Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Oregon Ducks Week 6

Johnny Johnson III Oregon Ducks wide receiver 2019

For the 2019 Oregon Ducks football team, a bye week in college football’s week five is just what the doctor ordered. After a slew of injuries to the wide receiving corps in the preseason and the absence of standout center Jake Hanson against Stanford, Oregon enters the week six healthy and ready for a tough gauntlet of Pac-12 games.

They also enter week six with a record 3-1, their only loss coming in week one to a still undefeated Auburn Tigers program. This is good news for Oregon football and its fans, as the Ducks have disposed of Stanford and flashed signs of why they should be considered a favorite to win the Pac-12.

After a narrow loss to the Tigers in week one, the Ducks obliterated Nevada, made easy work of Montana and triumphed on the farm. Yet it has not been the offense — a signature of Oregon’s college football reputation — that has secured victories.

Allowing zero touchdowns in the past three games, Oregon’s defense under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos has been the most impressive. The Ducks have been aggressive, disciplined and used a shutdown secondary to be one of the most impressive defenses in 2019 so far. And while the level of opponents they’ve faced in recent weeks leaves more to be desired, no touchdowns allowed in three games is no joke.

The Oregon offense, meanwhile, has shown flashes of greatness and vulnerability. Their performance against Auburn is an outstanding representation of both.

After jumping out to a 14-3 lead and looking the dominant team, the Ducks scaled-back against the Tigers and failed to forward early momentum. They lost their muster and eventually the game, scoring just once more while Auburn mounted a comeback.

Some of this has been blamed on offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo, who attempted to prove doubters wrong with a 77-point explosion against Nevada. Yet the Ducks looked inconsistent against Montana and failed to get anything going against Stanford, instead relying on scoring drives sprinkled here-and-there.

Is this the beginning of a new era for Oregon? One in which the defense commands attention and the offense plays more conservative? If the Ducks are to be serious contenders in the Pac-12 and have a shot at the College Football Playoff, they’ll need to figure that out soon.

2019 Oregon Ducks Strengths

Defense: No surprise here. Oregon’s defense has been its biggest strength in 2019. With an experienced secondary and front seven, the Ducks have stifled opposing offenses throughout the young season. Most impressive has been the play of Oregon’s corners and the way they’ve adapted to the nickel position and STUD position Andy Avalos loves to incorporate. The Oregon defense has been aggressive, instinctive and dominant. If they continue to hold ground, they could be the top defensive unit in the Pac-12 at year’s end.

Wide Receivers: Big surprise here. After suffering a number of injuries to key wide receivers before the season began, Oregon’s healthy receivers have been nothing but impressive throughout 2019. Johnny Johnson III and Jacob Breeland (technically a tight end) are particular standouts.

Now that the Ducks are healthier at wide receiver and expecting Juwan Johnson, Mycah Pittman and Brenden Schooler back this week, they may have almost too many standouts to distribute to. Poor Justin Herbert.

2019 Oregon Ducks Weaknesses

Consistency: The Ducks have been frustratingly inconsistent in 2019. At times they’ve looked like a top-10 team while at others completely lost. Oregon has failed, outside Nevada, to really separate from teams as they have in the past. If they’re going to challenge for the Pac-12 crown, they’ll need to put together more dominating quarters and halves of play.

Running Game: As surprising as Oregon’s dominant receivers has been the Ducks’ less-than-dominating rushing attack. Neither C.J. Verdell or Travis Dye has emerged as a lead back, each flashing speed but consistently looking hesitant to hit holes and take charge. With as lauded as Oregon’s offensive line is, the backs need to do a better job of hitting holes and running with confidence.

Offensive MVP: Offensive lineman Penei Sewell

You read that right. Sophomore offensive lineman Penei Sewell has been the offensive MVP for the Oregon Ducks so far in 2019. Already establishing a name for himself as a true freshman, Sewell has continued to impress both a Pac-12 and national audience. He has been dominant, tenacious and consistently rated as one of the best offensive linemen in the nation.

