As these things tend to do, it’ll come down to quarterback play.  That’s how former Oregon offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz views the Ducks in 2022.

Under first-year head coach Dan Lanning, Oregon appears to be loaded with talent. Lanning’s task is fitting all that talent together and getting the Ducks to play complementary football. In the team’s spring game, there was a clear mandate to push the ball downfield through the air, something the Ducks weren’t consistently good at last season. If that piece of the game can come together for Lanning and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, the other pieces of the team make sense.

Oregon has a veteran offensive line group with quite a bit of continuity. It has potential defensive stars—and one certified superstar in Noah Sewell—and a pair of defensive-minded coaches in Lanning and DC Tosh Lupoi who have proven throughout their careers more than capable of maximizing defensive talent.

The Ducks open the season in Atlanta, Georgia, against the national title-winning Bulldogs. Lanning just watched five defenders he helped coach to a title last year as the Georgia DC become first-round picks—the first team to ever have five defensive players taken in a first round—but knows there won’t be much of a talent drain from the defense he helped construct.

Oregon will need whoever wins the quarterback competition to be sharp if it is to have a chance in that season-opening showdown.

Schwartz, joining the Saturday Down South Podcast this week, said he thinks quarterback play will be the most important piece for the Ducks.

“If Bo Nix doesn’t lose the game — put it like that — Oregon could be a Playoff team. Could,” Schwartz said. “They could be the best team in the Pac-12. They beat Utah if they have a decent quarterback.”

Utah won the Pac-12 last season by beating Oregon twice in the span of three games. The Ducks will certainly be looking to make amends. In some ways, the early-season test against Georgia will help Lanning. It will do nothing to impact Oregon’s ability to win the North division or the Pac-12 conference, but it should reveal exactly what kind of team he has.

“They’ll lose to Georgia Week 1. I don’t imagine they’ll beat Georgia,” Schwartz said. “That obviously hurts them. So, 11-2 if Bo Nix is good. But they’re probably a nine-win team, though. I’m not banking on that being a thing that Oregon is. They’re 9-4. That’s my take on what Oregon will be this year. But next year, 10 or 11 wins should happen. I’m not one of these guys that thinks the only successful season is a Playoff berth. Dan Lanning’s first year at 9-4 would be great. It would be awesome. Year 2? Yeah, I want 11 wins.

“The Bo Nix thing terrifies me,” Schwartz continued. “He looked really good (in the spring game) and then he had (one) of those terrible interceptions. You can’t have those. That’s what kills your team.”

Nix, the Auburn transfer with three years starting experience, looked strong and in-command and how you generally expect a starter to look during the Ducks’ spring game on April 23. However, of the three quarterbacks who saw the field, he had the worst interception of the day, forcing a ball into a swarm of Oregon defenders and missing his wideout.

That’s the Nix Oregon is hoping not to see. In three years as a starter for the Tigers, Nix was up and down. He had moments of brilliance interlaced with pockets of bewilderment. In three seasons, he had 44 turnover-worthy plays, as tracked by PFF. That was by far the most among SEC quarterbacks since 2019 and one more than what Anthony Brown had in his first three seasons as a starter.

Nix showed growth last season before an ankle injury forced him to the sideline. At Oregon, reuniting with Dillingham—his offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2019—the hope is Nix can be what Oregon needs.

It would seem Schwartz feels like they have the pieces around him.

You can hear his full interview below: