In a rematch of the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, No. 11 Oregon will take on No. 16 Auburn in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday night in the season opener for both squads. Both programs are hoping to push their way back to the front of the national stage in 2019, and a season-opening win would be crucial to both teams’ goals this season.
Oregon comes into this season with one of the top quarterbacks in the country, Justin Herbert, running its offense in his senior season. The Ducks finished 2018 with a 9-4 mark, including a Redbox Bowl victory over Michigan State, but the team’s four losses all came in Pac-12 play, relegating Oregon to a fourth-place finish in the conference’s North Division.
Auburn will have true freshman Bo Nix under center as it tries to improve on last season’s 8-5 record that was completed with a blowout win over Purdue in the Music City Bowl. Coach Gus Malzahn, who has been hearing some rumors about his job security, feels that Nix gives the Tigers their best chance at winning now, which he needs.
The moneyline on this contest has the Oregon Ducks +155 and the Auburn Tigers -175. Auburn is favored by four points, with the over/under being set at 55.
Back For More
If he had left Oregon early, Herbert would likely have been the No. 1 overall pick in last spring’s NFL Draft. Instead, he’s back to try to restore Oregon to national prominence, which he certainly has the skill set to do. Last season, Herbert completed 240 of 404 passes for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns. He did lose top receiver Dillon Mitchell (75 catches, school-record 1,184 yards, 10 TDs), who left early for the NFL.
While the spotlight falls on Herbert and the passing game, Oregon also has a solid ground attack, led by CJ Verdell (1,018 yards, 10 TDs) and Travis Dye (739 yards, four TDs). The Ducks return much of their offensive line, which is led by three four-year starters, as they attempt to keep Herbert upright and open holes for Verdell and Dye.
New Face Under Center
Nix is a true freshman, but his name may be familiar to Auburn fans, as his father, Patrick Nix, was a Tigers quarterback from 1992 to 1995. Nix will be the team’s first freshman starter under center since 1946 after coming in as the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country. He’ll be helped by a veteran offensive line that returns five fifth-year starters.
As Nix gets his feet wet in the college game, the Tigers will look to running back JaTarvious Whitlow (787 yards, six TDs as a freshman) to take a step forward in his second collegiate campaign and carry more of a load. Defensively, the Tigers will look to a veteran defensive line, led by defensive end Marlon Davidson and defensive tackle Derrick Brown, to put pressure on Herbert to keep him from picking apart the Auburn secondary.
Ducks Earn Victory
As good as Nix may be, this will be his first collegiate game in a game that will have quite the spotlight on it. Trying to match stats and scores with Herbert is a little too much to ask of the freshman already. I’m taking Oregon +4 to win the game outright.