College football is officially back. Week 0 was just an appetizer for the five-course meal that is coming this Saturday, as we finally have our first full slate of games after another endless offseason.
This season is an important one for Dan Lanning and the Oregon Ducks. As they say goodbye to the Pac-12 and look to head to greener pastures, the Ducks have a legitimate shot at not only competing for a Pac-12 crown, but also for a playoff berth, and even a National Championship.
With gameday less than a week away, it’s time to get bold. Here are three seemingly unlikely predictions that I believe will be a reality for Oregon this season.
It has been a decade since Oregon last had a quarterback pass for 30 touchdowns, a running back rush for 10 and a receiver catch 10 in the same season. In 2013, Marcus Mariota, Byron Marshall and Josh Huff accomplished the lofty feat. Fast-forward 10 years, and the Ducks have another talented trio, Bo Nix, Bucky Irving and Troy Franklin, that will do the same.
This is an incredibly challenging ask, considering none of the three eclipsed their respective touchdown goal individually in 2022. But there’s reason to believe it will happen now a year later.
Nix suffered an injury last season that could cause the coaching staff to (slightly) limit how often he is used as a runner as a precaution. A big reason why none of the aforementioned players reached their respective thresholds in 2022 was because Nix scored 14 touchdowns as a runner. If he runs even a little less this season, especially in the redzone, it will open the door for him to throw for more scores, and for Franklin and Irving to get more opportunities.
Nix was only one passing touchdown away from 30 last season, and Franklin was only one receiving touchdown away from 10. If even one of Nix’s rushing touchdowns had been a passing touchdown to Franklin, the duo would have achieved its touchdown goal a year ago. I expect these two will easily surpass those numbers this season, due to a mildly decreased redzone rushing role for Nix.
The boldest part of this prediction is Irving scoring 10 times on the ground. It’s not a matter of skill, as Irving is easily one of the top running backs in America; it’s a matter of workload. Irving and Noah Whittington practically split carries in 2022, and that will likely be the same this season. Also, Jordan James was a touchdown vulture, who was prominently featured in goal-line situations.
But as the clear best running back on the roster, I expect him to get a few more opportunities to score this season. And with Nix’s marginal decrease in redzone rushing attempts, it will be just enough to get him 10 scores.
A Top-Five Total AND Scoring Offense
Oregon hasn’t fielded a top-five total and scoring offense in the same season since 2015, when Vernon Adams Jr. was at the helm. The Ducks came pretty close last season, fielding the No. 6 total offense and No. 9 scoring offense, nationally. This season, I fully expect them to return to the top five in both categories for multiple reasons.
First, Oregon doesn’t have to play Georgia, which in and of itself essentially eliminated it from contending for this feat in 2022. The schedule is very favorable this season; the Ducks play just one opponent that finished in the top 25 nationally in total or scoring defense in 2022.
Also, Oregon’s offense should actually be improved in 2023, with Nix in his second season, an elite running back and wide receiver, and arguably a more talented, albeit green, offensive line. The Ducks have upgraded offensively, with the only real question being whether or not new offensive coordinator Will Stein will be as impactful as Kenny Dillingham was.
If he is, or even if he’s close, the Ducks will have one of the top offenses in all of college football, and their best since 2015.
A Pac-12 Title
I don’t know how bold of a prediction this qualifies as. After all, Oregon is one of the betting favorites to win the Pac-12. But in a conference with three programs ranked higher than them in the AP poll, the Ducks winning the Pac-12 would likely come as a minor surprise at the national level.
What those who don’t follow the Pac-12 closely don’t know is that Oregon is relatively underrated in the national eye. The Ducks are easily the most talented team in the conference, according to Bud Elliott’s blue-chip ratio, and although talent doesn’t guarantee championships, it sure is harder to win one without it.
Oregon has an elite quarterback, one of the best offenses in the country, and a defense that will almost assuredly be vastly improved. There’s certainly a case to be made for Washington, USC and Utah as potential conference winners, but Oregon has the strongest.
Maybe I had my rose-colored glasses on for some of these predictions, but none of them are out of the realm of possibility by any means. What are YOUR bold predictions for Oregon football in 2023?
Grove City, Ohio
Top Photo by Eugene Johnson
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
FishDuck Going to Articles on Monday and Tuesday Only…
Our off-season schedule begins, and we move from publishing articles seven days a week to Mondays and Tuesdays only. Same great group of writers, and we will have an article on other days on occasion.
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