ANDRE WALDON, OREGON SPORTS NEWS
Next Saturday, the No. 15 Oregon Ducks will commence their 109th and final season as a member of the Pac-12 conference. They will kick off their 2023 campaign against the Portland State Vikings of the Big Sky Conference. Last year, the Vikings were at the bottom half of the conference with a 4-7 record overall and a 3-5 record in conference play. Portland State has had seven straight losing seasons.
Portland State’s lone game against a Pac-12 team last year was a 52-6 defeat at the hands of the Washington Huskies.
The heart and soul of the Vikings offense is dual-threat QB Dante Chachere. He had 1,956 yards, 19 TDS, and 8 INTs. Additionally, he had a 144.8 QB passer rating. Dante Chachere was also the Vikings’ leading rusher, with 609 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. The second-leading rusher was RB Jobi Malary. He will also return to the team and is poised to make a sizable impact. In terms of a passing threat, Chachere’s biggest threat will be Vikings WR Nate Bennett.
Last year, Bennett led the team in receptions with 47 and was second in receiving yards with 517.
On defense, Portland State will rely on junior LB Jaymason Willingham. Willingham was third on the team last year in tackles with 46. They will also need stellar performances from their experienced veterans in the secondary. Such names include senior CB Isaiah Avery, junior CB Michael Jackson, and junior safety Tyreese Shakir.
The defensive line for the Vikings is quite questionable. After all, there are no returning starters. Overall, the defense will have a lot of inexperience, as several true freshmen may receive playing time for Portland State.
Meanwhile, Oregon is coming off a 10-3 season and a Holiday Bowl victory over North Carolina.
Oregon has had six winning seasons in a row. The team is coming off the heels of being ranked 5th in the nation in rushing yards and 17th in passing yards.
The star of the show is returning QB Bo Nix. Bo Nix is looking to build off of a season in which he threw for 3,593 yards, 29 touchdowns, and had a passer rating of 165.7. Just like Chachere, Nix is also a mobile QB. Nix rushed for 510 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was the third-leading rusher on the team.
Oregon will have its stellar 1-2 running back combination of Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington. Bucky Irving rushed for 1,058 yards and 5 TDs last season, averaging nearly 7 yards a carry.
The matchup against Portland State will be the first time we will see Oregon’s revamped offensive line.
The line will consist of four new starters this year. However, it’s still up for debate who will start. Oregon struck gold by getting the top tackle in the transfer portal in Ajani Cornelius.
With Josh Conerly Jr. at the other end, Oregon has solidified itself at the OT position. The addition of transfers Junior Angilau and Nishad Stroher has given Oregon more depth at the guard spot. However, they will compete with sixth-year Steven Jones for a guard position. Oregon’s offensive coordinator Will Stein remains confident in the overall depth of the offensive line.
Given Portland State’s inexperience in the defensive line, I’m confident that Oregon’s offensive line will hold its own next Saturday.
Last year’s, Oregon’s defensive line had a solid run defense but was lacking in terms of getting sacks and forcing turnovers. The return of Popo Aumavae is big for Oregon. After all, he was a standout player for Oregon in 2021. Brandon Dorlus will add versatility to the defensive line. Keep an eye out for Ben Roberts as far as playing time is concerned. Oregon’s coaching staff has been pleased with his development.
Oregon’s linebacking corps will see returning ILBs Jeffrey Bassa and Jamal Hill. However, the linebacking corps will greatly benefit from picking up transfer LB Jordan Burch. Another player to watch out for is freshman Matayo Uiagalelei. He’s 6”5” and ranked as the 7th best pass rusher in the nation.
There are questions with the Oregon secondary. Transfer-starting CBs Nikko Reed and Khyree Jackson are looking to position themselves as potential answers.
Oregon is hopeful that transfers Evan Williams and Tysheem Johnson will be the solutions at the safety spot. Additionally, Nikko Reed will play safety in a STAR role when Oregon goes to a three-safety set. Despite this, I believe the Oregon defense will be too much for Portland State’s offense to handle.
Even though Portland State is 10-3 in its last 13 games against the spread, it appears that Portland State will not continue this trend against Oregon. The trend among oddsmakers points to a comfortable victory for Oregon. According to Vegas Odds.com, Oregon will beat Portland State 56-13. Oddsshark.com has Oregon as a 15-point favorite.
I tend to agree with the betting experts. I feel Oregon will defeat Portland State pretty handily.