Welcome to our series “10 for 10,” which will help us countdown to kick off. The Ducks are just two days away from opening day vs Southern Utah at Autzen Stadium. For the next 10 days, we will be posting our projections for the upcoming season.
Let’s get started, here is the No. 2 projection of the 2017 season:
#2 - THE COMPLETE GAME-BY-GAME PROJECTIONS FOR 2017 OREGON FOOTBALL
The Willie Taggart era is set to get underway from Autzen on Saturday. The time has finally arrived for us to predict the complete 2017 game-by-game results for the Oregon Ducks. Let’s break down the schedule:
Southern Utah (W, 1-0)
The Ducks shouldn’t have much of a problem with the Thunderbirds, but we all remember how bad the defense looked last season on opening day. Playing a team like Southern Utah is simply a tune-up contest in preparation for the Huskers. None of the first team players should stay on the field beyond the first half. However, Justin Herbert and the offense will be out there long enough to make some big plays. Look for Charles Nelson and Johnny Johnson III to get started early, while Royce Freeman should have a light workload. Kani Benoit will rush for over 100 yards. Final Score: Oregon 63, Southern Utah 10
Nebraska (W, 2-0)
The rematch from last year is set to continue at Autzen Stadium in 2017. The Huskers may not be as good, but the program from Lincoln is always fundamentally solid. It will be another barnburner, as Herbert and the Ducks will escape late in front of the home crowd. Freeman left last years contest with an injury and did not return. He will make up for lost time in this one with 163 rushing yards on 19 carries in the victory. Leave it to kicker Aidan Schneider to blast us home victorious. Final Score: Oregon 37, Nebraska 34
@Wyoming (L, 2-1)
I’ve seen a lot of outlets, especially around Eugene, that are predicting this as a win for the Ducks. Clearly, they have not watched Josh Allen yet. Most scouts have him as the No. 1 quarterback in the 2018 NFL draft class. He had 36 overall TDs and 3,700-plus yards from scrimmage in 2017. This game frightens me more than most Pac-12 contests this year. Wyoming is talented and underrated no matter the popularity of their gunslinger. Being the first road test for the Ducks, it will be tough to overcome an early deficit. This will be a struggle early in the season. Final Score: Wyoming 27, Oregon 24
@Arizona State (W, 3-1)
We have seen our share of shootouts between these two programs. However, this year's matchup will stay rather subdued thanks in large part to Oregon’s defense finding their rhythm. Herbert will explode for four scores in the Pac-12 opener, including a rushing touchdown. Brenden Schooler will make a big impression in the middle of the field and Thomas Graham Jr. will record an interception in the win. Final Score: Oregon 45, Arizona State 23
California (W, 4-1)
This will be the toughest game at home for the Ducks this season. Oregon owes the Golden Bears a taste of their own medicine following the 52-49 double overtime loss in Berkeley last year. Davis Webb is now in the NFL with the New York Giants, so look for an awakened effort by the Ducks. Freeman could be breaking LaMichael James’ all-time Oregon rushing record around this time. Watch for Justin Hollins, who will record three sacks in the victory. Final Score: Oregon 42, Cal 41
Washington State (W, 5-1)
The Ducks enter the AP Top 15. Some media members have a strong feeling about WSU this season and it’s completely understandable after their stellar 2016 campaign. Nevertheless, on the road in Eugene, they should struggle. Last year, WSU never seemed to slow down against the Ducks. This year, I believe a locker room filled with players from the 2016 team want another crack against the Cougars. This is going to be a Charles Nelson game. The receiver will catch eight passes for 137 yards and two scores. Jacob Breeland will secure two TDs in the huge win. Final Score: Oregon 48, Washington State 38
@Stanford (L, 5-2)
This is going to be one of those games that you feel like Oregon actually won, regardless of the score at the end. The Ducks will control the game and dictate tempo throughout. After leading for three quarters, the Cardinal will make a desperate comeback that is highlighted by a heartbreaking game-winning final drive of the day. Freeman will be bottled up after rushing for 99 first-half yards. Deommodore Lenoir will make his presence felt against the Stanford receivers. Final Score: Stanford 28, Oregon 27
@UCLA (L, 5-3)
It will be Oregon’s first and ONLY losing streak of the 2017 campaign. However, you can’t ask for much more from head coach Willie Taggart as he runs through a Pac-12 gauntlet on the road. Josh “School Ain’t Cool” Rosen will lead the Bruins in a massive NFL showcasing with three passing TDs and one rushing score. UCLA has a good team that could surprise some teams, especially USC. In a return to his home state, Troy Dye will lead the Duck defense with a season-high 14 tackles. Freeman will rush for 121 yards and 2 TDs on the ground, while Tony Brooks-James will record two receiving tallies from Herbert. Final Score: UCLA 45, Oregon 28
