Nix, No. 5 Ducks embrace second chance against No. 3 Washington

Bo Nix

No. 5 Oregon doesn’t want to think about Week 6.

The Ducks fell for the only time this season to Michael Penix Jr. and the Washington Huskies 36-33, and had to trail behind them in the College Football Playoff rankings all season.

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Friday presents a different scenario. Oregon and No. 3 Washington will meet again in the Pac-12 Championship game — with a spot in the CFP likely clinched after a win.

“I think you pull experience from every experience that you’ve had in your life, but that’s certainly one that is similar in a standpoint of you get to play the game,” Oregon head coach Dan Lanning said. “Every time you go out there and play the game, there’s an opportunity for it to go one way or another, and we’re certainly going to use the first game as a place to look at where could we have improved and attack a lot of those places, and then try to figure out where their strengths are where we can attack those as well.”

The Ducks have won six-straight games since the loss to Washington. They’ve won each game by at least nine points and scored at least 31 in all.

Oregon has been keyed largely by a late-season push by quarterback Bo Nix. The fifth-year from Pinson, Alabama, has played well down the stretch, accounting for 19 touchdowns in his last four games.

“I think the preparation has been really good,” Nix said. “I think we’ve been practicing at a high level, and then I just think I’ve hit a really good rhythm at the right time. And all week or all year, we’ve been putting together something and we’ve been trying to be really accurate and really efficient with all of our throws, and when they’re open hitting them. And I feel like we’ve done a really good job of that here lately.”

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Nix is a Heisman Trophy contender alongside Penix. The latter earned an early Heisman moment after Penix helped the Huskies with a three-play, game-winning drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Rome Odunze.

In his last four games, Nix has registered six touchdowns in two of those. He had four passing and two rushing scores against Cal in Week 10, then had six passing touchdowns at Arizona State in Week 12.

“Bo’s obviously an elite player and we’re still playing football. I think that speaks to the caliber of player that Bo is,” Lanning said. “The fact that we’re competing for a championship, leads the nation in passing. I don’t memorize all of Bo’s statistics, but just watch Bo play and watch how much of a difference he makes for us. But just as important of that award, what that is to Bo and our team, he’s more excited about getting to play in a championship game this weekend. And I think anybody who’s watched Bo Nix play, the caliber that he’s played, recognizes that he’s definitely deserves merit for that award.”

Nix is outperforming Penix and most other college football quarterbacks this season.

Nix leads the country with 3,906 passing yards. His 37 passing touchdowns are second to LSU’s Jayden Daniels, who has 40 and also beats Nix out with a higher passing efficiency rating.

But Nix completes passes at a higher rate than anyone. His 78.6% is tops in college football, and he’s eclipsed 82% in both of the past two games.

Perhaps no one has made a greater case for the Heisman in the past few weeks than Nix. He said he’s not focused on the award right now, though.

“It’s just staying off TV. Staying off social media has helped me a lot,” Nix said. “All I am around is the guys the locker room, the coaches and practice and meetings. I pretty much just stay up here all day and just get to work and prepare and make sure that at the end of the day when it’s a big moment, it’s not me who’s messing it up for the team. I just want to be as prepared as possible and I want to put our guys in the best situation to go out there and win the game.”

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Nix and Oregon can play their way into the Playoff with a win over Washington and Pac-12 title.

Saturday’s game could be one for Nix’s Heisman profile, too, and he said the Ducks are game planning differently for a different outcome this time around.

“I just think that the whole I think operation as far as like making explosive plays and staying on the field on fourth downs and just getting those moments and making the most of them when they’re the big situational moments,” Nix said. “I think that’s where, ultimately, we lost last time. And I think we have been more prepared. Now, I think the season’s allowed us to play good situational football, but at the end, I think we’re ready to regroup and go out there and play again and not put ourselves in those situations.”