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Opponent Offense Preview: Oregon Ducks

If you thought Washington’s offense was good...

Oregon v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Last season, Oregon QB Bo Nix went from a disappointing former 5 star QB at Auburn to leading one of the nation’s most efficient offenses in Eugene. Even with the change in OC from Kenny Dillingham to Will Stein (previously at UTSA), Bo Nix and the offense haven’t missed a beat. Like Washington, they rank near the top in the country in most offensive categories - yards, yards per play, points, and sacks given up. They have the quarterback, skill players, offensive line, and the play calling to compete at the national level.

The Players

In some ways, Bo Nix is still the same playmaking QB he was at Auburn - making off platform throws and scrambling to extend plays - but, is playing with a level of control and precision he did not show until he arrived in Eugene. He can evade the rush, escape the pocket, and keep his eyes downfield to complete passes. He can create with his legs and is very comfortable throwing on the run and ripping off runs on RPOs and designed QB runs. Perhaps most impressively is that he’s leading the nation in completion percentage, at 80%. Some of that is certainly scheme driven (more on that below), but Bo Nix is operating at a very high level. He’s thrown 15 touchdowns with only one interception, no fumbles, and just three sacks.

His partner in crime in the backfield is the talented RB Bucky Irving. He’s a natural playmaker with quickness and exceptional tackle breaking ability. He’s patient waiting for blocks to develop, and finds the cutback lanes with regularity. The 5-10, 195 pound junior is averaging nearly 8 yards per carry this season, with 393 total yards and 4 touchdowns. He’s also tied for second in receptions with 18. After losing RB Noah Whittington for the season to an ACL injury, RB Jordan James stepped up. He’s less of an open space playmaker than Irving, but he’s good between the tackles. More of the one-cut-and-go type of runner, he’s averaging a whopping 8.7 yards per carry on 34 runs, with 7 touchdowns.

At wide receiver, the clear number one is the 6-3 and 187 pound Troy Franklin. He’s a player with exceptional first step quickness for his size, and combined with his lateral agility, can easily beat press coverage. He can contort his body to haul in difficult catches and make explosive plays with regularity. He’s got nearly double the amount of receptions as the next leading receiver on the team with 32, for 535 yards and 7 touchdowns. He’s an exceptional playmaker who will hear his name called early in the upcoming draft.

After Franklin, it’s a mixed bag of receivers. WR Gary Bryant is on the smaller side at 5-11 but has 18 catches this season and can use his exceptional quickness and burst to get open. WR Traeshawn Holden, the Alabama transfer, is a physical 6-3, 215 pound with good acceleration and hands, if not the best long speed. He has 17 receptions on the season for 187 yards and 3 TDs. WR Tez Johnson came in from Troy and primarily operates out of the slot. He’s a very smooth runner and can get open in the middle of the field. He has 15 receptions for 203 yards and 3 TDs.

The offensive line has been great and is led by C Jackson Powers-Johnson, a very physical OL who is adept at being a lead blocker in the open field. LT Josh Connerly - the former 5 star from Rainer Beach - has been good, but had some trouble in the Texas Tech game with three false starts. It was his first road start in a hostile environment in Lubbock, so it may have simply been first road game jitters.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 30 Oregon at Stanford Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Scheme

This is a heavily run oriented offense that does not push the ball downfield a ton. You’ll frequently hear about Bo Nix’s “average depth of target” of only 6.4 yards, and just 9 yards per attempt (Michael Penix on the other hand averages 11 yards and 11.3 yards respectively.) They love to call lots of sideways passes, screens, and anything that puts their players in catch-and-run situations. Compared to last season, the pass game is more efficient, but less explosive. They’re calling the same amount of deep shots as they did last year, but aren’t connecting nearly as much. Rushing is the opposite - they’re a bit less efficient than last year but more explosive. One schematic thing to look for is Oregon’s use of 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs), utilizing TEs Patrick Herbert and Terrance Ferguson. They are almost evenly split between run and pass out of that personnel group.

The End

Per the voice of the Huskies, Tony Castricone, Oregon is a team that wants to start fast, and when they do, they win. Oregon has won 19 straight games when scoring first, and 17 straight when leading after the 1st quarter. They are #1 in the country in expected points added rushing, meaning they are excellent at getting the yards they need given the down and distance. Simply put, this is one of the best offenses in the country, that can do just about anything.

Hopefully this is the Bralen Trice/ZTF explosion game, but like with most mobile quarterbacks, it’s sometimes more important to actually keep them in the pocket than consistently flush them out. Bo Nix is more than comfortable improvising. While hasn’t been sacked or even pressured much this season, about 20% of pressures do turn into sacks (compared to 9.1% for Michael Penix), so there it’s possible to bring him down if edge defenders get pressure.