OSN: Oregon Still Alive For The PAC-12 Title, Must Beat BYU First

Season ticket holders at Autzen Stadium have received more than their money’s worth over recent years. The start of the 2022 season was no different, with the Ducks returning to their high expectations by beating the FCS opponent Eastern Washington Eagles in a 70-14 blowout.

This was no surprise. On the road is where a majority of Oregon’s recent losses have come from. At home, the team has been unbeaten since a heartbreaking loss to Stanford in 2018. That streak will continue on Saturday as the Ducks welcome BYU to Eugene. Lanning has now seen what his team looks like against a much better opponent and what his team looks like against a much worse opponent. BYU will be the happy medium for Lanning’s team as they bring a great challenge before conference play begins.

The Cougars, though nowhere near the talent level of the now No. 1 ranked Georgia Bulldogs, are a team that does plenty of things well. It wasn’t pretty a week ago, but in walk-off fashion, the Cougars beat the previous No. 9 ranked Baylor Bears 26-20. It’s the first time Oregon will be playing a ranked opponent at home since the famous walk-off victory of their own, where they took down Washington off of a CJ Verdell inside run. It also marks the Ducks’ second top-12 matchup of September.

Oregon is ranked lower than BYU but is not the underdog in this game. The talent of the Ducks mixed with the home-field advantage will make this game much more difficult for the Cougars than their one a week ago. For the Ducks, this resume-builder would be huge.

The Ducks fell out of the AP Poll after the clobbering in Atlanta. The dominant win in week two barely squeaked them back in, where they currently sit at No. 25. This win would surely make for a big jump which will be very much needed further down the road. Oregon did what it could to make its schedule as appealing as possible to help playoff chances come selection time. It’s hard to create a tougher non-conference schedule than starting the year off on the “road” against the reigning champs.

BYU’s victory last week was amazing for the Ducks, as now their schedule gets even more juiced. Utah is the only current ranked opponent left after week three, with many changes possible in the always competitive Pac-12. The win on Saturday would be a nice security blanket if things in the Pac turn downward.

Following their second home game of the season, the Ducks will travel to Pulman to take on a different Cougar team. If you were to have asked me who I thought would win to start the year, I would not have even given it a second thought. The Ducks have much more talent than Wazzu but are coming off of a road upset against a dangerous Wisconsin team.

Those two games wrap up the month of September. The rest of the schedule is relatively easy sailing for Oregon. The most dangerous road game left following Washington State is against Oregon State. The Beavers, much like the Cougars of Pullman, are off to a great start. At home, they took care of Boise State with ease and survived on the road against a dangerous Fresno State team. The Pac-12 is off to a decent start in general, and too could be beneficial for the Ducks come December.

The blueprint is there for Oregon. Simply put, there is no more room for losses. Yes, it’s still only week three, but I like to look at the big picture. Oregon’s schedule is highly beneficial for late-season success. The tougher games are out of the way early, meaning Oregon’s most formidable opponent remaining is itself. If the Ducks can win the games they are supposed to, a lot of positive things could happen.

For Oregon to win these games, they have to look like the team that played a week ago. There weren’t many positives for Dan Lanning to look at when reviewing his team’s game film versus Georgia. The only points were from a field goal, and only one punt was forced on the opposite end. Bo Nix was able to move the ball down the field occasionally but failed to capitalize. Against the Eagles, it was the opposite as the team hit the 70 mark.

A win this week is not a given by any means. Oregon still has plenty to prove. Will we see the team that put up zero touchdowns or the team that put up 10? Considering BYU hasn’t allowed more than 21 points to start the year, I am predicting a close-fought contest.

For a Duck win on Saturday, it will be all up to Bo Nix and the defense. The running back committee that Oregon has chosen to go with has been very consistent. The rotation that can sometimes hit up to five or six has been keeping the legs fresh and the rushing yards plentiful. The offensive line is one of the better units in the country, and the skill position players that the Ducks have are more than talented enough to go off against the Cougars. The biggest points of emphasis will be to limit turnovers, mainly on the end of Bo Nix. His two quick interceptions against Georgia were huge momentum killers. The defense also must force their own turnovers, something they could not do against the Bulldogs but did with ease at home.