By: Matt Hanifan
Matchup: Nevada (1-0) @ No. 16 Oregon (0-1)
When: Saturday, September 7, 2019 at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Autzen Stadium
TV: Pac 12 Network
Oregon's Justin Herbert surged atop multiple NFL draft boards last season as one of the nation's best quarterbacks. His size, strong arm and mobility led some to believe he could slot himself as one of, if not the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
With one of the best offensive lines in the nation, the highest ranked recruiting class in school history, and plenty of star talent, the 6-foot-6 product elected to stay for one more go-around in hope of leading Oregon to their first Pac 12 title since 2014.
Herbert completed 59.4 percent of his passes last season, throwing for 3,151 yards and tossed 29 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He became the fifth player in school history, and the first since Marcus Mariota in 2014 to throw for over 3,000 passing yards in a single season.
The Eugene, Oregon, native owns a steak of 29 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, the longest active streak in the FBS. His 64 career touchdown passes ranks sixth among active FBS leaders and third in school history (Darron Thomas - 66, Mariota - 105). So yeah, he is pretty good.
Herbert did not have his best week in Week 1 versus a very good Auburn defense. He completed 28-of-37 passes, which is an improvement, but threw for 242 yards and one touchdown (and another one that was dropped).
Oregon's CJ Verdell and Travis Dye lead the rushing attack. The two combined for over 1,700 rushing yards last season and 14 scores. Verdell rushed for a team-high 76 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown in the loss. Dye, who rushed for 739 yards and four touchdowns in his freshman season, put together 23 yards on only six carries.
Verdell and Dye are two quick, elusive backs that can make defenders miss in the open field, who also can run in the trenches behind one of the best offensive lines in the country.
Oregon's offensive line returns all five starters -- four of which are seniors. The Oregon offensive line boasts a combined 158 combined starts, which leads the FBS. Left guard Shane Lemieux is a preseason All-American. Center Jake Hanson was a second-team All-Pac-12 honoree. There is a lot of talent on this offensive line, so it might be difficult for Nevada's talented defensive front develop some good pressure against Herbert.
The lone returning underclassman, left tackle Penei Sewell, might be the best of them all. Sewell was the first player in school history to earn freshman All-American honors. The 6-foot-6, 325-pound lineman will have an opportunity go up against his brother, Nevada's starting linebacker Gabe Sewell, in Saturday's affair.
The receiving core has taken a hit due to injuries. Juwan Johnson, the Penn State graduate transfer, was a late scratch in Week 1's matchup due to a knee injury. It is unclear if he will play Saturday. Johnson hauled in 81 receptions for 1,123 yards and two touchdowns in his career with the Nittany Lions.
Oregon still returns five of their top receivers from last season. Jaylon Redd -- who leads the returning receivers in catches (38), yards (433) and touchdown catches (5) last season -- had a team-high nine catches for 64 yards against Auburn. Johnny Johnson III had seven catches for 98 yards. Spencer Webb caught the only teams' touchdown, finishing with three catches for 28 yards.
Eight different receivers hauled in a reception last week, five catching multiple passes. Look for Herbert to do much of the same around Nevada's inexperienced secondary, which surrendered 423.0 yards passing last week versus Purdue.
Defensive Coordinator Andy Avalos enters his first season with Oregon, and is familiar with the Nevada offense. Avalos was the defensive coordinator at Boise State from 2016-18, going up Jay Norvell's crew twice in that span ('17-'18).
Avalos' crew led Nevada to 302 yards of total offense and 14 points in his first go-around, and 386 yards and 27 points last season.
Avalos inherits a very good Oregon defense, which finished top 50 in total defense, scoring defense, passing defense, rushing defense, and turnovers forced a year ago. Oregon brings back seven starters, with linebacker Troy Dye leading the group.
Dye earned first-team Pac-12 honors last season. The 6-foot-4 body finished with a team-high 115 tackles, also recording two sacks, eight tackles-for-loss and one interception. Dye ranks third among active FBS players with 328 career tackles, along with 34.5 career tackles-for-loss and 12.5 sacks.
The defensive line is anchored by Jordan Scott. Earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season, the junior has 67 tackles, 9.5 tackles-for-loss and three sacks in his three-year career. He has started the last 25 games for the Ducks. Oregon's defense also brings in defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, the highest recruit in school history and the highest ranked recruit in the 2019 recruiting class, per ESPN.
- Oregon: 42
- Nevada: 17
After Nevada's surreal comeback in their season opener versus Purdue, they are going to have their hands full on both sides of the football. I expect it to be an incredibly loud atmosphere in Autzen Stadium Saturday, something a majority of the Pack players have never experienced. Oregon has been dominant in recent home openers, which might be an understatement. They have walked away with 14 consecutive victories home openers, scoring 40+ points in 13 of them. They have scored an average of 57.1 points, outscoring their opponents 800-265 in those contests. The Ducks have also won 23 consecutive home contests versus nonconference opponents dating back to 2008, and I look for that trend to continue this weekend.