Forget Caleb Williams and Mario Williams.

Forget Gabriel and Grayson Murphy.

The best transfer duo in the Pac-12 revealed itself on Saturday at Autzen Stadium as The Kenny and Bo Show took over for the No. 10 Oregon Ducks in a 45-30 win over visiting No. 9 UCLA that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicates. What former Auburn offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham and his former Tigers protegé Bo Nix did to the Bruins on Saturday should strike fear into the hearts of Pac-12 fans for years to come, even if this is Nix’s one and only season in Eugene and might end up being Dillingham’s, too.

If I’m an athletic coordinator with an open position right now, I don’t know if I’m looking much further than Dillingham, who, despite being just 32 years old, looked like the best offensive mind in college football on Saturday afternoon. On second thought, maybe it’s just that youthful exuberance that caused Dillingham to throw caution to the wind, going for four fourth downs, including two deep in Oregon’s territory, while converting all four.

Maybe it’s the same edge that caused Dan Lanning, the Ducks’ head coach and a spring chicken himself at just 36 — the youngest in Power 5 — to let his kicker, Andrew Boyle, attempt an onside kick in the middle of the second quarter with the Ducks already leading.

Ultimately, the combination of Dillingham’s baby-face bravado and Nix’s seasoned and steeled nerves lifted Oregon above the Bruins and into first place in the Pac-12 standings, the lone team left undefeated in conference play.

“That’s a really good football team that we just went against, but the standard doesn’t change based on the team you play,” Lanning told reporters after the game. “Our offense has been operating at a really high level and I think that’s credit to our offensive coaches and credit to our players for the work they put in during the week.”

And in Dillingham and Nix’s case, the work they put in together in 2019.


We already saw what could happen when Dillingham and Nix danced together.

In fact, the Ducks saw it firsthand.

In Nix’s first collegiate start as a true freshman in 2019 — when he became the first true freshman to start a season-opener for Auburn in 73 years — the Tigers took on Oregon at Arlington Stadium and put on a performance to remember. Nix completed just 13-of-31 passes that day for 177 yards and two scores, including the game-winning 26-yard scoring pass to Seth Williams with nine seconds left to lift the Tigers to the win. Nix went on to lead Auburn to a 9-4 record as a freshman, making believers out of Tigers fans who saw the second coming of Cam Newton. A Heisman Trophy wasn’t out of the question. A national championship was a foregone conclusion. Maybe even, one day, a Super Bowl.

That season, with Dillingham at the helm of the offense for the first time — and only time — Nix showed the promise of a future All-SEC quarterback, completing 217-of-377 passes for 2,542 yards and 16 touchdowns with six interceptions while adding 313 rushing yards and seven scores. It was a meteoric rise for Nix, who beat out redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood for the starting job.

Nix’s quick rise mirrored Dillingham, who went from Memphis graduate assistant to quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator in the span of three seasons before getting the OC job with the Tigers. He was only 29 when he joined Auburn and only 30 when he left for Florida State a year later, joining the Seminoles in the same capacity. It was a seminal moment for Dillingham, who was then plucked by Lanning to join him in Eugene this season.

While Dillingham was off coaching Florida State to only mediocre results in his two seasons, Nix floundered at Auburn.

His passer rating dipped as a sophomore as he managed just 12 touchdowns against seven picks as Auburn finished a pedestrian 6-5. Last year, he improved marginally, completing 197-of-323 passes for 2,294 yards and 11 touchdowns with three picks. The interception numbers were impressive, but the low-scoring totals were indicative of a quarterback who didn’t take many chances.

By the time Nix arrived in Eugene this season, many people had already written him off.

Now he’s rewriting Oregon’s record books, and it begs some questions:

Is there a bigger what-if in the last half-decade of SEC football than Dillingham and Nix? What if Dillingham had been there for Nix’s Year 1-to-Year 2 development at Auburn? What if he saw it through the whole time? What if Nix did not end up with three offensive coordinators in three seasons with the Tigers? What if the light bulb went off for Nix last year?

Well, then, he wouldn’t have landed at Oregon, where he is flourishing with Lanning at the helm and Dillingham calling plays.

“Obviously he’s a guy that I’ve been able to watch in this profession for a long time,” Lanning said of Dillingham after the game. “It wasn’t that long ago that Kenny Dillingham was a coach at Chaparral High School sitting in the corner of staff meetings every single day not saying a word. He’s grown so much as a coach and developed over time, and obviously he’s doing a great job of leading or team. I also think he’d be the first one to give credit to our quarterback who’s playing at a really high level and players around him that are doing a really good job. Excited to see him have the success he’s had.”


Had Nix thrived last season and returned as one of the SEC’s best starting quarterbacks, this story would be very different. Instead, he wasted away at Auburn and followed Dillingham to Eugene.

Dillingham’s work with Nix has been evident, and Nix’s maturation was never more clear than on Saturday against the Bruins, when he didn’t just put up video-game numbers, but did so in a way that has to impress NFL scouts.

Nix dropped dimes: His 49-yard touchdown toss to Troy Franklin — one of two on the day for Franklin, who finished with eight receptions for 132 yards and the scores — was one of the best throws of the season. It stood as the play of the game for all of one play, when Ducks Andrew Boyle saw an opportunity and attempted an onside kick that he recovered himself. Seven plays later, Oregon scored again to go up 24-10 against a stunned Bruins defense.

Nix displayed perfect touch: His on-the-run throws were deadly accurate, his screen passes gave receivers room to move and his pocket passes were sharp and to the point.

He ran the ball with wisdom and aggressiveness: Against the No. 2 rushing defense in the conference, Nix ran eight times for 51 yards and constantly escaped trouble. Once again, Oregon allowed zero sacks, keeping them at just one allowed for the season.

“I don’t think anyone can sit here and watch football right now and watch our quarterback play and not tell me he’s an elite quarterback,” Lanning said. “This guy’s playing at an extremely high level and he makes great decisions for our team. He’s an elite competitor, an elite leader, he has phenomenal character, he’s throwing the ball really well and making great decisions. He’s humble and I think everybody on our team is excited about his success.”

All told, Nix finished 22-of-28 passing for 283 yards and five touchdowns with zero interceptions as Oregon piled up 545 yards of total offense — including 262 on the ground against a UCLA defense that had been allowing 99 — and the Ducks scored on all but one of their drives.

As blowouts go, this was a big one, spurred on by Oregon’s two most important transfers.