We are just 20 days away from Oregon’s first game against Southern Utah on Saturday, September 2 at Autzen Stadium. What better time for a Top 20 countdown to 2017?
As the best time of the year rapidly approaches, here are 20 projections for the season:
As I projected in Willie Taggart’s Starting 11 series for Justin Herbert, the sophomore quarterback will throw 32 touchdown passes this season. Of those, 20 TD’s will be thrown from the red zone. Herbert will have 12 scores of 20+ yards or more.
The Duck punt/kick returners of Charles Nelson, Brenden Schooler, and Dillon Mitchell will combine for 19 returns of 25 yards or more, including six for 40 yards or more.
The number of offensive receptions for freshman wide receiver Jaylon Redd. However, the athlete will see playing time on both sides of the field.
Oregon kicker Aidan Schneider will conclude the season with 17 straight field goals from 40 yards+ without missing. He will drill all five attempts for the year with under two minutes in the game.
After a 2016 campaign that saw Oregon intercept just nine passes, Jim Leavitt’s defense will find a way to secure 16 total interceptions. Three freshmen will pick off their first career passes this season.
Running back Royce Freeman will rush for 15 touchdowns inside the red zone. He will record two TD’s of 60 yards or more, however.
Leavitt’s energetic defense will force 14 fumbles in the regular season. They will stem from the pressure created by his aggressive front seven.
The total number of touchdowns between wide receivers Charles Nelson (8) and Brenden Schooler (5). Nine of them will occur in the first half of games.
In the final game of the regular season, 12 Oregon State Beaver students/fans will be ejected from Autzen Stadium for lewd behavior during the Civil War. Six will try and return, only to be arrested by Eugene’s finest.
The Ducks are blessed with backfield depth. Tony Brooks-James, Kani Benoit, and Darrian Felix will combine for 11 total touchdowns this season. This includes both rushing and receiving scores.
The Duck defense will have 10 more sacks than the 2016 team (25). Jordon Scott, Scott Pagano, Justin Hollins and Jalen Jelks should lead the charge, alongside Henry Mondeaux helping out.
Following a 4-8 season in 2016, head coach Willie Taggart will begin his Oregon career with nine wins overall. The Ducks will conclude their season at 9-4 after a bowl win.
Eight punts will be placed inside the 10-yard-line by kicker/punter Adam Stack (if he wins the job). Two will result in safeties by the defense.
The Ducks will win all seven home games this season, going undefeated at Autzen Stadium (7-0).
Washington will turn the ball over six times against an angry Duck defense on November 4 in Seattle. Oregon will win the turnover margin 6-1 vs the Huskies.
The Pac-12 Conference will award their Player of the Week to five separate Ducks this season. Justin Herbert, Royce Freeman, Charles Nelson, Troy Dye and Tony Brooks-James will grab the honors.
Oregon’s offense will score more than 50 points on four different occasions, including 63 points vs Southern Utah on opening day.
Three Oregon freshmen defenders will be honored by Pac-12 awards. Thomas Graham Jr., Jordon Scott and Deommodore Lenoir will shine in their true freshmen campaigns.
The Ducks will win on the final drive of a game on two occasions. Herbert will find Schooler for one of the winners, while the other will be registered by Freeman on the ground.
Willie Taggart will win one Pac-12 Coach of the Year award for his 5+ game turnaround of a program that won just four games in 2016. It’s also the number of bowl victories for the Ducks this season.
Part 7 of Willie Taggart’s Starting 11 series will continue on Monday.