College Football Picks: Improved Defense Will Boost Oregon In Winning At Least 9 Games

Oregon Ducks

Friday, July 15, 2016 9:33 PM GMT

After seven consecutive double-digit win seasons, Oregon finished 9-4 last season, but three of their  four losses were by a touchdown or less. Are the Ducks a value college football pick for season win totals? 

With the new college football season just around the corner, Oregon has a lot of work to do in order to fight for the Pac-12 North title with Stanford and Washington.

The team expects FCS graduate transfer Dakota Prukop to be the answer at quarterback, while their defense should improve under new coordinator Brady Hoke. The Ducks have plenty of talent and they will play Stanford and Washington in Autzen Stadium this year, which can help them reach double-digit wins. Still, the development of Prukop and their defense are the keys to their success. Here's a more in-depth preview of Oregon.

Offense
This will be the second straight season in which Oregon will rely on an FCS graduate transfer under center. Montana State All-American Dakota Prukop might not be same kind of playmaker through the air as last year's quarterback Vernon Adams, but Prukop rushed for 1,763 yards and 24 touchdowns at the FCS level.

Running back Royce Freeman returns and he deserves to be mentioned along premier players at his position like Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook. I can see Freeman surpassing 5,000 rushing yards for his career this season.

Wide receiver Bralon Addison was drafted to the NFL, but junior Charles Nelson is very dynamic and he can step up and play offense full-time after starting at safety late last year. The receiving corps also have Darren Carrington as a potential playmaker and tight end Pharaoh Brown should play at a high level after recovering from a devastating knee injury that he suffered in 2014.

Senior guard Cameron Hunt and junior tackle Tyrell Crosby will lead the offensive line and Oregon also signed graduate transfer Zac Morgan of Dayton to fight for a spot at right tackle. Redshirt freshman center Jake Hanson could shine as well.

Defense
New defensive coordinator Brady Hoke will have the Ducks playing an aggressive 4-3, one-gap package. Look for senior defensive end T.J. Daniel to lead the defense and help his teammates understand how everyone has to play. Oregon will rely on junior Henry Mondeaux and his relentless energy to help at tackle or end. Former defensive coordinator Don Pellum will return to his previous role as linebackers coach. That unit slipped a bit in his two years as defensive coordinator but he can get them back on track.

All the secondary returns. They allowed more than 300 passing yards per game last season but cornerback Arrion Springs and safety Tyree Robinson have a lot to prove and sophomore Fotu Leiato should thrive as a strong safety in Hoke's new scheme.

Betting Analysis
Last season the Ducks missed star quarterback Marcus Mariota more than they imagined and they still won 9 games. Oregon needs Prukop's transition to be as seamless as Vernon Adams' was and for Brady Hoke to solidify a defense that was among the worst in the nation in 2015.

Online sportsbooks like Bovada set Oregon's season win total at 8.5. It didn't surprise me that

Oregon took a step back last season. A quarterback like Mariota isn't easy to replace, and it was evident last season, although the Ducks still managed to go 7-2 in conference play.

Oregon's non-conference schedule includes what should be a winnable game against UC Davis, as well as a home game against Virginia and a visit to Nebraska, so a 3-0 start is possible, but 2-1 is the most likely outcome. Once Oregon reaches conference play they will host both Washington and Stanford. The Ducks will also have tough road games against Washington State, USC and Utah. Their season win total of 8.5 seems right but I will give Oregon the benefit of the doubt at +105 college football odds and bet on them to win at least 9 games with my college football picks.

College Football Pick: Over 8.5 wins +105
Best Line Offered: at Bovada