Bo Nix presents an interesting and exciting challenge for BYU’s defense.
He will be the triggerman for Oregon in Autzen Stadium on Saturday, testing the Cougars defense to see if what folks saw against Baylor is as physical, pliable, adaptive and effective for a second game against a ranked opponent.
Nix has the athleticism, foot speed and arm to put a real scare into the Cougars defenders. He’s got outstanding receivers, big tight ends and a stout offensive line. Oregon can hit the home run pass on short and long throwing plays from Nix and has a running game with some stallions toting the ball.
“They’re good. They’re still Oregon,” said BYU’s defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki, noting the Ducks have a new coaching staff.
Both Tuiaki and his boss, head BYU coach Kalani Sitake, have coached in Autzen Stadium many times. Said Sitake earlier this week: “We’re facing a different beast this week. It is a tough place to play, not a lot of teams come out of there successful. As we do our best, the best versions of ourselves will show up on Saturday.”
Tuiaki said Oregon’s new staff is fine-tuning things under a new coaching regime. “A lot of times it takes some time for a new offense to start clicking with a new staff, but they’ve got the pieces out there that have you saying, ‘Wow, they are really good.’”
“They are a capable team. We are excited to go into a hostile environment and have another battle against a tough, physical opponent. It will take everything we have and our guys know that.”
Nix is a former five-star recruit from Arkansas who played three seasons at Auburn in the SEC before transferring to Oregon. He led Oregon to just three points in the season opener against top-ranked Georgia, then had the Ducks scoring 70 against Eastern Washington last week.
CBS Sports Dennis Dodd noted that Nix is 3-11 as a starter against top 15-ranked teams with eight career touchdowns with 13 interceptions.
As elite as Georgia’s defensive front is, the Bulldogs did not sack Nix in that season opener.
If BYU is to defeat Oregon, the Cougars will need to get turnovers and force Nix into making mistakes.
Look for Chris Brooks, Lopini Katoa and BYU’s offensive line to have more success with the run against Oregon’s defense. If BYU can do that, and keep Nix and his offense on the sidelines, it will be a huge strategic advantage for the Cougars.
This will be the first key in how this game will go: If BYU can run the ball early and late on Oregon, the Cougars will win. Oregon will be hardpressed to present the same physicality on the defensive line that Baylor did.
This matchup has a lot of experts, not only national guys but those with ties to Oregon, a little baffled. That is based on the physical play BYU put on against defending Big 12 champion Baylor in a double-overtime win in Provo.
John Canzano is a former sports columnist in Oregon and does a radio show and blog called “The Bold Face Truth.” In his weekly picks he writes this on this week’s game: “Dicey game for the Ducks, who are a 3.5-point home favorite. I’m still not sure if Oregon is good, or just OK, or if it is going to struggle this season. I think we’re going to learn more about first-year coach Dan Lanning and quarterback Bo Nix than we learned in the first two weeks. BYU has some injuries and is on the road. I’ll pick Oregon to win but I don’t feel great about it.” Canzano picks Oregon 27, BYU 26.
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News covers the Pac-12 and does a podcast with Canzano. Wilner broke the story on USC and UCLA leaving for the Big Ten. In his weekly picks, Wilner picks BYU:
“The Cougars survived a major test last week, beating Baylor in overtime, and are poised for yet another head-to-head victory over the Pac-12. The line essentially represents the home-field advantage for Oregon. Were this played at a neutral site, neither team would be favored by more than a point. We suspect the outcome hinges on special teams — either big plays or big mistakes.”
Michael Waterloo, writing for The Athletic, was impressed BYU beat Baylor without Puka Nakua and Gunner Romney, but he believes Oregon will have its back to the wall in Eugene and will be pulling out all the stops.
Writes Waterloo: “It’ll be another challenge for both teams — and close to a must-win game for Oregon — leaving me slightly leaning toward the Ducks winning straight up as the Cougars will struggle to keep up with Oregon.”
This week’s picks
Baylor 34, Texas State 14
UCLA 31, South Alabama 17
Notre Dame 21, California 17
Penn State 34, Auburn 31
Minnesota 38, Colorado 10
Houston 38, Kansas 21
Wake Forest 28, Liberty 24
Washington State 41, Colorado State 21
North Carolina 27, Texas Tech 21
Washington 17, Michigan State 14
Miami 31, Texas A&M 21
Southern California 48, Fresno State 21
Utah 41, San Diego State 17
BYU 31, Oregon 30
Last week: 8-5, 18-7 overall (.720).