Defensive MVP: Safety Jevon Holland

Jevon Holland will be a first-round pick in a future NFL Draft. A true sophomore, Holland has imposed his will against opposing receivers and been confident in stepping into the nickel position when called upon. Showcasing a knack for reading the quarterback, Holland has two interceptions and been critical in preventing big plays. Even more, Holland uses his speed and physicality to step up and help stuff the run and short passing game, posting 21 tackles on the year (15 solo).

Most Surprising Player: Wide receiver Johnny Johnson III

Those in the Oregon program are not surprised by wide receiver Johnny Johnson III’s numbers but the rest of the nation may be. After taking a backseat to other receivers in the past, Johnson’s work ethic and drive have clearly paid off. He has been Oregon’s best true receiver and leads the group in targets and yards. And though his production may drop with the addition of Juwan Johnson, Mycah Pittman and Brenden Schooler, look for Johnson III to be a consistent force for the Ducks throughout 2019.

2019 Oregon Ducks Bye Week

Oregon is rightfully the highest-ranked team in the Pac-12. They have looked the most impressive, been the least vulnerable and are returning key players from injury. That said, the Ducks being ranked behind two other one-loss teams in the current college football rankings is also justified. For all their strengths they have shown a few weaknesses that could hurt them down the road, inconsistency being the big one.

The Ducks will need to shore up those issues fast, as they are entering the toughest part of their schedule. With a big game against California this week, Oregon then hosts Colorado, heads to Washington and hosts Washington State to finish a tough October schedule. Games against California and Washington may prove the toughest of these matchups.

If Oregon manages to showcase their abilities and put together more consistent play, the Ducks could continue to shoot up the college football rankings and establish themselves as a legitimate College Football Playoff contender.

Why the 2019 UW Football Team isn’t Done Yet

2019 UW Football Washington Huskies

UW Football is Back in the Mix

Just two weeks ago, after a heartbreaking loss to Cal, everyone, Unafraidshow included, thought that UW football was out. In that loss, Washington was reluctant to score touchdowns and ultimately failed offensively. In a tight race for College Football Playoffs, in-conference losses like that make or break a season.

However, somehow, UW football is still in the mix. They are the No. 17 team in the nation, third to California (No. 15) and Oregon (No. 13). Even with the loss to Cal, Washington is showing signs that they can fight for the Pac-12 North.

The Washington Huskies Offense is Rolling

UW’s Jacob Eason

“I mean, he’s an NFL quarterback.”

“He’s got the size, the arm, and everything. When he’s dialed in on the plays and his reads and things like that, he’s one of the greats.”

Aaron Fuller

In a dominant win, Jacob Eason dismantled through the air. He was precise, making tight-window after tight-window throw. In the first half, Eason had a streak of 13-consecutive completions. Additionally, Eason displayed a big arm and a knack for making big plays out of nothing.

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Efficiently, Eason finished 24 of 28 with 290 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He continues to impress scouts, fans and the Pac-12 alike.

The Rest of the UW Football Offense

Aside from the Huskies loss to Cal, Eason and the UW offense looks incredible. The two-headed rush attack of Sean McGrew and Richard Newton is consistent and powerful. But, the receivers are making the big difference. Aaron Fuller is making big plays, both in the receiving game and on special teams.

Adding to Fuller’s playmaking are seniors Andre Baccellia and Hunter Bryant. While Baccellia is certainly having a solid start of the season, Hunter Bryant continues to be the most difficult man to cover. Bryant is too big, too strong for a defensive back. But, he’s also too fast and shifty for a linebacker to try and cover him. He’s looking more and more like a first or second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. 

If the offense continues to make big plays, UW football will be the one to beat. 

Strength of Schedule

In the Pac-12 North, UW football is competing with Oregon and Cal for the top spot. After reviewing their rest of season schedules, there are some intriguing findings.

AP Ranked Opponents:

  • Cal: 3 (Oregon, USC, Utah)
  • Oregon: 3 (Cal, USC, Washington)
  • UW: 3 (Oregon, USC, Utah)

Shared Opponents:

  • Cal & Oregon Share 4 Opponents
  • Oregon & UW Share 5 Opponents
  • Cal & UW Share 6 opponents

Rest of Season Competitors Record

  • Cal: 18-13
  • Oregon: 22-8
  • UW: 19-11

First, it should be noted that anything can happen in the Pac-12. If this season has proven anything, it’s that the Pac-12 is full of cannibals. No team is safe in-conference.

