The Oregon Ducks football program, in recent years, has been the figurehead of college football in the northwest and Pac-12. With their high-powered offense and underrated defense, the Ducks have surged to the top of college football while appearing in four straight BCS Bowl games, with their last resulting in a Fiesta Bowl victory over the Kansas State Wildcats.
Though they are an even 2-2 in those games, Oregon has maintained a position among the college football elite year-in and year-out, a position similarly held by the Alabama Crimson Tide.
There’s no doubting the fact that the Ducks are one of the “it” programs and the program to beat in the Pac-12.
Coming off a season that saw their only blemish come in the form of an overtime loss to Stanford at home, many expect Oregon to reload and challenge for yet another conference championship and BCS appearance. Though there is change at the top of the program with Chip Kelly’s departure and Mark Helfrich’s promotion to head coach, the Ducks are primed for a great run in 2013.
Returning stars such as Marcus Mariota, Josh Huff, Colt Lyerla, De’Anthony Thomas, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, and Terrance Mitchell give the Ducks valuable, veteran presences to compliment the young studs getting set to breakout this year. The combination of these players, a stocked Oregon offense, stout defense, and great coaching staff could very well pave the way for a top finish once again.
But some would argue that the Ducks aren’t just looking to be one of the top teams in 2013, they are looking to be the best team. And in an era when perfection defines champions, Oregon will likely have to go undefeated if they wish to reach the BCS National Championship and win their first national title in program history. While many would consider that quite the lofty goal for their college football program, it is quite the realistic expectation at the University of Oregon nowadays. Fresh off a 12-1 season, here are some reasons why the Ducks could finish their next football season with a perfect record.
A Favorable Schedule
The Ducks will, admittedly, not have the most eye-popping games on their schedule this year. After a tune-up game against Nicholls State to start the season, Oregon will head to Virginia before taking on Tennessee at home.
While both the Cavaliers and Volunteers are programs that are building towards something, they really aren’t on the Ducks’ level. Oregon should start their season at 3-0 while cruising into conference play, where they will face California at home before traveling to downtrodden Colorado and then Washington, where they will likely face their first true test of the season.
Like Tennessee, the Huskies are trying to get to the next level but really aren’t there. Oregon will face a tough Husky Stadium crowd if they want to come out of this one unscathed.
The only real tests aside from their Washington game come in back-to-back weeks, when they play host to UCLA before traveling to Stanford for what will likely decide the Pac-12 North. They manage to escape playing USC this year, though that’s not much to miss nowadays.
Mariota for Heisman
One of the reasons Oregon should be stacked in 2013 is because of Mariota. The do-it-all quarterback will be entering his second season as a starter while looking to build upon his numbers that were arguably on the same level as Manziel. With the Ducks’ offense shifting gears towards incorporating more passing into its scheme, look for Mariota to shine with his strong and accurate arm.
His ability to escape from the pocket and efficiently navigate opposing defenses will likely lead him to contend for the 2013 Heisman.
Oregon’s defense, as in recent years, remains underrated. Though there have been times when you want to yell at Nick Aliotti for what he calls, there seems to be a method to his madness that helps lead the Ducks to victory.
Whether it be the bend but don’t break style of defense Oregon operates or the big play ability from Ekpre-Olomu and Mitchell, there is something about this defense that just works.
The losses of Isaac Remington, Kiko Alonso, Dion Jordan, and Michael Clay hurt the Ducks significantly. However, though there are a few players who have yet to really prove themselves, Oregon has the talent on their roster to replace these guys and still keep up with their prior level of production. Look for Arik Armstead and Tony Washington to really emerge on the defensive line this season while leading another tenacious Ducks defense that can force a turnover on just about any play.
While an undefeated season is a lofty goal for any college football program, Oregon could realistically achieve this feat in 2013. That is not to say, however, that they have an easy path to do so. Games against the likes of Washington, UCLA, and Stanford could present problems to the Ducks while it is nearly impossible to predict the injuries the program could sustain during the season. With that said, Oregon looks to be one of the top teams in college football, and if they can really come out of the gates firing on all cylinders, they could be very well on their way to the best season in program history.