With college football fast approaching, the SBNation Pac-10 bloggers put together their collective heads and previewed the upcoming conference season. Included in the preview is a prediction of the Pac-10 finish, a look at the Pac-10 Heisman candidates, and an in-depth look at each team. The full preview is available at CougCenter.
After the jump are our thoughts on the Ducks, who were predicted to finish 3rd in the conference.
Overview: Oregon is beginning a new era this season, but it really doesn’t seem like much has changed. New coach Chip Kelly will continue his offensive explosion that has averaged 475 ypg and 40ppg over the past 2 years. Duck fans expect great things, as Oregon is loaded with talent at the skill positions, and the inexperienced offensive line will be coached by the top offensive line coach in the country, Steve Greatwood.
On the other side of the ball, the Ducks will rely on speed. Oregon has an experienced and talented group of linebackers, and the team is led in the secondary by All Pac-10 CB Walter Thurmond and hard hitting safety TJ Ward (Google "TJ Ward hits Zac Robinson;" you’ll be glad you did). Though Oregon’s defense has been a weak line in the past, it has the talent to improve from last season, when the Ducks’ D spent more time on the field than any team in the nation.
Key to Success: The passing defense. Oregon fans are always up in arms about the secondary, which they constantly feel is underachieving. Last year, the unit was supposed to be the best in the nation, but then gave up a combined 829 yards to BSU and USC.
This year, the unit must improve, which will be a very difficult task as Oregon lost two starters in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. The secondary is talented with a finally fully healthy Thurmond, who should be one of the top cornerbacks in the nation. But Oregon will need young players to step up at the opposite corner position, as well as at rover.
Potential Achilles Heel: Any follower of the Pac-10 knows that injuries have spelled disaster for the Ducks time and again in recent years, most notably when Dennis Dixon’s knee gave out on a terrible night in Tucson. This season is no exception, with only one experienced QB on the roster. QB Jeremiah Masoli is backed up by Nate Costa and Darron Thomas but Costa has injured his ACL three times and Thomas is an inconsistent true sophomore.
Health will also be vital at receiver and on the offensive line. The WR position has seen multiple injuries through the first week of fall camp, and the offensive line is still healing from spring ball. As the offensive line returns only 20 total starts, health will be vital in ensuring this unit can come together and help Oregon compete with the upper echelon of the Pac-10.
Best Case Scenario: Go undefeated and win the bowl game against anyone not named Florida. All the games on Oregon’s schedule are definitely winnable. Oregon has the talent to realistically stick with almost any team in the country, and has a very favorable schedule.
Worst Case Scenario: Oregon’s offensive line never comes together and neither does their defensive line or secondary. This means that Oregon can’t beat either USC or Cal at home, and drops a few games to teams like Arizona, UCLA, and Stanford. Oregon goes 6-7 after losing in Chip Kelly’s bowl debut.
Likely Scenario: Oregon goes 9-3, losing to USC, splitting Cal and BSU, and dropping another along the way. Oregon has a lot of talent, yet a lot of inexperience in a few key positions, which could mean inconsistency. But Oregon wins its bowl game, setting the stage for a big 2010.