Second, it’s important to note that UW football and Cal have much easier schedules than Oregon. But, the overall record (4-0) and strength of schedule still side with Cal. 

UW Football and Cal have the edge over Oregon

Last, Oregon has to play both Washington and Cal. In order to get a top spot, Oregon has to make it past both of them. That’s going to be quite difficult based off of recent play. The overall edge still goes to Cal in their schedule. But, UW football fans can take solace in the similarities between Cal and UW’s rest of season. If Cal slips, UW can leap them.

Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Oregon Ducks Football Week 3

Nevada’s demolishing at the hands of the Oregon Ducks last Saturday will be forever known as the Arroyo flex. Coming off a season-opening loss where Arroyo was criticized for conservative play calls, the Ducks unleashed their frustration on a motivated Wolfpack team. Now, as college football hits its stride and the 2019 Oregon Ducks football team enters week 3, Oregon is primed to have a special season. And with a calming breath in the Montana Grizzlies before the Pac-12 storm, now is the Ducks’ chance to focus and prepare.

The Arroyo — and Avalos — Flex

The 2019 Nevada vs. Oregon football matchup was one of contrast.

Nevada had just dispatched Purdue. They rode a surge of early season momentum into Autzen Stadium and had confidence aplenty. With an offense that could put up points and a defensive front seven who could present Oregon problems, some had this game marked as an upset special.

The Ducks, meanwhile, were coming off a tough week one loss to Auburn. They needed to get their offense firing on its proper cylinders and show the college football world they would not go silently into the night.

What happened was everything the 2019 Oregon Ducks football program needed.

Taking some time to get rolling against Nevada in their 2019 home opener, once Oregon got rolling they did not stop.

First scoring on a 66-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Justin Herbert to tight end Jacob Breeland with 3:56 to go in the first, the Ducks went on to outscore the Wolfpack 28-3 the rest of the half, and would not stop there.

Allowing Herbert to remain in the game for the opening drive of the second half, the Ducks put another 42 on the board in impressive fashion. 11 different players scored, redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Shough made an impressive debut, and the 2019 Oregon Ducks looked like the team they’re expected to be.

More impressive than the offense, however, was Oregon’s defense. Holding Nevada to just 6 points — all in the first half — the Andy Avalos led defense put consistent pressure on Nevada’s offense and forced four turnovers. It was an effort that will go down as one of Oregon’s best in recent years.

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Nitpicking the Negatives for the 2019 Oregon Ducks Football team in week 3

Not much went wrong against Nevada. Oregon excelled and the score reflected such. There were, however, some issues of concern.

Oregon did not get off to the start it wanted. After an impressive start to the Auburn game, the Ducks opened the Nevada game with two non-scoring drives. This was concerning, especially for Marcus Arroyo. Against a team like Nevada the Ducks should have put points on the board fast. They should have had long drives that proved they were the better team. Starting the game with drives of 25 yards and 18 yards did not accomplish that. If Oregon is to be the team it’s supposed to be, they’ll have to be more consistent.

Sticking with the offense, Oregon’s running game didn’t really get on track against the Wolfpack. While the quarterbacks picked the Nevada secondary apart, Oregon’s once potent rushing attack was held in relative check. After a so-so performance against the Auburn Tigers, the 2019 Oregon Ducks football team still needs to solidify their running game entering week 3. And with the likes of Stanford and Cal looming, they’ll need to do so fast.

A Game Filled with Positives

What Oregon did to Nevada was outstanding. At least if you’re not a Wolfpack fan. The Ducks did what they needed to do to get back on the map. However they also showed the Pac-12 and college football that they may have one of their best defenses in recent memory. Yes, there is still a lot of football to play, but what the Ducks have done of defense in the first two weeks is not something to ignore. Oregon’s secondary is better-than-advertised and after some shaky play against Auburn, the defensive line looks impressive.

