is slowly but surely going back to normal. Restaurants and bars are modified but open, social gatherings in Oregon are now up to 25 people and yes, sports writers are back to making their “crazy-bold hot takes.”
In particular, over the weekend CBS Sports senior writer Ben Kercheval made a list of the biggest potential upsets for the 2020 CFB season, a list that included a North Dakota State win at Autzen Stadium.
Now this is not the first time the Ducks have been projected to lose to an inferior, lower-division opponent. In 2017 scouts raved about the potential of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. During the 2017 season, the Ducks traveled to Laramie, Wyoming for a game in which many “experts” thought the Cowboys would come out on top. The “so-called experts” must have forgot to tell the Ducks they were supposed to lose as Oregon made light work of the Cowboys, beating them 49-13.
As for the Bison, I by no means want to discredit them. As I touched on in other articles, NDSU is a very talented and well-coached team. They have won the FCS National Championship in eight of the last nine seasons, including last year when they went a perfect 16-0 in route to another FCS Natty. Although the Bison are talented on both sides of the ball, much of the buzz and anticipation of a “potential upset” comes from their quarterback Trey Lance.
The Bisons’ “True Threat”
Lance is one of the premier signal callers in college football and a projected first round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Many pundits have Lance being the third quarterback selected, likely following Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Although Lance receives far less national attention than the aforementioned players, he is an elite dual-threat quarterback in the truest sense. As a redshirt-freshman last season he threw for 2,800 yards and 28 touchdowns while not throwing a single interception. Meanwhile he was also an acrobat with his legs, rushing for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Lance’s talent and resume are impressive, but this is hands-down going to be the most talented team he has ever faced in his young career. Kayvon Thibodeaux and Jordan Scott will be putting pressure on Lance all game, while Jevon Holland, Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir will be manning the secondary and making sure each throw is heavily contested.
In order to limit Lance’s effectiveness the Ducks are going to need to stop him in the run game. Although they will be playing in their first collegiate game, Oregon may need to rely on highly-touted freshmen Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell to spy on Lance all game. If the Ducks are able to keep Lance from escaping the pocket, he will become one-dimensional, which may cause problems for the Bison as Oregon’s secondary is simply too experienced to let him beat them single-handedly.
Who is QB1 for the Ducks?
Another basis for Kercheval’s upset prediction was Oregon’s “lack of experience at the quarterback position.” National media corporations like those at CBS Sports see Justin Herbert’s departure to the NFL and automatically assume Oregon will experience a dropoff in quarterback play. What those national sites lack, however, is in-depth attention to specific teams.
Anyone covering the Ducks knows that with the addition of Joe Moorhead as the offensive coordinator along with a QB room full of talent, Oregon is unlikely to see a massive dropoff at the quarterback position. Although COVID-19 limited spring practices, all reports out of Oregon’s camp was that Tyler Shough was blowing coaches away with his practice performances. Coach Mario Cristobal had this to say about Shough:
We think Tyler Shough did an outstanding job during the spring. He entered the spring as the starter. He leaves the spring as the starter. I cannot emphasize enough how fired up we are about Tyler.”
The Ducks proceeded to sign Boston College graduate transfer Anthony Brown in early April after summer practices concluded. With Brown, a three-year starter at BC; Shough, with two years as Herbert’s understudy; and up-and-comers Jay Butterfield and Cale Millen, the Ducks have a quarterback room filled with experience, talent and diverse backgrounds. Shough is the likely starter, but whoever wins the Ducks’ QB1 job will be ready and well-equipped to take the baton from Herbert.
Another factor these national “pundits” may overlook is the extent of the Autzen Stadium home field advantage (if fans are present). Playing in a lower division, the Bison host games in Fargo with an average attendance of 18,000 fans. If this game were to happen and if there were to be fans, Autzen would be absolutely ROARING. Now I understand these are two big “ifs,” but following months of self-isolation and no sports, Duck fans will be hungry, (Maybe more hungry than ever?) to come to Autzen in flocks cheering on their beloved Ducks.
Trey Lance and the Bison may have a tough time concentrating when they hear 54000+ fans yelling “You know you make me wanna shout!? Yeah…Shout…Yeah…Shout”
Anyone else feel nostalgic?
Top Photo by Twitter
Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.
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