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Oregon needs to ride its defense to a title

When Dan Lanning when Oregon’s head coach was hired, it was assumed that the Ducks’ defense would improve immediately.

Lanning had just worked under one of the game’s best defensive heads a few years, and he was an integral part of one of the best collegiate defenses of all time. Additionally, Oregon entered 2022 with a boatload of defensive talent, including a likely first-round pick for the NFL draft Noah Sewell, Brandon Dorlus and breakout star Christian Gonzales.

But it was actually the offensive that made a big leap forward. Behind Kenny Dillinghams creativity and Bo Nix’s Brilliance, Oregon has been fueled by its third-place offense while its defense is actually down slightly.

Now it’s time for the defense to pull their weight. Nix’s injury severely crippled a Ducks offensive that was buzzing on all cylinders. For Oregon to secure a place in the Pac-12 title game, they must ride their much-maligned defense past a dismal Beavers roster.

It could be a tough ride for the Oregon offense

One of the biggest upsets in all of college football has been Oregon State’s success, and its success is largely due to its stingy defense, which currently ranks second in the Pac-12. The Beavers have managed to thwart some of the best offenses in the country, keeping USC at a season-low 17 points and Washington at a season-low 24.

Facing the Beavers would be a challenge for the Oregon offense even at full strength, but it gets even harder with a limping Nix. The Ducks had to completely change their approach against Utah last week, with Nix unable to budge in any way. A gimpy Nix is ​​still better than many quarterbacks, but Oregon relied on his rushing ability a ton before his injury, and the offense just isn’t as strong without it.

Craig Strobeck

Nix’s injury limits Oregon’s offense.

Dillingham will likely have some tricks up his sleeve to generate some offense, but it would come as a shock if the Ducks were able to match their season averages in points and yards. That’s why it’s so important for Oregon’s defense to build on last week’s success.

Just one game after Lanning’s defense was embarrassed Michael Penix and the huskies, it rebounded massively. The Ducks faced a similarly dominant quarterback – Cameron Rising — and they absolutely choked him. They consistently pressured him, forcing him to throw inaccurately outside the platform. The runners-up kept it all in front and dropped the Utes Nickel and Groschen down the field, contracting in the red zone. And they forced turnovers and capitalized on mistakes by beating Rising three times.

It was the best defensive play Oregon has played all year, and it came when the Ducks needed it most. Now they have to replicate it.

While Oregon State’s passing offense is a notch below Washington and Utah, its rushing offense is better than both. JonathanSmith loves to stretch defenses with his wide-zone running scheme, and his determined and explosive runners are masters at following their keys and gaining yards after contact.

Craig Strobeck

Oregon needs to repeat last week’s defensive performance.

Oregon did a great job bullying Utah at the line of scrimmage last week. Casey RogersDorlus and Sewell were great, creating all sorts of disruptions in both the running game and the passing game.

With offense likely limited again, the Ducks will need the same level of intensity and physicality on defense to beat the Beavers and earn the right to play USC for the Pac-12 championship. The offense has carried its weight up to this point in the season. Now it’s time for defense to prove its worth.

Joshua Whitted
Grove City, Ohio
Top photo by Craig Strobeck

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