Furthermore, Oregon’s offense showed what it is capable of. It spread the ball to a long list of playmakers and got young talent fresh looks at college football. The wide receiver corps looks to be in great hands despite being depleted and Justin Herbert is a complete quarterback.

This shouldn’t all be news. Oregon was expected to be special this year, and a 77-6 win over Nevada helped prove why. Though they may have one loss to their name, it is a quality loss and one that won’t define their season. There’s plenty of football to play, and Oregon showed it is ready for a special season.

Moreover, they recaptured that special attitude and atmosphere the program had been searching for in the past few years. Autzen Stadium rocked, the fans were into the game and the players were having a blast on the sidelines. No moment was greater than when senior linebacker Troy Dye danced around the field while the sounds of “Shout” filled the air.

Moving Forward with 2019 Oregon Ducks Football Week 3

Montana has no chance against Oregon, it’s as simple as that. Coaches and players will want to give their respects but let’s not kid: Oregon should destroy the Grizzlies. Now, crazier things have happened in college football. Bigger upsets have happened and there is always the slim chance Montana could down the Ducks.

Montana has a good quarterback in UNLV transfer Dalton Sneed, and receivers Jerry Louie-McGee, Samori Toure and Samuel Akem are equally impressive. They spread the ball out and are somewhat of a FCS version of Washington State. For teams with shaky secondaries the Grizzlies present a problem. This is not the case with Oregon.

Though two games is a small sample size, Oregon’s secondary may be the defense’s forte. As such the Ducks matchup well against Montana’s offensive strengths and will have no problem putting up points against a smaller FCS-level defense. The keys for the 2019 Oregon Ducks football team in week 3 will be cleaning up minor errors, finding more reliable play from their running backs and staying healthy.

While it is never a good thing to look ahead, Oregon has two tough tests immediately following Montana. First they’ll travel to Stanford before a date with Pac-12 sleeper California. Look for the Ducks to make quick work of Montana and focus on the Pac-12 play ahead.

Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Oregon Ducks Week 2

Oregon Ducks Week 2 Pac-12 football

Revenge had and reputation improved. Those are the headlines that should have come Sunday morning for both the Oregon Ducks Week 2 and Pac-12. There should have been articles written about a relentless first half by the Oregon offense and a tenacious defense throughout, and coverage surrounding the Pac-12’s ability to play with the big bad SEC. Others might have said the conference wasn’t so soft. But Oregon’s 27-21 loss to Auburn in the 2019 Advocare Classic did not do that, at least not entirely.

Oregon should have won that game. They should have converted multiple scoring opportunities and surged to a confident lead. Mario Cristobal should have managed his timeouts better, perhaps giving the Ducks more of a chance at the end. Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo should have made use of his thin yet impressive wide receiver group. 

Football, however, is not a game of should-haves. It’s a game of results. And while fans will speculate as to what could have been made better to change the outcome, what the Oregon football program needs to do is focus on the future. There is still a lot of football to play starting with week 2.

That said, there’s no doubt that this one hurts. Time to explain why.

Setting the Table for Oregon Ducks Week 2

There was a lot put on Oregon’s plate as they headed to face the Auburn Tigers in Arlington, Texas. Not only would they represent their program, university and its fan base, but they would also represent the Pac-12 Conference in the nation’s biggest week one game. 

For years the Pac-12 Conference has been seen as soft, especially in the eyes of the SEC. No respect has been given to the west, and it was expected of the Ducks to flip the script. This was meant to be the game where Oregon would come away with a key victory for themselves and the conference. No pressure, right? 

On an individual level expectations for the Oregon football program were just as high. This was meant to be a justification of the lofty preseason expectations for a team some have just on the peripheral of the College Football Playoff. Led by Oregon senior quarterback Justin Herbert and the nation’s top offensive line, many expected the Ducks’ offense to explode, impress and overwhelm. The defense, meanwhile, was expected to improve and hold their ground, especially against Auburn’s true freshman quarterback Bo Nix.

And after a few unexpected down years, fans of the Ducks were ready for the program to get back on track. What began as the Decade of the Duck could still finish in spectacular fashion. A win over Auburn in the opener would be proof that Oregon football was headed towards that.

