Nix for Heisman, USC Stinks, and the Canning of Kelly

Darren Perkins Editorials

It is amazing what a change of scenery has done for Bo Nix—but more than that, what the superior coaching he has received at Oregon has done. The offensive scheme they ran at Auburn did not maximize his talent, and the train wreck that has become Auburn football continues to fly off the tracks.

Before the 2022 season, I wrote a piece about Nix winning the Heisman. I knew it was a long shot, but I was just hoping he would be in the conversation, as I had a hunch that, with Mario Cristobal gone, Oregon would return to being Oregon again on the offensive side of the ball. Which is always better than what Auburn does.

So it is nice to see him topping the Heisman charts this late in the 2023 season. Even Mr. FishDuck took some time from studying his favorite NFL odds site to marvel with me at massive change in Oregon’s quarterback.

What is hurting Nix’s Heisman campaign is actually a very good thing—his reduced role as a runner. While some may see this as a negative, his exposure to injury is greatly reduced, and his increased passing stats are on course to compensate for his reduced running.

Bo Nix Running and Passing Stats at Oregon:

2022 Passing (13 games): 3593 passing yards, 29 TDs, 7 interceptions.
2023 Passing (11 games): 3539 yards, 35 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
2022 Rushing: 89 attempts, 510 yards, 14 touchdowns
2023 Rushing: 41 attempts, 128 yards, 5 touchdowns

“Lincoln Riley will make USC and the Pac-12 better.” This is what I wrote two years ago. But, not so much. (Photo credit: X/Twitter)

While what Jayden Daniels is doing at LSU is amazing (passing for 3577 and 36 TD’s with 1014 rushing yards on 124 attempts and 10 TD’s), he is essentially a starting running back on top of being the starting quarterback. His running stats are on par with Bucky Irving’s (149 carries for 1002 yards and 10 touchdowns). I just cannot help but think about the 2017 injury to Justin Herbert and last year’s to Nix, both of which altered the course of those seasons. The quarterback is just too valuable to be exposed to so many hits.  

The point is, running backs should run, and quarterbacks should throw.  

USC Stinks

Outside of the success of the Ducks, USC sucking is my favorite topic of the 2023 season. Lincoln Riley has proven that his success was all due to playing in a weak Big 12 conference for five years and a mediocre Pac-12 in 2022. But in 2023, the Pac-12 has turned into the best conference in the land, and look what has happened in Troy.

Riley has not lost “it” because he never had “it.” This is who he is. He’s a quarterback guru and that is it. All offense and no defense.

This also dispels the silly myth that top programs need to hire an “established” head coach. If Oregon fans had the choice of Riley or Dan Lanning before the 2022 season, I’m sure 99% of Duck fans would have picked Riley.

You do not need an established head coach to lead a top-tier program, you need the next big thing. Just look at Georgia with Kirby Smart. And, now, Oregon. 

Kelly’s recruiting approach hasn’t changed since he took over at UCLA. Which is to say, he does not like it. (Photo credit: X/Twitter)

The Canning of Kelly

It might be all over for Chip Kelly in LA. The lack of recruiting has finally caught up to him. UCLA, located in the fertile recruiting ground that is Southern California, should never have a recruiting class outside of the top 20. And, until Kelly arrived in Westwood, they rarely did. His predecessor, Jim Mora Jr., never had a recruiting class outside of the top 20, while Kelly consistently has classes ranking in the 40s.

Loyalty to friends has also cost Kelly. His original defensive coordinator at UCLA, Jerry Azzinaro, should have been fired a solid two years earlier than following the 2021 season. Kelly has ties to Azzinaro going back to his days at New Hampshire and hired him as the defensive line coach at Oregon. He then took Azzinaro with him to the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and finally, to UCLA as defensive coordinator in 2018.

During Azzinaro’s tenure at UCLA, the Bruins had no shortage of offense, but boy did the defense stink.

Now, the script has flipped. UCLA now has a very solid defense under second-year defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn, while the offense struggles with young and inexperienced quarterbacks. Perhaps better recruiting could have avoided this situation, but that is just not Chip.

And that is okay. Assuming ego is not an issue, Kelly could make a great NFL offensive coordinator, but if he wants to coach again in college, he would best be suited at a lower-division or academic school. Maybe, Chip, go light up the Ivy League. Kelly has never struck me as a guy who is all about just the money or prestige and seems to really enjoy teaching, so a lower-division school might be his best bet.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

Darren Perkins
Spokane, WA
Top photo credit: Vasco Dixon

Andrew Mueller, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.



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