Canzano: Time to include Bo Nix in Heisman race
Ducks quarterback is on fire this season.
Bo Nix has a terrific arm. His feet are great. He’s at the controls of a potent offense and his team is winning games at a clip that nobody in the country can ignore anymore. What we have here is the soft launch of a Heisman Trophy campaign.
Oregon beat Cal 42-24 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Nix accounted for six touchdowns — three passing, three rushing. He threw for 412 yards on 35 attempts. I watched the game on television, and marveled at how easy Oregon’s quarterback is making the job look.
Was it his ‘Heisman Moment’? Nope. Not yet. Clobbering Cal doesn’t get you an invite to the Downtown Athletic Club. But on Tuesday, Oregon is going to learn what the College Football Playoff selection committee thinks of it. The initial playoff rankings will be released at 4 p.m. After that, it will be up to Nix to help the Ducks find their ceiling this season.
Nix told me a few weeks ago that he isn’t musically inclined. He’s never played the piano or picked up a guitar. He said, “I have no musical talent. Not blessed that way. Didn’t learn anything.”
He’s conducting an orchestra right now.
Yes, this is the same guy nicknamed “Mr. Hot Mess” and “Bo Picks” by Auburn fans before he jumped in the transfer portal and fled the SEC. He was recovering from a broken ankle back then and, likely, a busted spirit. Since then, he got married — twice.
First, to former Auburn cheerleader, Izzy Smoke. Then, to UO offensive coordinator, Kenny Dillingham. Izzy and Bo like to play something called “Spikeball” for fun. It’s a blend of volleyball and foursquare. Dilly and Bo? They enjoy spiking opposing defenses for an average of 42 points a game.
“I really trust Bo,” Dillingham told me on Saturday, via telephone after the win. “If he doesn’t like something, he changes the play. Most of the time, I like what he does. But even when I don’t, I’m OK with it. I’m giving that freedom.”
Cal’s Justin Wilcox, a defensive-minded coach who routinely gives UO fits, didn’t have an answer on Saturday.
Oregon had better players.
It had a great plan.
Most of all, it had Nix, who is on a mission.
He was very good passing, particularly, on the check downs. He fed Oregon’s running backs 10 passes for 186 yards and two TDs on Saturday. But when Nix tucked the ball under his arm and started hunting for the end zone as a runner, he was especially problematic for Cal.
Dillingham also told me on Saturday: “I know it sounds boring. But he knows, if the shot’s there — throw it. If it’s not there — check down. He’s doing that so well right now. He’s taking what the defense is giving him.”
Third option? Run it. Often, by design. Nix carried 12 times for 59 yards and three scores on Saturday. When he runs, Nix isn’t looking for a safe place to slide. He’s hunting for a seam in the defense. I couldn’t help but watch him and think that he’s Oregon’s most dangerous dual-threat quarterback since Marcus Mariota.
You know — “Mr. Heisman Trophy” himself.
Nix isn’t perfect. He did throw two interceptions on Saturday. The critics who didn’t bother to watch him play may bring this up. If they do, inform them that one of them was a ‘Hail Mary’ before halftime. The second interception bounced off a UO receiver’s chest, deflecting to a Cal defender.
Oregon’s quarterback told me several weeks ago that when a play comes in from the sideline he feels completely in charge. Nix and Dillingham go over the game plan — every situation and formation — in the run-up to kickoff.
Said Nix: “Coach tells me, when we call this play, ‘This is what we’re thinking,’ and ‘This is what we’re going to get.” Sure enough, as soon as we call the play, that’s what I’m thinking in my head.”
I don’t know where this Oregon football season is headed. The Ducks are 7-1. They still need to overcome the nightmare memory of that 49-3 loss to Georgia in Week 1. But something struck me on Saturday while Nix was running (and passing) circles around Cal’s defense — he’s a bonafide comeback story.
Oregon’s season started with that ugly loss in Atlanta. Some of the pundits have declared it so horrific they can’t unsee it. I wonder if Nix is going to give them a choice. Is it possible Oregon is putting together a ‘rags to riches’ football season? One engineered by “Mr. Rags to Riches” himself?
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