Utah (W, 6-3)
Aside from Cal, this should be THE MOST difficult test at Autzen in 2017. The Ducks made up for their embarrassing 62-20 home loss in 2015 vs the Utes with an upset victory in Salt Lake City last fall. Yet, that only means Utah will enter the state of Oregon more focused than last year. With the Utes, their defense always causes issues for opposing offenses. Nevertheless, it will be Oregon’s defense that is the highlight of this Pac-12 showdown. After leading his team to victory in 2016, Herbert will once again help guide the team past the Utes. Dillon Mitchell will return a punt for a score and he will catch seven passes for 89 yards to lead the assault. Final Score: Oregon 35, Utah 17
@Washington (W, 7-3)
This is the game every Duck fan is patiently waiting for on November 4, 2017. Following the most-destructive...You know what? No, we don’t need to talk about that game last year anymore. Everyone knows what happened. However, it reminds me of that Utah dismantling at Autzen in 2015. We saw the way UO responded last year in SLC. The focus will never be stronger for any game during Taggart’s rookie campaign. As the team rallies together, Herbert will lead the charge with 289 passing yards and four TDs. However, Jake Browning will keep it relatively close from Seattle. Charles Nelson will inhale 13 grabs for 138 yards and 3 TDs vs Washington’s defense. Schooler will secure a go-ahead touchdown in this contest. Final Score: Oregon 41, Washington 34
Arizona (W, 8-3)
Following an emotional win vs the Fuskies, Oregon will manhandle the Wildcats and head coach Rich Rodriguez two weeks later. If this game occurred one week after the emotional win in the Emerald City, then I could see any team struggling to focus. Following a much-needed off week, the Ducks will return to action in the middle of November with a standout effort. Jim Leavitt’s defense will erupt, forcing six turnovers including two defensive scores. This will be a great opportunity to play the second and third team players with regularity. Freshman Jordon Scott disrupts the Arizona offense with three sacks, four pressures, and one pass deflection. Final Score: Oregon 56, Arizona 3
Oregon State (W, 9-3)
With this victory in the Civil War, Oregon will secure their undefeated record (7-0) at Autzen Stadium in 2017. What better way to celebrate 50 amazing years of Autzen than going unbeaten at home? Following a 10-point loss in Corvallis to conclude the dreadful 2016 season, the Ducks will be more than fired up to return the favor. Look for Braxton Burmeister to play a majority of the second half after Herbert unleashes five TD passes through three quarters to conclude the 2017 college football regular season. Daewood Davis will catch two scores from his sophomore quarterback. Overall, the Ducks will amass over 583 yards of total offense before heading to a bowl game. The best part is Oregon will hand OSU the keys to their winless season (0-12) with a dominant performance in Eugene. Final Score: Oregon 47, Oregon State 6
Bowl Game (L, 9-4)
Even though the Ducks conclude the season one win shy of double digits, it will be nothing short of incredible. Amid Taggart’s first season as Oregon’s head coach, he will completely overhaul the program from four wins in 2016 to nine in 2017. Coach T will be named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, alongside getting the Ducks back to a bowl game.
Is this overly optimistic? Most likely. Obviously, I can’t hide my excitement about the new head coach. Being around Taggart, he just makes you feel that way. Of course, I’m not expecting anything beyond this “aggressive” projection. I understand it’s the first year of a new regime with a majority of players from a 4-win team. However, I can’t deny what I’ve been witnessing since Taggart took over.
The enthusiasm is back in the program, at least from the coaches and players perspective. The talent is there too, but it was mismanaged by the last regime. Clearly, reinforcements are on their way in 2018 but this team is not as bad as people think. They certainly are NOT an 8-loss team. No matter if the Ducks realistically win 7-9 games this year or not, one thing is certain; the program is back on the right path. You will be impressed by the juice these players bring to the proverbial table.
This is just the beginning. Five years from now, a 4-loss season will be unacceptable for Taggart. Right now, it’s all about the Ducks giving themselves the best opportunity to win by limiting mistakes and communicating. We are just two days away from seeing what 2017 has in store for us.
The conclusion of 10 for 10 will be published on Friday, right here at ATQ!