One of the most intriguing matchups of week one of the college football season will take place Saturday night as the number 11 Oregon Ducks travel to AT&T Stadium to take on the number 16 Auburn Tigers. This really could come down to a solid quarterback versus a solid defense, as the Ducks’ Justin Herbert will look to put in another spectacular season, but must start against a very tenacious Auburn defense.
Kickoff for this one is scheduled for 7:30 pm ET.
For Oregon, head coach Mario Cristobal is looking to improve in year two. In his first year with Oregon, he went 9-4 and got a bowl win as Oregon defeated Michigan State 7-6 in the Redbox Bowl. They will look to ride Justin Herbert, a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, to another successful offensive season. On defense, they will look to improve under Andy Avalos, especially with several starters returning from last season.
For Auburn, it is just the opposite. They have a solid defense in place; it is their offense that is full of question marks. They will rely on a freshman quarterback in Bo Nix and will look to a running back in JaTarvious Whitlow who has also spent time in his career as a quarterback and wide receiver, before settling into the running back role last year.
The point spread for this one currently sits with the lower-ranked Auburn Tigers being 4-point favorites in this one. The over/under on total points scored is set at 55.5 points.
By The Numbers
In the 2018-19 season, Oregon had one of the more dynamic offenses in the nation, ranking 30th overall as they averaged 32.6 points per game (27.3 on the road). For the Auburn Tigers, they came in 61st averaging 28.2 points per game.
On the defensive side, it was definitely Auburn with the advantage. They ranked 15th in the nation allowing just 20 points per game. For Oregon, they came in 53rd allowing 26.3 points per game (25.8 on the road).
Oregon is 1-4 against the spread in their last 5 non-conference games. The over is 4-1-1 in Oregon’s last 6 games vs. the SEC. Since Auburn last beat Oregon, the SEC is 10-4 against the spread in games against the Pac-12, including 6-0 in neutral sites.
Oregon Hopes To Ride Herbert’s Arm
The success of the Oregon Ducks this year begins and ends with the play of quarterback Justin Herbert. Last season, Herbert was remarkable. He went 240 for 404 (59.4%) for 3,151 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. He also added 71 rushing attempts for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns. Many thought he would move onto bigger and better things after a phenomenal junior year, but it was for naught as he decided to return to Oregon for his senior year.
Herbert will have some weapons to throw to including Juwan Johnson (a graduate transfer from Penn State and Mycah Pittman (a true freshman). Johnson’s best season for Penn State came back in 2017 when he had 54 catches for 701 yards and a touchdown.
Auburn Hopes For Offense To Catch Up To Defense
The defense is locked and loaded for the Tigers; the question is whether they can put up the points on offense to play with the elite teams in the nation. This season they will turn to freshman Bo Nix at quarterback. Nix was a five-star prospect and was rated as the number 33 overall player in the 2019 class. As the reigning Alabama Mr. Football, he knows that he needs to progress as a player and that he isn’t a finished product; but for Tigers fans, they hope that he can be effective as their starter.
One player that can help alleviate some of the stress off of Nix is running back JaTarvious Whitlow. Last season, Whitlow rushed 150 times as a freshman for 787 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also had 15 receptions for 173 yards and an additional 2 touchdowns. While he bounced around from a position standpoint over the last couple years (he redshirted at Auburn in 2017), he seems to have found a home in the backfield.
With the offense in need of a spark, any weapons that they can find are all the better for an offense that doesn’t need to be spectacular, just above average for their team to win with a defense that is dynamite.
Taking Oregon And The Points
Auburn’s defense is going to be spectacular again this year, but I trust Oregon’s offense a whole lot more than that of the Tigers. In a game where points may be hard to come by at times, I will take the offense that is led by a quarterback who not only has experience in big games but has had success as well. For my money, I am taking the Oregon Ducks and the 4 points.