The Ducks fell short in the national championship game and now have to get ready for life without star quarterback, Marcus Mariota. Let's see what Oregon has to look forward to next season.
Before we look to the future, we must reflect on the past.
What an impact Marcus Mariota made for the Oregon Ducks. He started as a freshman in the 2012 season and quickly become one of the hottest names in all of college football, throwing for 32 touchdowns with only six interceptions while running for 752 yards and another five scores. Mariota had another spectacular season as a sophomore, posting a 31:4 TD:INT ratio and running for nine touchdowns (715 yards).
But, the Hawaiian sensation saved his best for last. As a junior, he threw for an amazing 4454 yards with 42 touchdowns and only four picks - he ran for 770 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns to put the rubber stamp on an utterly oustanding season. It was no surprise at all to see him run away with the Heisman.
More importantly, Mariota led Oregon to incredible team success. The Ducks went 12-1 in 2012, 11-2 the following season, and then 13-2 this year, before ultimately losing to Ohio State in the title game. Mariota himself was 24-of-37 for 333 yards with two touchdowns and one pick (while running 10 times for 39 yards), but it wasn't enough.
Now the Heisman winner will enter the NFL Draft, and he's widely expected to be the number one overall pick, with Tampa Bay likely salivating at the prospects of having him as their new franchise quarterback.
What Now for Oregon?
We're assuming, of course, that Mariota will skip his final year of eligbility and enter the draft. It seems like it's a matter of when and not if he'll make the announcement.
But it's not just Mariota that Oregon will be sorely missing next season. Their center, Hroniss Granu, won't be around either, and the same can be said for key defensive pieces like Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Troy Hill. Wide receiver Keanon Lowe is gone, as is offensive linemen Hamani Stevens and Jake Fisher.
Yet for the sake of those placing College Football Picks, understand that all hope isn't lost for the Ducks. They may not have much proven talent, but there's no denying they have some great young players who could easily take on larger roles and produce the goods. Oregon isn't going to enter the new season as a top contender for the national title, but it'd be foolish to think they'll just fade away into obscurity. The Ducks will be challenging in the Pac-12 once again.
The emergence of Royce Freeman should give Oregon fans a lot to be excited about. He really came into his own this past season, running for 1365 yards and 18 touchdowns. If Freeman can inflict that kind of damage as a freshman, who knows what he'll be able to do in his sophomore campaign. After all, we saw what a great running back can do when Ezekiel Elliott ran all over Oregon in the national championship game.
Most of the Ducks' top receivers are likely to return as well, so there will still be weapons. But who will be under center? That remains to be seen. It's sure to be a heated competition for the starting job, as there doesn't seem to be a clear-cut number one replacement waiting in the wings. Will it be a more experienced guy like Jeff Lockie? Or a prized recruit like Travis Waller? We'll have to wait and see.
NCAA Football Futures Odds
We cannot wait to see what kind of odds are out there for the taking in terms of the 2015/16 season. Some early betting markets we saw had Oregon at +1400 to win it all next year, which had them behind the likes of Ohio State, TCU, Alabama and Auburn.
That being said, there's a heck of a lot of time for the college football odds to continue to shift. The only thing we recommend is that people don't sleep on the Ducks, even with the loss of Mariota.