We are back with another edition of our 99 Things series. We are back looking at one of the biggest early season games. Oregon and Georgia have plenty of storylines to add additional hype to an already big matchup between the two programs. The two schools are set to kickoff at 3:30 on September 3rd. No matter where your fandom lies all college football fans should be tuned into this one.
Georgia is coming off their National Championship and gets to play their first game just down the road in Atlanta. Oregon’s new head coach is Dan Lanning. Lanning was the defensive coordinator for Georgia last season when the Bulldogs had one of the best defenses over the past decade. Oregon should have an upper hand in the game planning since Lanning saw the Georgia offensive players daily. Having inside knowledge of the opposing team’s strengths and weaknesses is important especially considering this is the first game of the season. Teams will be working off tape from the previous year which does not accurately depict a team. Lanning has never been a head coach which makes studying Oregon more difficult.
One primary question outsiders (including me) will continue to ask is if Stetson Bennett should still be the quarterback to lead the Bulldogs. Bennett has physical limitations with his arm but showed improvements as the season went along. He finished the season with three of his best games in the career. He threw a total eight touchdowns and two interceptions between the College Football Playoffs and the SEC Championship game. Early in the 2021 season he split time with JT Daniels but now the job is his. Bennett will not need to look over his shoulder and will likely remain comfortable as the starting quarterback.
Oregon’s quarterback situation is one of the more interesting cases in the country. The Ducks received a transfer from former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix. Nix started three seasons at Auburn and coincidentally beat Oregon in his first career start. Ty Thompson and Jay Butterfield were both highly touted recruits coming out of high school who will battle for the starting spot. Thompson and Butterfield attempted a combined 18 passes in 2021. Nix will likely win the starting job. Nix struggled against Georgia in his career throwing only two touchdowns in three matchups. In order to give the Ducks a chance he will need to be more consistent than the previous games.
Kirby Smart has become known as a defensive master and he will need to do it again. The Bulldogs had five defensive players taken in the first round of the NFL draft which did not include Nakobe Dean. While the Bulldogs defense will be replacing experience, the defensive expectations will remain the same. Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith are expected to take jumps and become leaders on the defense. Kelee Ringo will be one of the favorites for the Thorpe award entering the season. Robert Beal will also be a significant contributor on the defense. The Bulldog defense only allowed 10 points per game last season. The defense will likely allow more points in 2022 but they will likely still be in the top 10.
The Oregon defense will be led by Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell. Sewell is one of the best linebackers in the country after finished with over 100 tackles last season. He has a nose for the ball carrier but also is efficient in pass coverage. Sewell finished last season with five passes defended. Flowe is one of the most talented players on the Oregon roster but has struggled with injuries. He has 15 career tackles but is already listed atop draft boards for the 2023 NFL draft. Flowe only played in one game in 2021 but registered 14 tackles and a forced fumble. If the combination of Flowe and Sewell can stay healthy the Ducks could have an intimidating defense.
The first weekend is filled with plenty of incredible matchups. Thank you to my fiancé for requiring me to attend a wedding. I hope all of you have an enjoyable weekend watching some of the best college football games. This game is sure to provide plenty of entertainment on both sides of the ball.