The buzz is already starting.
A gigantic Bo Nix mural popped up a week ago in New York City and made the rounds on social media. But the University of Oregon’s athletic department had no intentions of stopping there, and an even bigger Bo Nix mural was just completed in Dallas.
It would be easy to dismiss it all as a publicity stunt—the product of deep booster pockets and deeper complacency. And, well, it technically is a publicity stunt for Heisman voters, the media, recruits, etc. But the hype is real. And if Nix takes another leap, he could very well find himself in New York City in December, getting ready to accept the Heisman Trophy.
So, what will it take for Nix to make it there? Let’s break it down.
In his three years at Auburn, Nix acquired a reputation for inconsistency. The tools were always there for the former dual-threat 5-star, but his performance—and the team result—varied wildly. In 18 home games, Nix amassed 4,104 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, and just two interceptions, which helped Auburn amass a 14-4 record in three seasons (including the COVID-shortened 2020 season) in those games. But those numbers dropped sharply outside the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium. While Nix still accumulated 3,147 passing yards in 16 neutral or road games, he threw 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions (per Sports Reference). This massive drop in performance played a significant role in Auburn having a 7-9 record in those games.
After Nix transferred to Oregon in 2022, however, he experienced a resurgence of sorts. In 13 games, Nix threw for 3,593 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also rushed for 510 yards and 14 touchdowns and even caught a pass for a touchdown. All those numbers are career highs and extremely comparable to Justin Herbert’s best season, if not better. The stat that perhaps best demonstrates Nix’s transformation from his Auburn days is this: Nix actually threw for 197 more yards in true road games than in home games, despite playing one fewer road game.
It’s only reasonable to expect these numbers to increase with a year of experience under Nix’s belt, the return of wide receivers Troy Franklin and Kris Hutson, and tight end Terrance Ferguson. Even though last year’s offensive coordinator, Kenny Dillingham, is now the head coach at Arizona State, new OC Will Stein will have plenty to work with. The losses of Chase Cota (NFL) and D’Onte Thornton (transfer to Tennessee) will hurt. Still, the Ducks brought in several promising transfers, too: Traeshon Holden (from Alabama), Tez Johnson (from Troy), and Gary Bryant Jr. (from USC) all figure to contribute.
Meanwhile, both of the Ducks’ top rushers from 2022, Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington are back after leading last year’s 13th-best rushing attack (per TeamRankings). Both combined for 1,837 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns last year (in addition to 468 receiving yards in their own right), and continued excellence at the running back position should take pressure off the passing game and open up even more opportunities for Nix.
That said, Nix must take a giant leap to be considered a true Heisman contender. Consider USC’s Caleb Williams, who won the Heisman Trophy last year. Williams accumulated 4,537 passing yards and 42 touchdowns against just 5 interceptions while adding 10 rushing touchdowns. While Nix’s 3,593 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions plus 14 rushing touchdowns are impressive, it’s a far cry from Williams’s 2022 numbers.
But we can go beyond just Williams. In the Playoff era, 7 out of 9 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks. On average, these 7 quarterbacks passed for 4,581 yards and 44 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. (The outliers are Joe Burrow, who set FBS records en route to 5671 passing yards and 60 touchdowns, and Lamar Jackson, who passed for just 30 touchdowns but added 21 on the ground.) These are the numbers that Nix will likely need to be a Heisman contender. His rushing prowess will improve his case, but Nix must make a huge jump—and so must Oregon’s receivers—to have a serious shot at the Heisman Trophy.
Nix’s Heisman hopes will also depend on Oregon’s overall success. Of the last 9 Heisman winners, 8 played in their conference championship game, and 7 won. While perhaps not fair, Heisman voters judge players based on their teams’ performance, and players on high-ranked playoff contenders tend to place better.
The good news for Nix is that Oregon has a solid team expected to contend for the Pac-12 championship. If the Ducks get that far and Nix puts up a great performance in the Pac-12 championship game (especially if the Ducks win), he should linger in voters’ minds when they cast their Heisman ballots.
Furthermore, Nix will face off in the regular season against the Pac-12’s other two top Heisman contenders, Williams of USC and Michael Penix Jr. of Washington. Significant outputs in these games, combined with Oregon wins, can put Nix ahead of other contenders and garner more national exposure—crucial for Heisman hopefuls on the West Coast whom Eastern voters may not see due to time zone differences.
The path to the Heisman Trophy will undoubtedly be difficult for Bo Nix. But then again, that could be said for any current college football player: the Heisman Trophy is the biggest individual honor in college football because it is inherently so difficult to achieve. Nix has plenty of talent, and as long as he continues growing as a player and the Ducks keep winning, especially in their big matchups, Nix will be square in the middle of the Heisman discussion when it’s time for voters to cast their ballots.
Nix and the Ducks kick off their season against Portland State on September 2.