An Ominous Start and Other Negatives for the Ducks

If there was anything that would be indicative of the end result of Oregon’s game against Auburn, it was their first play. Or rather, lack thereof. 

Electing to receive the kickoff, the Ducks took the field on offense first. Out came Herbert, his vaulted offensive line, an up-and-coming running back in sophomore CJ Verdell and a wide receiver corps that was injury-ridden yet talented. But before they would take the first snap the Ducks found themselves caught in the headlights. Confused about what play to run and what personnel to line up where Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal was forced to call a timeout. 

A less than ideal start to the 2019 season but appropriate for how the Ducks would play much of the game.

While Oregon dominated much of the game, they constantly found themselves fumbling — both literally and figuratively — in key moments. The Ducks missed a chip-shot field goal, dropped a touchdown pass that would have extended their lead, fumbled the ball in the red zone, mismanaged timeouts on a crucial fourth-and-one and allowed Auburn to hold on to just enough hope that they were still in the game. The Oregon football program many expected, while vastly improved, had not yet completely arrived. Too many missed opportunities.

Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo, meanwhile, took much of the blame. Impressing fans with a diverse selection of play calls early on that had Auburn second-guessing, Arroyo was unable to adapt to the Tigers’ defensive adjustments, choosing conservative plays rather than those that could quickly extend Oregon’s lead. He played right into Auburn’s arms to the dismay of Duck fans nationwide. This isn’t the first time Arroyo has been criticized in such fashion, and how he manages the coming games may determine his future career. 

Positives from the Auburn Loss

It’s hard to see positives in any loss. But for the Oregon football team, there was plenty to take away from their game against Auburn.

First, the 2019 Oregon defense looks like the real deal. Under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos the Ducks were fierce upfront and impressive in the secondary. They played intuitively — for the most part — and showed an ability to match up with some of the best talent in the nation. While they did react too quick in a few crucial moments, what mental mistakes they made can be cleaned up with improved focus and coaching. Those adjustments are easier to make than those based on a lack of talent or personnel. 

Second, Oregon’s depleted wide receivers no longer look so depleted. Johnny Johnson III emerged as a breakout candidate. Jaylon Redd found a nice presence in the slot. Redshirt freshman Spencer Webb made the nation know his name with a statement touchdown early in the game. What these receivers did is prove themselves physical and talented enough to hold down the position group until the addition of the highly-anticipated senior transfer Juwan Johnson and true freshman Mycah Pittman. Once they are added, Oregon’s wide receivers could be one of the best units in the Pac-12.

Next, Oregon’s tough loss to Auburn wasn’t conference crippling for the Pac-12. In fact, it was just the opposite. It may seem hard to argue the strength of the conference in a losing effort. What the Ducks showed was the gap may not be as big as some think. Oregon’s defensive front seven managed penetration. Their offensive line held steady against the best defensive front seven in the nation and their personnel constantly looked more talented. It’s the execution that suffered. Don’t be surprised if Oregon’s performance against Auburn provides a confidence boost for other Pac-12 teams in non-conference games.

Moving Forward with the Oregon Ducks Week 2

The beauty of college football — and sports in general — is that you must move on fast. Learn from mistakes and use them to improve the future. And with 11 games left on the schedule, there is still a big opportunity for the Oregon football program to make 2019 a special season. Next up? The Nevada Wolfpack, a team that brings with it a potent offense and the momentum of a last-second win over the Big Ten’s Purdue Boilermakers. 

Unlike the Auburn game, the Ducks are not only favored to win, but they’re also expected to. Nevada is a Mountain West Conference opponent, and while threatening in their conference, they should not present Oregon a problem. That in itself can be a problem, however. Overlooking opponents, especially one as talented as Nevada, often spells doom.

Don’t think the Ducks will overlook the Wolf Pack, however. They’ve been spoiled by the Mountain West Conference in the recent past (Boise State). A loss in the home opener would derail the rest of the season. A win, meanwhile, would be the first step towards a still promising year. Some of Oregon’s best years have come after a week one loss. 

They’ll be hoping 2019 follows suit. It starts with the Oregon Ducks Week 2.