Ducks’ head coach Dan Lanning will face off with his former boss and has the difficult task in his first year as a first-time coach to compete with the reigning national champions. While it’s unlikely that the Ducks will win, it’s not impossible.
Many Georgia fans’ confidence comes from the Vegas point spread that began at -14 and has moved to -17.5, all in the Dawgs’ favor. As we get closer to September 3, the finalized rosters for both teams start to become more apparent, and more Georgia fans are beginning to realize that a talented Oregon roster is coming to Atlanta.
How does that roster match up? Is there truth to a former coach’s advantage against their old team?
Georgia football will take on a scrappy Oregon team for Week 1 of the season.
A major narrative growing among Duck fan circles is the ability for Lanning to expose Georgia head coach Kirby Smart’s weaknesses because of his intimate knowledge of the systems and schemes the Dawgs use. Smart taught Lanning, and both added to each other’s playbook. If this is an advantage, it’s not just in Lanning’s favor — continuity and experience are clearly in favor of the Dawgs.
It will be extremely difficult for Oregon with just one set of spring practices, summer workouts, and Fall camp. That doesn’t mean the Ducks will be lost in mismatches all game long.
Lanning understands that game speed comes from reacting and not thinking. He mentioned after their second fall scrimmage that he felt like there was less thinking and more playing. Having them ready for the game speed Georgia brings to the table is critical. Counting down each practice will be even more difficult — it’s nearly impossible to have everything you want.
Smart has experience at many key positions to help make up for what he lost, while Lanning has yet to officially name his starting quarterback. Oregon was able to land Auburn transfer Bo Nix, and many fans assumed he would immediately be the starter.
Nix and Ty Thompson have split reps with the first team, and many questions are lingering as we approach week one. Some second scrimmage notes mentioned interceptions and turnovers as an issue that the Duck’s offense has to clean up. Those mistakes raise a few red flags for Oregon, considering that this won’t be the first time Nix has played the Dawgs.
There is a lot of history between Georgia and Nix, assuming he earns the starting role. He has played Georgia three times, and his quarterback rating, a summary of his in-game production, averaged 46.3. His standard completion percentage for those games is 58.7%, and he scored 21 points, seven per contest.
Historically, Nix has as many turnovers as touchdowns, and he seems to have issues progressing through the Dawg’s coverage, but it’s not all bad for the Ducks.
Smart was highly complimentary of Nix’s athletic ability and noted that he could hurt you with his legs. ‘Backyard Bo’ was a nickname he earned at Auburn because of his capability to move out of pocket and turn a busted play into something.
Georgia’s defense has to focus on how the release point, the area where a quarterback throws the ball, will constantly change. Any pass rush will have to attack quickly and limit the area where he could move.
Roster to roster, there is another disadvantage Oregon has to overcome. Depth-wise, talent composite, and experience all favor Georgia as a whole, but the Ducks do have elite-level players in certain places.
Oregon has possibly the best inside linebacker duo in the nation, with Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe returning. Other key areas are littered with 4-star talent and speed. In 2021, the Ducks ranked in the top 10 talent composite per 247 Sports, and they look to return a top 15 roster in 2022. Both teams return strong offensive lines, which helps ease the learning curve for newer players.
As you go name by name and position by position, fans can start to see that for every strength Oregon has, the Dawgs seem to have more. Players like Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith and Chris Smith have proven their capabilities on the field. Georgia’s offense returns players like Brock Bowers, Ladd McConkey and AD Mitchell — who will make significant steps in their overall production.
While I disagree with the Vegas point spread of -17.5, I think Georgia ultimately pulls away late in this game. A first-time head coach in his first year has the unenviable task of reorganizing everything on a very small timetable. For example, Smart’s first year included an embarrassing loss to Vanderbilt and another close game to Nicholls State.
That does not mean Oregon will show up to just go through the motions. Lanning will throw everything he has behind this game because this is his first chance to send a message, and he has enough talent to do it.
Georgia should treat Oregon like any other top-ranked opponent, and with Smart, I have very little doubt they won’t. But to those fans who are hand-waving the Ducks, I suggest you look again.