Some people think that the Oregon Ducks will come back to reality, there will be a regression to the mean. They're probably right, it just won't happen this year. The Ducks are ranked No. 3 in Espn preseason polling for a reason. They return one of the best offenses in the nation who will pick right up where it left off. They also have a defense that can hold its own against any team in the country.
Another season, another dominant offense for this team. The Ducks placed a high emphasis on speed under Chip Kelly and that should continue under the new leadership of former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. They return quarterback Marcus Mariota who threw for 2,677 yards and 32 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions while completing 68.5% of his passes. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a guy whose team is known more for their dynamic running attack. The unit also has wide receiver / running back De'Anthony Thomas back all of his 4,000 all purpose yards. He may not be the biggest guy on the field, (5-9) but he averaged a touchdown every 8.8 touches last season. When he gets the ball in space he knows how to make things happen. What makes the run game so deadly is not only the natural talent of Mariota and Thomas but also the difficult decisions it places on the defense. When they run a zone-read option it presents Mariota with many options. The first is handing the ball off inside. This would likely be to Byron Marshall and highly touted recruit Thomas Tyner. His second option is to keep it for himself and start to head towards the edge. This immediately places a lot of pressure on the opposing defenses OLB. His third option once he gets to the edge is dumping it off to the aforementioned Thomas. His decision is solely based on where the defense commits. The open man gets the ball, a true pick your poison for the defense.
The Ducks ranked 25th in the nation last year in scoring defense, championships have been won with less. Dion Jordan was a stud on the defensive line, but he went No.3 overall in the draft a couple months ago and won't be available. However, the team still has a lot of depth on the line with returning three-year starter Hart, veterans Washington and Havili-Heimuli and young players like Buckner and Armstead. Washington will likely be the guy they try to replace Jordan with, scheme wise. They also have a very impressive secondary. Returning starters Jackson, Patterson and Mitchell all have talent and experience. Ekpre-Olomu had an outstanding sophomore season with six forced fumbles and 16 pass breakups with 4 interceptions. Linebacker could be a little trouble for the team. The only have Lokombo returning while the other spots will be new players. But sometimes the new players really grow into the spot nad develop, so who knows, it could turn out to be positive.
Even though Kelly is gone it will be business as usual with the new head coach. He may go to the passing game a little more because of the ability of Mariota, but he'll always go back to the bread and butter. If the linebackers develop, they could be dominant defensively as well. Football Outsiders have predicted the Ducks will get 11 wins this season and there's no way anyone can doubt that is likely. Other prediction services have even said they believe Oregon has a decent chance of running the table. One thing is for sure, they have been to 4 straight BCS games and after this season it will be 5.