Our Oregon Ducks’ football season has been a spectacular one so far. Head coach Dan Lanning has assembled a really strong coaching staff that has progressively improved week after week. Mr. FishDuck himself has taken time away from his college football betting to savor what the Ducks are achieving.
Now, if you’ll recall, we began this season touching on a mantra that’s stuck with me: “No half measures.”
One of those times when that mantra becomes particularly important is upon us. After a blowout win over the Wildcats, we host the unbeaten Bruins led by one of Oregon’s former program-defining coaches, Chip Kelly. The margin for error in this matchup is far smaller than in the past few weeks, and Our Beloved Ducks are going to need to do a lot of things right to keep the Bruins’ offense in check.
On top of all that, there’s a lot at stake for what this says about our season, as well. After losing to Georgia, the Ducks have never looked back. The offense has been outstanding, Bo Nix has played his role spectacularly, and the defense has only become better. Even the deep passing game is starting to come alive. Now, we have the second big test of the season coming to Eugene, and it’s time we take some full measures and elevate our game to the next level.
Here’s how your Ducks can end the Bruins’ win streak next Saturday.
Three Crucial Keys to Taking Down the Bruins
1. Limit Mental Errors, Zero Turnovers from the Offense
Since week one, missed tackles have been a point of emphasis. We’ve had some intense focus in practice with more contact throughout the week, and that emphasis has paid dividends over the last two games for our defensive play. That absolutely has to maintain against this UCLA offense. Just a week ago, the Bruins torched a tough Utah team and hung 42 points with ease. Oregon’s offense, while capable of going toe-to-toe in a shootout, is going to need to do its part as well.
That means no turnovers for Nix and company. In the same way the defense has to do their job, we can’t hurt them by giving UCLA’s outstanding offense extra possessions.
Fortunately, giveaways have become more and more infrequent for this Oregon team. The tricky part is going to be forcing turnovers on a sound Bruins offense. Dorian Thompson-Robinson (DTR) is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and doesn’t turn the ball over often. However, if there’s going to be a group to make it happen, it’s this Ducks’ secondary.
Let’s see the Ducks make some splash plays at home. Force turnovers on DTR, and keep UCLA’s offense on the sideline as much as possible.
2. Win the Time of Possession Battle
Time of possession hasn’t been much of a factor this year. Even when we played Stanford and possessed the ball for five minutes less than the Cardinal, we still came out on top with 45 points on offense. Next week, Oregon’s going to need to limit DTR’s impact on the game by extending drives for as long as possible. Luckily, our Ducks have a strong enough rushing attack to do exactly that.
Against UCLA, I expect more of the same from what we saw last week. Oregon’s rushing attack against Arizona looked like one of the most textbook offensive games we’ve played in years. I didn’t check the box score at the end, but I bet we could count the number of negative plays (plays resulting in a loss of yardage) for our offense on one hand. If we put up similar numbers next week, we’ll be in great shape.
3. Team Rolls Behind Nix
I don’t know what Nix is having for breakfast nowadays, but man do I want some. I love everything he’s been able to do on the ground, his shots downfield in the past few games, and his quick ability to make decisions. Additionally, his mistakes have shrunk as a component of his game. Making unforced errors was a huge knock on his play last year, and it’s evident he’s making it a point to clean it up.
That said, the run game’s role in that change has to still be mentioned. Not to take anything away from Nix, but this rushing attack hasn’t just been a factor, it has been winning us games. Let’s see Nix take a handful of deep shots again early, and get the read option game going on the ground. Set the tone for a second half of breaking some Bruin spirit, and use the run game to end UCLA’s win streak in Autzen.
What Would Beating the Bruins Mean for Oregon’s Chance at a College Football Playoff Spot?
Yes, yes, focus on the week ahead. Of course we will. But at the end of the day, every single week builds the case for a team’s College Football Playoff (CFP) contention. That’s what we want, right? A championship? To be considered a national powerhouse that recruits want to go compete for?
Remember this: going for a championship and being a true contender can happen at any time. A team has just as much of a chance to get hot with a veteran coach that it does with a coach in his first year with the team. Considering the ranked teams we’ve beaten, a win against the Bruins would mean the Ducks again have a legitimate shot to be in the final four.
It’s slim, but there’s a lot that can go right for Oregon the rest of the season if they take care of business in a week (especially with USC looming as another undefeated PAC-12 team, building the PAC’s credibility). We find a way to handle the Bruins in a convincing manner, and we’re talking about being in the hunt for a national title, even if Georgia stands in the way at the end of the year.
My Takeaway Ahead of This Game: No Half-Measures, Ducks. Go ALL the Way.
Being in the hunt is exciting. We should be proud of what our Ducks have done so far, and there’s nothing but positivity to show right now for this program’s growth. The offense hasn’t taken their foot off the gas in weeks. Our defense has new stars emerging. Now, it’s time to put it all together again and continue that PAC-12 domination we’ve been preaching all year by shoving our own Chips to the middle of the table against UCLA. Give ourselves a shot at the CFP again, and follow Lanning to new heights for this program.
Tell me what you think, Oregon fans, in the forum with decorum. Does this have the potential to be the game of the season? How do you think we’ll stop DTR? Do you buy Oregon as a CFP contender if we beat UCLA? Who’s the biggest X-factor of this game, for UCLA and for our Ducks?
Los Angeles, California
Top Photo By: Joe Jackson Jr.
Alex Heining is a third-year student at the University of Oregon. He’s working towards a bachelor of arts degree as an English major and media studies minor in journalism. Growing up in the Los Angeles area of southern California, Alex ended up a Duck through family ties, a quality football program, and the beautiful green of Lane County. Currently finishing his first science fiction novel, he wants to end up in the sports world of journalism on the west coast. Particularly, covering high school football, recruiting commits, and all things Ducks.
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