Watching an Oregon Football game this season can be best described as riding the tallest roller coaster at the theme park. There are certainly massive highs, but there have been some lows, and the middle isn’t always as smooth sailing as you’d think with flips and turns.
Nonetheless, Oregon enters Week 5 with a 3-1 record. Their major low was the blowout loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, the reigning champs. The high was defeating BYU in dominant fashion. The middle was just barely holding onto a 44-41 win over Washington State last week.
Allowing 41 points was a major concern for the Ducks, whose defense has looked shaky all year. But at the end of the day, the Ducks stayed strong, and maybe that’s the big lesson to take out of their win. They could have folded and broke, but instead, they stood up and won. Dan Lanning talked about that during his postgame press conference.
“We talked a lot this week about chop wood carry water, and it’s called little things,” he said. “And little things in the front end of this game, they were adding up against us. Some little things that went wrong but we didn’t stop. You get a chunk of meat, and you keep taking chunks and keep fighting until the end. And that’s what showed up to me at the end was chopping wood and carrying water. We weren’t trying to win the game in the first quarter. We’re trying to win every single play, and some of them didn’t go our way. But at the end of the game, enough plays went our way for us to get the W.”
The Ducks now turn their attention to the Stanford Cardinal. They’ve played three games and entered with a 1-2 record. While this doesn’t feel like the threat of a Stanford team of old, let’s not forget that it was the Cardinal who knocked off Oregon last season in overtime when the Ducks were ranked 22nd and trying to climb back into the graces of the AP Poll.
Stanford has an impressive quarterback in Tanner McKee, who could be great if he limited his interceptions. So far this season, the junior has thrown for over 800 yards in six scores in the three games he has played in. Lanning addressed the QB this week.
“I think he understands their system really well, but they do some stuff that requires quarterback reads. That’s going to be him making decisions based on box count and stuff like that, and he does a good job of making decisions there. He’s a true pocket passer and does a good job delivering it.”
There are three basic keys to this game if the Ducks want to walk away with their fourth win of the season. Bo Nix has to continue the play he showed last week, the Ducks must win the turnover battle, and this team simply can’t get too comfortable.
The Nix Effect
If we learned anything about Bo Nix’s time at Auburn, it’s that he can look like a Heisman candidate one week and a bust the next. Nix is coming off one of those Heisman performances, and it is up to him and his coaches to keep that momentum going.
Against Washington State, Nix passed for 428 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He threw 44 total passes, whereas the week before, he threw just 18 passes but was equally as effective.
The Cardinal has allowed both Michael Pennix Jr. from Washington and Caleb Williams to throw for more than 300 yards, multiple touchdowns, and zero interceptions. If Nix can stuff himself into this category, it would be the most consistent stretch we’ve seen from him in a long time.
The defense is weak against the pass, and the quarterback can certainly exploit that.
The Turnover Battle
As mentioned before, McKee struggles with interceptions. He has thrown at least one in every single game he has played in, and they played Colgate College during Week 1. Last week, the Ducks picked off Cameron Ward twice. They picked off Gunner Walkington twice in Week 2 but failed to do anything in the other two weeks.
If Nix does go off the rails a little bit, making sure they can steal possessions and take the ball out of McKee’s hands is a total must. This Stanford offense has been a little shaky to begin the year, and if they can deflate them with a few turnovers, in the beginning, the Ducks will be well on their way to winning.
Don’t Get Too Comfortable
Maybe you have heard me say this about the PAC-12 before, but anyone can beat anyone, and it’s a conference filled with cannibalism of the top teams. Whenever you think a team is surging in the right direction, one of the more minor members of the conference comes out of nowhere and ruins an excellent season.
The Ducks already have that Georgia loss on their resume, and they can’t afford another. Stanford is a perfect “trap” game. Heck, you could call last year’s loss to this same program a trap game. The Ducks had all the momentum, riding high as a ranked team, and they allowed the Cardinal to take them into overtime and beat them outright. Dan Lanning will have the ultimate test of seeing if he can keep his team focused.
Stanford doesn’t impress me all that much. Oregon has more talent, more experience, and the benefit of playing at home.
Stanford 20 Oregon 34