Oregon’s October schedule harbors a horde of Huskies, Cougars, and Utes on the horizon.
All ranked, all dominant, and all eager to knock the block off of our Oregon Ducks football program rising to elite status. A bye week couldn’t have been more aptly timed than now, as our Ducks have a two-week stretch to prepare for Washington, while the Huskies have the same time slotted to get ready for the game of the year so far.
Michael Penix Jr. leads the Huskies as a legitimate Heisman hopeful along with Bo Nix and last year’s winner in Caleb Williams. Of the three PAC-12 signal callers, each has their own versatile skill sets that offer a variety of avenues for their coordinators to help them succeed. Penix has been playing at what many consider to be the most elite level in the country, with a string of three highly talented receivers and a vertical passing attack. Today, we’ll focus on how the Ducks are going to dominate games against the Huskies, Utes, and Cougars without sputtering and keeping championship hopes alive with three straight wins to improve to 8-0 in October.
Defense Has to Win the Day
In a little callback to the Ducks of old, the “Win the Day” mantra applied to this season would come down to the defense stepping up. We expect the offense to handle their business and put up 30+ every game (Currently sitting at 51 PPG, mind you), but we need to see what happens when the Ducks are inevitably unable to string drives together at some point and need to count on the defense this season. While the Ducks had a tough first half against Stanford, there wasn’t ever any real doubt that Nix would start getting the offense cooking at some point. Luckily, I for one am more confident in this Duck defense than any Oregon squad I’ve seen in the last decade.
In the past three weeks particularly, Oregon’s defense has been absolutely dominant. Pressure has been great, turnovers have come in bunches in the secondary, and they have been a second-half team by every measure of the phrase. They also close out games well, and never let up to allow inferior opponents to get back in striking distance as previous Oregon teams did in years past. This has massively impacted how they’re ranked as a top-ten team this season and should continue to push them to a contending position for the College Football Playoff with big wins in October.
Shorten Games via the Ground Game
Of the three games in October, two are on the road, and all are must-win games. A slow start like how the Ducks began against Stanford is not going to bode well against Washington or Utah. While Oregon was able to bounce back this past week with a good rushing attack, they may not be so lucky in Seattle or Salt Lake City.
Bucky Irving, Noah Whittington, and Jordan James are all going to need to ease the pressure off of Oregon’s defense as early as possible. That might mean Nix will need to get Oregon’s first big first down with his legs or find an outlet in the short passing game to get some traction going for his running back group. As each of these road games start, I expect Oregon to sputter a bit as they have, but increase their offensive output week to week in the first halves of games.
Nix is the Answer to the College Football Playoff Question Oregon’s Been Seeking
Nix is the Ducks’ season. Plain and simple. Our team will go as far as he goes, and while you might like what you’ve seen from Ty Thompson in limited action this season, there’s no comparison from Nix to the rest of the depth at the position. He’s mocked as high as an eighth overall pick next year going to the New England Patriots as a quick pivot from Alabama’s Mac Jones.
At this time last year, we were still feeling out if Nix could get it done for the Ducks. Georgia was a tough loss, but the Ducks were able to manage a string of good games that showed Nix had an underutilized skillset at Auburn. To be fair to the rest of the offense, the line’s ability to keep him upright and drastically limit opposing pass rushes was massive for his development, Still, his ability on the ground has flourished and paired perfectly with the vertical threat of this offense that his chemistry with WR1 in Troy Franklin has created.
Frankly, this tandem has been what put Nix over the top. His passing ability has reached insane heights with completion percentage, yards per attempt, and virtually every metric that makes a quarterback great, allowing him to distribute the ball far more effectively to other pass catchers as well.
Nix has a chance to be the most impactful transfer in school history and should be treated as such in the coming weeks when he leads the Ducks on a strong push to the College Football Playoff.
Get to November 11th Undefeated
We have to take every week seriously, and Washington is the only focus right now. Still, for the season to end the way we all think it could, the Ducks have to give themselves a chance by making it to the USC game undefeated. The PAC-12 is playing at an unprecedented level, and this is the point in the gauntlet where Oregon’s strides on defense and Nix’s growth as a passer should really make the difference in making them a contender.
Overall, each of these components and goals together can cast the ironclad structure of a championship team. Transfer players are playing up to snuff in areas of need, young players are making strides, and the coaching staff is speaking winning into existence. Let’s get through October, and see where this team ends up in January.
Los Angeles, California
Top Photo By: Craig Strobeck
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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