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Oregon Ducks Ranked No. 21 in Sports Illustrated Top 25

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“In a familiar refrain, the Ducks’ offense will again feature one of the best running backs in the nation in junior Royce Freeman, a darkhorse Heisman candidate.”

Oregon State v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Sports Illustrated has released its preseason top 25, and like a few other polls already out it has the Oregon Ducks ranked in the low 20s.

Specifically, the Ducks rank No. 21 in the SI poll, with the following comments:

In a familiar refrain, the Ducks’ offense will again feature one of the best running backs in the nation in junior Royce Freeman, a darkhorse Heisman candidate. Oregon also has a stable of speedy receivers—will Olympic hurdler Devon Allen, a huge piece of Oregon’s 2014 offense, come back for 2016 after a trip to Rio?—but it comes down to who is actually throwing them the ball. The FCS-to-Power Five route worked in 2015, and Oregon is hoping it can repeat that success with transfer Dakota Prukop.

The entire secondary returns, which can be looked at two ways: Good because experience is an asset, but bad because the Ducks were the Pac-12’s second-worst team at defending the pass in 2015. The addition of former Michigan head coach Hoke as defensive coordinator (2015 DC Don Pellum has gone back to coaching just linebackers) means the Ducks will switch to a 4–3 and, theoretically, get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.​

Oregon ranks No. 25 in CBS Sports’ latest poll, and No. 22 in the coaches poll.

Sports Illustrated joins in the Washington hype, ranking the Huskies No. 7. The other ranked Pac-12 schools are Stanford (No. 11), Washington State (18) and UCLA (23).