Over 11 wins: +110
Under 11 wins: -140
The biggest obstacle they’ll have to overcome is the loss of former head coach Chip Kelly. But how much of that will really affect our college football picks regarding them? After flip flopping with his decision process this past offseason Kelly finally accepted the head coaching job of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Ducks were a terrific 46-7 in Kelly’s 4 years as the head man in Eugene. The one thing that did elude Kelly was a BCS national championship. His 2010 squad did qualify for the 2010 BCS Title Game but fell short to a Cam Newton led Auburn team.
The new head coach will be Mark Helfrich. Helfrich is the former offensive coordinator of the Ducks the last 4 seasons under Chip Kelly. This will be Helfrich’s first head coaching job at the college level. It’s no secret that the Ducks have consistently been the most dynamic offense in college football over the last 4 season under the watchful eye of their new head coach.
Oregon returns 8 players on offense and that’s enough to keep a lot of defensive coordinators up all night when having to prepare the Ducks this upcoming season. Last season Oregon was #5 nationally in scoring offense at 49.6 points per game, #3 in rushing offense with 315.5 yards per game, and #5 in total offense accumulating 537.6 yards per contest. Oregon has produced a 1000-yard rusher 6 years in a row. The best bet to keep that streak alive is junior De’Anthony Thomas who’s patiently waited his turn to be the feature back in Eugene. Last season Thomas rushed for 701 yard, averaged 7.6 yards per carry, and ran for 11 touchdowns. In addition Thomas had 45 pass receptions for 445 yards, averaged 9.9 yards per catch, and was on the end of 5 touchdown passes. The Ducks return sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota comes off a magnificent freshmen campaign. In 13 starts a year ago he passed for 2677 yards, completed 69% of his passes for 32 touchdowns versus just 6 picks, and rushed for 752 yards as well. Mariota will have 11 returning wide receivers that saw game action a year ago. The offensive line will be one of the best in all of college football with 3 returning starters and experienced depth players ready to fill in the other 2 spots.
It’s easy for the Oregon defense to be overshadowed by their opposite number for obvious reasons. The Oregon defense quietly went about its business a season ago finishing #44 nationally in total defense and #25 in points per game allowed. The Ducks secondary might turn out to be the best in all of college football this upcoming season. That will certainly be a key element to their success considering some of the prolific passing attacks they will see in the PAC 12 this season. A year ago the Ducks were a college football best +21 in turnover differential.
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The Ducks non-conference schedule will be a breeze. Their only road game in that mix is the 2nd game of the season versus Virginia in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers will likely be improved from the 4-8 record of a year ago but will be no match for the Ducks. They open at home versus FCS Nicholls St. and the Tennessee Volunteers travel to Autzen Stadium as well. Tennessee will be a program in transition with new head coach Butch Jones who comes over from Cincinnati. The Volunteers have awhile yet before they can contend with an opponent the likes of Oregon especially on the road. Oregon will have 3 stern tests on the road versus conference opponents Washington, Stanford, and Arizona. Even with that they should be a touchdown or more favorite in 2 of those 3 with the exception being the game in Palo Alto versus Stanford. It’s almost a given in recent years to pencil in wins for the Ducks in games being played in Eugene. However, they have lost a home game in each of the last 2 seasons. Oregon also gets a huge scheduling break by not having to face conference opponents USC or Arizona St. during the regular season.
Oregon will be one of 2 teams in the country heading into the season with a regular season win total this high. The other team in that category is Alabama who’s won the last 2, and 3 of the last 4 national championships. I wouldn’t bet against Alabama not running the table. I would in the case of Oregon. My personal opinion is the Ducks will be hard pressed to go 12-0 or 11-1 with a first time head coach at the collegiate level in spite of all the talent at his disposal. I have the PAC 12 as the 2nd strongest conference in the country in 2013 trailing only the SEC. I have a lean to play under 11.0 wins with the Oregon Ducks.