January 29, 2023

Ducks capture their highest AP ranking of the season

Oregon Ducks Football

(Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Dan Lanning is only in his first year on the job and he’s making noise across the Pac-12.

After all, the Ducks are the only Pac-12 team that’s undefeated in conference play approaching week 10. There’s no denying Lanning’s team is finally receiving the respect they deserve. The AP Poll was released Sunday afternoon, and had Oregon at No. 8. It’s the program’s highest ranking of 2022.

Not only are the Ducks the league’s highest-rated team, but they’re also the nation’s second highest-rated one-loss squad. It’s a clear sign that Lanning and his players have put the 49-3 season-opening loss to Georgia in the rearview mirror.

And there’s nothing like climbing back in the mix and reminding everyone the team is still a force to be reckoned with. The Pac-12’s youngest coach has the Ducks sitting at 7-1 and atop the conference standings. Meanwhile, former Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal is 4-4 at Miami.

The success is a reminder to the fans that Lanning was the right man for the job. And the team seems light years ahead of where they were in game one. It’s no mystery quarterback Bo Nix has been a spark for the offense this fall. The former Auburn Tiger has been balling out of his mind. And he has made others around him better, which is what great signal-callers do.

Nix is first in the Pac-12, and eighth in FBS in passing efficiency. His 2,221 yards through the air is third-best in the league. He also 15th in the nation with 20 touchdown tosses. Not to mention Nix leads all Pac-12 quarterbacks with 441 rushing yards.

The Alabama native is bringing a level of intensity that his teammates can relate to. And the rest of the offense is feeding off Nix’s energy. Oregon is first in the league and third in the country in total offense. The Ducks are averaging a jaw-dropping, 525.8 yards per game. And that’s a testament to Nix utilizing the weapons in his arsenal. Oregon is also averaging 42.4 points per contest, which is best in the conference.

The way Nix is operating the offense it’s resembling the Ducks’ teams under Chip Kelly that won multiple Pac-12 Titles and Rose Bowls. Oregon has scored 41 or more points in their seven-game winning streak. After Nix’s six-touchdown performance in last week’s victory over California, he’s emerging as a Heisman contender. That’s status he never reached at Auburn.

Sophomore Troy Franklin has been Nix’s go-to receiver. He leads the Ducks in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. Franklin eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards against Washington State and UCLA. Running backs Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington have done a great job of keeping the pressure off Nix. Irving rushed for 107 yards against the Bruins.

On defense the Ducks has been suspect though. Danning is a defensive guru, and Oregon has a bend, but don’t break unit. Most of Oregon’s games have been shootouts, and those types of battles can go either way, depending on which offense has the ball last.

Although the Ducks have been on the winning side lately, they’ll need the defense to play more complimentary football down the stretch in order to conquer the Pac-12. Above all though, Lanning is making a name for himself in the Pac-12, and seems like he has Oregon a year ahead of schedule.

As of now, Oregon has two AP ranked teams left on the regular season schedule with Utah and Oregon State. Winning those matchups will be enough for the Ducks to climb back in the Playoff race. And that alone should keep the fans satisfied with Oregon’s 2022 campaign.