Oregon Is Aiming for More Than the Playoff

Joshua Whitted Editorials

This past Saturday, Oregon proved it’s one of the best teams in the nation.

UCLA has been a top-tier team in a much-improved Pac-12, with a high-flying offense and a solid-enough defense. Chip Kelly’s vision is finally materializing, as Dorian Thompson-Robinson has developed into a very good quarterback, and Zach Charbonnet leads a rushing attack that bears striking resemblance to that of the Oregon Ducks old.

But none of that mattered on Saturday. The Ducks flexed their muscles, putting up points and gaining yards in bunches, leaving the field with no doubt that they’re the team to beat in the Pac-12.

Oregon’s hot streak as of late has many whispering of a potential Playoff berth. But while the Ducks do have a chance to crash the party, there are greater things at work in Eugene.

Dan Lanning is on his way to re-establishing Oregon as a powerhouse program, and 2022 might just be the start of a green-and-yellow resurgence.

Lanning Is Materializing Oregon’s Talent

Talent acquisition is paramount when it comes to building a championship-caliber program, but it’s not the only piece that’s necessary. At some point, a coach has to get his players to play to their potential.

Eugene Johnson

Lanning is getting the most out of Oregon’s talent.

That was Mario Cristobal’s biggest weakness. He recruited unlike any other at Oregon, and he raised the ceiling of the team simply by bringing in a bunch of really good players. But as much as Cristobal was able to stabilize a situation that could have gotten very ugly, following Willie Taggart’s abrupt exit, it’s arguable whether or not he actually raised the level of the on-field product significantly.

Cristobal’s Ducks won back-to-back Pac-12 titles in 2019 and 2020. But they weren’t even supposed to play in the Championship Game in 2020, and while they were the undisputed best team in the conference in 2019, they lacked the dominant, elite components that would have gotten them to the Playoff.

In just his first year, Lanning has Oregon playing better than it has since Marcus Mariota was running the show, nearly a decade ago.

Lanning’s Ducks are not just impressive because they’re winning; Cristobal’s Ducks won, too. It’s how they’re winning. In a day and age in which an elite offense is required to win a championship, this year’s Oregon Ducks have one of the best in the business.

Craig Strobeck

Nix is leading one of the top offenses in the country.

Faced with their stiffest test since Week One, Oregon passed with flying colors. Bo Nix continued his breakout season with a masterful performance, totaling over 300 yards of total offense and scoring five touchdowns on a nearly perfect day through the air.

Despite Charbonnet and company doing everything they could to keep up with the potent Oregon offense, the Ducks proved to have the superior unit, averaging an insane 7.4 yards per play. Oregon dared UCLA to beat it in a track meet, and the Ducks left them in the dust.

Cristobal’s teams never had this type of firepower. The Ducks rank fifth in the nation, averaging 517 yards per game — a mark that the Ducks haven’t finished at since 2015.

Yes, Oregon’s defense is a work in progress, but considering that is Lanning’s specialty, expect improvement on that side of the ball before long.

But the resurgence of the Oregon offense is a development that could have long-lasting ramifications. It was this type of offensive explosion that put Oregon in the national spotlight not so long ago, and if the Ducks can continue to get the most out of their talent and produce consistently elite offenses, they’ll be a mainstay in the Playoff for years to come.

Joshua Whitted 
Grove City, Ohio
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

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