What’s at stake
Oregon: The Ducks can make a legitimate case as College Football Playoff contenders for the first time in four years with a win over the Tigers. The last time UO played a game with this much national significance was a 31-28 loss at fifth-ranked Michigan State on Sept. 12, 2015. Two weeks later, a home loss to Utah took the Ducks out of the national picture where they have remained through the end of Mark Helfrich’s tenure, Willie Taggart’s short stay, and Mario Cristobal’s first season. Now Cristobal has a shot at a signature win early in his tenure that could give the Ducks a quality win when the CFP committee begins its rankings. A loss would not end UO’s title hopes, but would likely force the Ducks to win out to have any shot at a playoff berth. If Oregon’s highly-touted offensive line can handle Auburn’s front seven, it should be confident that it can outperform any other group of defensive linemen on the schedule. Justin Herbert seems to be in the second- or third-tier of preseason Heisman Trophy candidates, but he could move near the top of the list with a big performance in a win over the Tigers.
Auburn: The joke (or is it) around Auburn these days is that fans can’t decide if they want Auburn to beat Oregon or not. Coach Gus Malzahn is heading into the second year of a seven-year deal averaging $7 million per season, but an 8-5 record last season including a 3-5 mark in the Southeastern Conference created rumors he might be gone at the end of the year. Auburn brought him back to mixed reviews from the fan base and thus the belief that some school supporters may not want Malzahn to get a quality win to open the season and boost his resume. Of course, if the Tigers defeat the Ducks, most fans will be back on board with Auburn likely to start 3-0 and move into the Top 10 before visiting Texas A&M next month. While a win over the Ducks would ease some of the pressure on Malzahn, a CFP berth would still seem like a longshot for Auburn, which has to play at Florida and LSU while hosting Georgia and Alabama late in the season. Bo Nix seems destined to go down as one of the top quarterbacks in Auburn history, but how the true freshman handles his debut could determine whether or not the Tigers get out with a win.