As spring practice approaches, the Ducks should
be focusing on improvement.
Instead, they find themselves under potential NCAA scrutiny
for the use of a recruiting service. The Ducks are currently a 12-1 play at
bodog to win the 2011-2012 BCS Championship. This preview will assume that Oregon will not be under
NCAA sanctions next season and that LaMichael James (one of the players at the
center of the controversy) will remain eligible. The fact that college football bettors have to
consider these factors probably weaken the Ducks as a futures play for many. Of
course, it could pay off for the brave few …
Last season, the Oregon Ducks possessed one of the most dynamic
offenses in college football, averaging 47 ppg. The team will, however, have a
few holes to fill in 2011.
Two areas in which the Ducks are set, though, are at
quarterback and running back, where Darron Thomas and LaMichael James will form
one of the top duos in the nation. Barring injury or sanction, these players
will keep the Quack Attack rolling on through the air and on the ground.
will have to shuffle at wide receiver due to the graduation of Jeff Maehl and
D.J. Davis. Look for Lavasier Tuinei and Josh Huff to step up and take more of
a role in the passing game. True freshmen Devon Blackmon and Tacoi Sumler could
also see significant action. I do not expect much of a drop-off in this area as
the Ducks have athletes who fit their system perfectly.
The Ducks will also have to replace three offensive linemen.
This is a point of concern, specifically after Auburn’s domination at the line of scrimmage
in the BCS Championship Game. According to team
reports, the Ducks did a lot of in-game substituting last season, meaning
the backups are at least experienced. Andre Yruretagoyena is a top-10 tackle
who will be joining Oregon’s
line and could see some playing time.
Even with five new starters, this should continue to be an
explosive offense. Chip Kelly’s key players return, and the system should allow
any newcomers to thrive.
The front seven is a huge concern for Oregon, as they lose five seniors from their
underrated unit. Three defensive linemen and two linebackers will be new to the
starting lineup. Once again, the Ducks regularly substituted on the line, but
one has to think that opposing quarterbacks will have a bit more time in the
pocket and running backs will have bigger gaps when facing this rebuilding
will look to returning seniors Terrell Turner and Josh Kaddu for leadership.
The secondary is a point of strength, returning several
experienced upperclassmen as starters. Cliff Harris was a shut-down corner for
the Ducks last season, picking off six passes and returning one for a
touchdown. If teams attempt to get into shoot-outs with the Ducks, this unit
will make it difficult.
While most powers will open against schools with names such
as Weeble State, Oregon
travels to Arlington, Texas, to take on the LSU Tigers. This will
be a critical game. If Oregon
loses an opener to a SEC team, they will have a very difficult time convincing
pollsters they belong in the BCS Title picture (against, if history is any
indication, another SEC team). The young offensive line and defensive front
seven look to be a major issue in this one.
The remainder of the slate is tough, with games at Arizona, Washington,
and Stanford. The home schedule includes a matchup with very experienced Arizona State
(upset alert) and Southern Cal.
Also, keep in mind that teams have had a full year to study
what Auburn and Cal did last season to slow this offense
At first glance, 12-1 is enough to make your mouth water,
thinking back to the fun-and-gun of 2010-11. Realize, however, that you’re
wagering on an extremely inexperienced defense up front, a revamped o-line, and
a team under the scrutiny of the NCAA. I think they leave Arlington with a 0-1 record, and that could
take them out of the hunt. If you think they get by LSU, ask yourself whether
they can go undefeated in the Pac 12 again (with two matchups likely against Arizona State, if the Ducks get past Stanford in
the North). At that point, another SEC team or Oklahoma would be waiting in the wings in
the BCS Title Game.
The Ducks have the look of a 10-2 or 9-3 team to me. Either
way, there will be no return to the BCS Championship Game.
Thanks to yahoo.com,
espn.com, rivals.com, and goducks.com for information used in this preview.