The Oregon Ducks and North Carolina Tar Heels will meet in sunny San Diego for the Holiday Bowl on Wednesday afternoon, and while each team is dealing with significant attrition – the battle between quarterbacks Drake Maye and Bo Nix could make this an all-time classic.
It might be a ‘first to 50’ situation as both teams are dealing with losses primarily on the defensive end, setting up a fast-paced, exciting game of football.
Of course, in today’s transfer portal era it is always tough to really evaluate performances in these games – and many coaches opt to use these contests as a way to play some younger guys who are in line for bigger roles in the upcoming season.
We will see if the ultra competitive Dan Lanning makes that choice or not, but if they are playing to win we have three keys to a potential Oregon victory lined up:
Attack Through the Air
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Bo Nix is reportedly healthy and is expected, at least according to coach Dan Lanning, to play some of his best football of the season on Wednesday.
That’s of course excellent news for the Ducks and very bad news for North Carolina, who is going to be without at least three starters in the secondary in Tony Grimes, Storm Duck, and Cam’Ron Kelly.
For Oregon to win, Nix (and potentially Ty Thompson) will want to attack in the air and make North Carolina’s backup defensive backs prove their mettle in this one.
Kenny Dillingham and his explosive plays aren’t calling the shots anymore, but with Junior Adams and Drew Mehringer taking over it could be a pass-heavy game, and a fun one at that.
Pressure Drake Maye
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Drake Maye came seemingly out of nowhere to contend for a Heisman Trophy this season for the Tar Heels. He threw for over 4,000 yards with 35 touchdown passes and seven more on the ground – and just seven interceptions.
Maye vs. Nix is the big matchup in this one, and both teams are down quite a few starters on defense. Oregon is without Christian Gonzalez and Noah Sewell, so generating an effective pass rush is the best way to prevent Maye and North Carolina’s wide receivers to gash the defense all game long down in San Diego.
Brandon Dorlus is a huge hinge at this point, if he plays and plays effectively it could spell victory for Dan Lanning in his first Bowl game as head coach.
Give Young Guys a Chance
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Every football team wants to win every football game they play. Let’s clear that up right away. But in this instance, it makes sense to see what some of Oregon’s future starters look like in a game without much to lose.
Nix is healthy and is going to play against the Tar Heels, but could Lanning and company let Ty Thompson get out onto the field for a drive or multiple drives on Wednesday?
What about some of the other younger players who are expected to step into bigger roles next year, like CB Jahlil Florence, or linebacker Harrison Taggart, or wide receivers Kyler Kasper or Justius Lowe?
I can understand winning as the top priority, but seeing what these guys can do in a legit game situation (against a good team) seems like a no-brainer ahead of spring football and of course the 2023 season.