Oregon quite literally couldn’t have asked for a tougher week one draw. The Ducks are facing the defending National Champs, essentially in their backyard, right in the heart of SEC country.
Georgia was historic last season, and the Bulldogs are fully expected to be dominant once again. Kirby Smart has recruited better than just about anyone else in the country, and he has a full stable of blue-chip recruits ready to take over for the stars who departed from last year’s squad.
Not many are expecting Oregon to pull off the upset; the Ducks are sizable underdogs. But crazier things have happened, and it’s not like Oregon doesn’t have a playoff-caliber roster in its own right. Here’s what the Ducks need to do to knock off the reigning champs on Saturday.
Stop the Run
While Oregon’s offense might have a tough time getting things rolling against what should once again be a ferocious Georgia defense, the Ducks’ defense actually might be able to slow down the Bulldogs’ offense.
Oregon’s front-seven should be one of the best in the country in 2022, with Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe joining forces as two of the freakiest linebackers in America, and Brandon Dorlus and Popo Aumavae manning the interior. With improved coaching on that side of the ball thanks to Dan Lanning and his new staff, expect the Ducks to put a huge focus on shutting down the run against every team they face.
Stopping the run will be particularly key on Saturday, because as much as Stetson Bennett has developed at quarterback for Georgia, the Bulldogs’ offense is still centered around its ground game. When forced to pass on early downs out of necessity and abandon the play-action passing game, Bennett is nowhere near as comfortable or familiar as when he is able to lean on his running backs.
Oregon’s first and primary goal has to be stopping Georgia from running the ball at all costs. Forcing Bennett to throw allows the Ducks to unleash their pressure packages and gives them an opportunity to take advantage of an often turnover-prone passer.
Win the Special Teams Battle
It’s almost a cliché to talk about winning the special teams battle nowadays, but in games like this, it’s critical for the underdog to gain an edge somewhere.
Lanning has made improving Oregon’s special teams a focus, and for good reason. Now is the time for that foresight to pay off, as the Ducks need to be picture perfect in all aspects of special teams to pull off the upset.
Field position will have a massive impact on a game that should be pretty defensive. Punting and kick coverage could determine much of the game. And with the game potentially being low scoring, field goal kicking will be hugely important. The Ducks have to score every time they get the opportunity.
Finally, when facing a defense as loaded as Georgia’s, scoring drives and boatloads of points are often hard to come by. So, the return game could give Oregon the spark it needs if its offense sputters.
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Generate Explosive Plays
It will be nearly impossible for the Ducks to consistently drive down the field against this Bulldog defense. No, this isn’t the same historically dominant defense as last year, but it will still be among the best — if not the very best — in the country by the end of the season.
Oregon doesn’t have to score 40 points to win this game, but it will need a few explosive plays to score some points. We saw a glimpse of this new-look offense under Kenny Dillingham during the spring game. He will need to unveil a similar-looking unit on Saturday, as the Ducks can’t rely on long, tedious drives to stay in the game.
Beating Georgia will be a challenge, no doubt. But it’s not impossible. Oregon has a deeply talented roster of its own, and the Ducks aren’t simply going to roll over and let the Bulldogs walk out with an easy win.
If Lanning and his staff prioritize the aforementioned keys to victory, it will give the Ducks a shot. It is college football after all, and if Oregon is able to pull out the shocker, it would be quite the first impression for Lanning and his staff.
Grove City, Ohio
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove
Joshua is an adopted Duck fanatic, originally hailing from southwestern Pennsylvania. His love for the University of Oregon began as a young child when he became mesmerized by the flashy uniforms and explosive offenses of the Chip Kelly era, and now, he follows the team religiously. His fondest memory of the team is seeing De’Anthony Thomas race past Wisconsin defenders back in the 2012 Rose Bowl. A true football enthusiast, Joshua loves studying the intricacies of the game, and he aspires to become a professional sports journalist. Joshua now resides in Morgantown, West Virginia where he works in customer service. When he’s not watching Oregon replays, Joshua loves reading, writing, and spending time with his family. Contact: email@example.com
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