This has been a game pinned on the calendar for some time now. The Ducks are fresh off a crushing loss to the Huskies, so it’s time to bounce back and take down an aspiring conference rival.
The Utes come to town tomorrow with an identical record at only two losses on the season, as well as some convincing victories in recent weeks. However, this is where the fire of Utah’s season can officially be extinguished by Oregon. Any momentum Utah has could very quickly evaporate on the field of Autzen, even if it never rains.
That said, there’s a lot more at play in this matchup than just the weather. What this game really hinges on is the X-factor of superstar quarterback Bo Nix being able to go (or not go). As bettors have adjusted in Vegas, the odds have teetered back and forth dramatically on the legs of if Nix will be able to play, or if ultra-talent Ty Thompson will get the start. Today, we explore the options Oregon has at quarterback on the eve of a newfound rivalry in the PAC-12 between the Utes and the Ducks.
Can Ty Thompson Take the Reins if Called Upon?
Early preseason, many Oregon fans all over the nation were calling for Thompson to play over Nix. Looking back now? Boy, it’s a curious thing what three months of football can do to any player’s spectacle.
In the limited action we’ve seen from Thompson, we’ll try to put it lightly. It hasn’t been good. To be fair to Thompson, he’s been thrown into the fire in positions where the Ducks have already dominated the game for several quarters or are putting out an emergency fire with an injury to Nix. Neither of these opportunities you can really learn much from. Having said that, the Ducks still would have liked to see their highly-recruited quarterback of the future play a bit better.
Now, that doesn’t mean Oregon’s out of this game if Thompson does play. It just means the Ducks are going to need to elevate around him and make his job as easy as possible.
I believe with a full 60 minutes of football, Thompson can make some leaps and bounds from what we’ve seen so far this season. He’s an outstanding talent with all the tools. There’s no reason that he shouldn’t be ready at some point, it’s just the question if he’ll make enough strides tomorrow to edge out a win over the Utes.
Who Needs to Step Up Around Thompson if He Plays?
Overall, the backfield is going to have to be on their A-game if this team’s going to win. Leaving as much of the offensive workload on the players that have been performing all year and not on Thompson’s shoulders is a must.
Executing that kind of gameplan is a lot easier said than done, though. Especially with a green quarterback. These running backs have been elite, but this Utah defense can be a stout group. With Nix out of the game as a duel threat in the running and deep-passing game, the Utes are probably going to pack the box as well. Let’s see some big gashes from Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington to give Thompson much-needed early help. With a handful of big runs in the first half, I can see Thompson playing solid.
What if Thompson SHINES?
This would the most intriguing outcome, in my opinion. We’ve all loved seeing Nix play this season, and he’s done everything right to earn the job and thrive in his role. I see almost zero possibility he gets benched at any point the rest of the year, even if Thompson threw for 600 yards against Utah and won 114-0.
Still… there’s a chance tomorrow that if Thompson absolutely blows this matchup out of the water, we have a controversy on our hands. Say he plays a near-perfect game and basically absolves himself of any poor plays he had through the year previously. What does head coach Dan Lanning do then? Does he ride the hot hand next week and let Thompson prepare for next season, or immediately relinquish the job back to Nix?
Of course, it’s almost certain that Nix gets the job back as soon as he’s ready to go again. But remember: you can never say never in football. In this case, though, it seems like a probably never.
Bottom Line: Beat the Utes
Whatever it takes, these Ducks need a big win fast. Let’s keep in mind that two things are true: the sky isn’t falling, AND this is a huge game the Ducks need to win. Taking the Utes down will be a massive step in the right direction for an outstanding first season under Lanning’s regime, and bode well for Oregon’s route to the PAC-12 Championship.
Let’s see this Oregon team get its footing back with Nix, or rally around Thompson if Nix can’t go.
Enough from me though, Oregon fans. What do you think? If Nix is out, what chance do you give this Oregon squad to come out with a victory in Autzen? Could this team rally around Thompson? What would it mean for Thompson to step in and win? What kind of game would he have to have in order to play the rest of the season (if that’s even a possibility)? Let us know in the FishDuck forum with decorum.
Los Angeles, California
Top Photo By: Harry Caston
Alex Heining is an Oregon alumni from the graduate class of 2021. After studying sports business and media studies, he has moved into the field of digital marketing as a copywriter and content manager in the Los Angeles area. Still, he loves his Ducks and goes to local high school games all over the Los Angeles and Orange County area to check out new recruits of the future (and a SoFi game or two with the pros). On any given Saturday, expect to find him doing martial arts, playing the guitar, or screaming at the tv over a missed holding penalty.
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