Heisman Trophy voting changes from year to year. The trophy is supposed to go to the best player in college football, and it often goes to a quarterback due to quantifiable stats and the quarterback simply touching the ball on every down. Sure, non-quarterbacks have won the award but that isn’t a terribly regular occurrence. Mr. FishDuck took some time away from his fun at casino live bet to ponder this important topic with me recently.
As quarterbacks tend to be the single most important player on the field on any given down, they have monopolized this award. The Pac-12 is absolutely loaded with Heisman candidates this year, and Bo Nix is right in the middle of it all. However, it is going to be difficult for him to unseat reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams and Washington’s media darling, Michael Penix, Jr.
Is it possible for Nix to win it? Absolutely. But it feels like he has an uphill climb.
Oregon’s Offense Is too Balanced
Perhaps the biggest problem for Nix right now is that Oregon’s offense is balanced, potent and ruthlessly efficient. Oregon has both a top 10 passing and rushing attack. This makes it an absolute nightmare for opposing teams to game plan around because they have to be solid in all facets of defense. This is difficult to do against one of the nation’s best offensive lines.
Nix has had plenty of highlight-worthy plays so far this season, but when the offense is roughly 60-40 pass-run in terms of yard generation (in terms of plays it closer to 55-45 pass-run), that means that just over half the plays are going through Nix. The other portion are being handed off to a running back.
For any team looking to contend for a conference or national championship, this is a great style of offense because it actually opens up the passing game as the run game puts more pressure on the defense to stop the run. Nix has taken advantage of this with a variety of short throws to playmakers who are able to pick up yards after catch. These are also high-percentage throws, which is why Nix currently leads the country with an astounding 80 percent completion rate.
Even with a balanced offense, Nix isn’t too far behind in terms of yards per game: he currently ranks No. 14 in the country, while Penix, Jr. and Shedeur Sanders rank No. 1 and 2, respectively. Caleb Williams comes in at No. 12. All those offenses require their quarterbacks to throw the ball a lot. Washington, for example, has a pass-run balance of roughly 80-20, and USC is roughly 70-30.
Those offenses give their respective quarterbacks ample opportunities to gain passing yards, touchdown passes, and passing highlights, while Nix has fewer of those opportunities due to the nature of his offense.
The Offense Is Protecting Nix
Nix had the most rushing touchdowns last year for Oregon with 14. For context, Bucky Irving, Noah Whittington and Jordan James had a total of 15 combined last year. Often, Oregon would get down to the goal-line and then line up in their jumbo package with Nix under center and just pound the ball forward for touchdowns. Beyond the touchdowns, Nix was also the No. 3 rusher on Oregon’s roster, with over 500 yards.
This year, it’s a completely different story. Nix has only rushed for one touchdown this year out of Oregon’s current total of 16. This change is mostly a good thing for the Ducks as it puts the ball into the hands of running backs more often and keeps Nix safe from injury.
And then there is Oregon’s offensive line, which is the best in the conference if not one of the best in the country. Nix is effectively never pressured, so he can hang in the pocket and pick defenses apart.
By comparison, for anyone who has watched a Washington or USC game, you will see their offensive lines cave in. While Washington’s Penix, Jr. has done a fine job getting the ball out before he’s hit, the pressure is still there. USC’s Williams is often flushed from the pocket and is given an opportunity to make an heroic play.
This is highlight reel stuff, and Nix doesn’t get as many opportunities for those kind of heroic plays because the team around him so so good. He doesn’t need to run the ball, so he shouldn’t, but it doesn’t help him get more eyeballs on him and hype.
The Defense Is Letting Nix Sit
The Ducks have been strong on both sides of the ball, and as a result, Oregon gets out to a big lead and then the defense keeps the opposing team’s score down. Nix has only played one full game this season, against Texas Tech. Every other game Nix has been able to sit on the bench for some, or all, of the fourth quarter, keeping him rested and safe from injury. Again, this is a good thing for the team, but not for his Heisman stats.
By contrast, Penix, Jr., and moreso Williams, have had to remain in games much longer to ensure victory for their teams, which also results in them racking up more stats.
Oregon’s offense isn’t as flashy as Washington’s or USC’s, but in many ways they are actually a far more terrifying team to go up against. Oregon is ruthlessly efficient on offense, and that is in large part due to Nix’s ability to run the offense.
It isn’t flashy, but it is effective. Nix’s best hope to win the Heisman will come in continuing to do what he is doing: operate the offense and win games.
And as Dan Lanning said, “it’s rooted in substance and not flash.” If that isn’t good enough for Heisman voters then maybe that is telling in itself as to the nature of college football today.
Top Photo By Nancy Paiva
Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.
David Marsh is a high school social studies teacher in Portland, Oregon. As a teacher he is known for telling puns to his students who sometimes laugh out of sympathy, and being both eccentric about history and the Ducks.
David graduated from the University of Oregon in 2012 with Majors in: Medieval Studies, Religious Studies, and Geography. David began following Ducks Football after being in a car accident in 2012; finding football something new and exciting to learn about during this difficult time in his life. Now, he cannot see life without Oregon football.
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