Headed into Saturday’s big rivalry game in Reser Stadium we got the inside scoop on Oregon Football from Badwater over at Addicted to Quack. The Ducks got a huge win over Utah last weekend, despite Bo Nix being a game-time decision with an ankle injury. No need to put extra emphasis on this game, everyone knows what this matchup means.
1. What’s the latest on Bo Nix and his right foot/ankle? Do you think his mobility will be severely limited against Oregon State?
It turns out that Bo Nix commented about his physical status after Tuesday’s practice, and said that his ankle felt better than it did Tuesday of last week. Nix has dealt with these kind of injuries before - he missed the end of his last season at Auburn as a result - and he appears to know his body well enough to know what is doable and what is not doable. The Ducks have a top notch medical staff, so Nix is getting medical care that would be the envy of any program.
Do I think his mobility will be severely limited? No - emphasis on “severely” - but I think he’ll have running limitations that Oregon does not want to exacerbate and the Ducks will create an offensive game plan that limits his risk exposure, same as they did against Utah. It helps that Nix has legitimate big-time SEC real game experience and he’ll get rid of the ball before putting his body at risk. Oregon has a great running game, but in part some of those big running yards have relied on the implied threat of Nix running. That won’t be as much a factor in this game so it will be interesting to see what OC Kenny Dillingham comes up with to accommodate that.
On a somewhat related note: I have found it fascinating that Dan Lanning is completely tight-lipped on the subject of injuries, but thus far has not yanked the leash when some of his players discuss players’ health (Hutson last week, Nix this week, etc.). It’s a curious situation that I don’t recall having witnessed happening in any modern top-10 or 20 football program. Granted, the players talking with the media are skilled at what they’re saying; and yet, much of what we’ve been gleaning regarding injuries has come from players, not staff.
2. Oregon’s offense is averaging 40+ points per game and looks way more explosive than the past couple seasons. What makes Oregon’s offense so effective? Is it all Bo Nix, Dillingham or something else?
Offensive production begins in the trenches, and the roots of Oregon’s offensive numbers start with having the best offensive line in the Pac-12, and one of the best in the country. Bo Nix was a highly regarded 5* recruit for Auburn that was hampered by the constant turnover in OCs there and not having the greatest offensive line to operate behind. Nix seems to relish his opportunity at Oregon, doesn’t take anything for granted, and is making the most of his situation. He has shown that the problems at Auburn were more than very likely because of Auburn and not necessarily Bo Nix. The result is that we’re seeing one of the best QBs in the country shine.
Dillingham was Nix’s OC during Bo’s Freshman of the Year start in Auburn in 2019. There’s a familiarity between the two that I think has translated in part into this year’s success. In part - you still need a great line and skill players, and the Ducks have all that. Dillingham has returned Oregon’s offense to the exciting levels that we witnessed in the Chip Kelly era...the Ducks are fun to watch again, and all of these factors together are what have made this a special season so far.
3. In Oregon’s only two losses Stetson Bennett and Michael Penix Jr. had monster games. Is the Duck secondary a weak spot or were those performances just a bit fluky?
Yes and yes. The two games don’t necessarily compare well, much less compare primarily due to the quarterback performance. The Georgia game has to be taken for what it is; an outlier. Oregon is a brand new coaching staff with a brand new head coach that has never coached together, and you’re up against the #1 team in the country? And still #1? Yeah, good luck with that. On the other hand, there were glaring deficiencies in Oregon’s secondary in that first game that still exist, and Penix is a really, really good quarterback. I don’t want to say that the Ducks secondary is totally substandard and take credit away from Penix, because that’s not the case; the Huskies gained yards at will because of the arm of their quarterback. But some of Oregon’s defensive struggles have to do with consistent pass rush. We lost some very good pass rushers this season, and defensive pressure (or lack thereof) will impact the performance of the secondary. This is going to be an interesting subset of this game to watch - how and where will OSU try to attack the Oregon defense? How will the Ducks respond? This game-within-the-game will go quite a ways in determining the outcome of this year’s match.
4. Oregon State is extremely run-oriented. How effective has Oregon’s run defense been this season?
Oregon is ranked this season #22 in run defense (Oregon State is #19). The Ducks will be the best run defense that the Beavers have seen all year. The next best run defense in the Pac-12 is Utah, and the Utah game did not go well for the Beavers. The Ducks allow 3.98 yards per rush, 112.5 yards per game, and have allowed 12 rushing TDs this year. Oregon needs to eliminate explosion plays. OSU will get runs, will get yards, but the Ducks will likely take the approach to keep the run plays short-yardage and limit scoring opportunities, like they did against Utah.
Oregon State also has a very good run defense, so we’re going to see a battle of which offensive line can best exert its will on the opposing defense. There will be some interesting matchups, to be sure.
5. Prediction for Saturday’s game? Also what do you think is Oregon’s most likely postseason scenario?
First of all, I’d like to say that this rivalry has been best in the last 20+ years, where the games have been high-stakes with Pac-12 and bowl implications. I’m more than happy to have a really good Beavers team take on a really good Ducks team and force college football to take notice. We finally appear to have something of that scenario this year, and fans on both sides should bask in the good vibes and enjoy it.
With that being said, ahead of kickoff this game is rife with angst. Anyone that has been following this rivalry knows that for the 60 minutes of play, anything is possible. The games in 1998, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013, and 2020 are all cases in point. What will we see this year? I’m hoping for another games for the ages.
On paper and from what I’ve seen of both teams, it’s difficult to not come away with an Oregon advantage if one cares to scratch the surface a bit. I think Oregon State can only win if a combination of these factors come in to play: 1) Bo Nix is injured or unable to play, 2) OSU can win the turnover battle, and 3) The Beavers can find salient passing success.
I expect the Ducks to win. I would also be totally unsurprised if everything went wrong for the Ducks and they didn’t win and go to the Pac-12 title game - such is this rivalry and this year’s stakes. It’s what we get with The Game Formerly Known As The Civil War. If Nix stays in and the defense plays well, my score prediction is Oregon 34-27 over Oregon State...but that’s an angst-filled prediction. I’ve seen this game go both ways so many times.
As far as the post-season scenario? There are too many variables still at play, both for Oregon and for Oregon State. I see a couple of possible paths for the Ducks to get in the Rose Bowl, but that depends on how both Oregon and USC close their seasons. One game at a time, because Oregon will know more after/if they defeat Oregon State and USC.
Huge thank you to Carl & everyone over at Addicted to Quack for answering a few of our questions. Go Beavs and have a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend everyone!