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Kevin Cline

It’s here! The time of year we all yearn for!

An ongoing fiesta has engulfed Duck fans since Oregon’s victory over Kansas State last January. Fans across the country have been anxiously waiting to commence another journey towards destiny.  The highly anticipated college football season has finally arrived and though the road for the Ducks may look a bit different, the plan of attack is still the same: Win the Day.

Oregon looks poised for take off this Saturday when they will face Nicholls State, a team from the FBS Southland Conference that went 1-10 last season.  The 2012 season included an atrocious 77-3 loss to Oregon State in the final game of their campaign.  The Colonels should be better, returning nine defensive starters from last season, as well as eight on offense, but an upset is very unlikely.  In fact, it would be the greatest upset in college football history.

The Ducks have a few voids to fill as well, but the squad has a number of talented players returning on both sides of the ball, a big reason why they are third in the AP Poll preseason rankings, leading all Pac-12 teams.  For the first time ever, a total of five teams from the Pac-12 are included in the preseason rankings: No. 4 Stanford, No. 19 UCLA, No. 24 USC and No. 25 Oregon State.

Mariota is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks heading into this season

Kevin Cline

Mariota is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks heading into this season

This increase in competition could either make or break the Ducks’ season.  Once again, Stanford is the most threatening team in the way of Oregon reclaiming the Pac-12 crown.  The Cardinal returns quarterback Kevin Hogan, who outperformed Josh Nunes for the starting job midway through the year and never looked back, winning the final eight games to secure the Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.

However, they lose talented running back Stepfan Taylor, whose production was essential for Stanford’s effectiveness on offense.  What makes the Cardinal dangerous is their resilient defense.  They allowed only three yards per carry last season, one of the lowest in the country.

However, the Ducks will be much better than they were a year ago.

Even with the mastermind of Chip Kelly off to the NFL, the Ducks enter this season with one of the most explosive offenses in the nation: a more experienced Marcus Mariota behind center, the fabled athleticism of De’Anthony Thomas and a number of complementary players that will actively contribute to the up-tempo assault of the Ducks.

An increased pass attack is expected in head coach Mark Helfrich’s game plan to utilize Mariota’s exceptional passing ability.  On the outside, Oregon brings to the field one of the most underrated receiving corps in the nation, and one with much depth.  This will make the attack much more complex for opposing teams to defend.

Huff will be Mariota's number 1 target this year.

Kevin Cline

Huff will be Mariota’s number 1 target this year.

The UCLA Bruins may also be a force to be reckoned with, within the conference and on a national level, despite the loss of running back Johnathan Franklin.  The composure shown by young dual-threat quarterback Brett Hundley has propelled this Bruin team in the right direction.  Hundley had an impressive first year as a starter, and he will undoubtedly get better with time; last season he threw for 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 66.6 completion percentage.

Outside the Pac-12, Alabama and Ohio State lead the push of resistance against Oregon.

The Crimson Tide come in ranked No. 1 once again after winning their second straight national title, but the big question in Tuscaloosa is if ‘Bama will be able to fill the holes left by the nine players selected in the NFL draft.

On offense Alabama has one of the better teams its had in years, with a number of skilled players returning, including that of starting quarterback AJ McCarron.  The senior signal caller doesn’t put up electrifying numbers, but his game management for the Tide is crucial.  Last season, McCarron led the nation with a 175.3 passer rating, but what is most impressive is his 10:1 touchdown to interception ratio.  The issue McCarron faces is his new offensive line and if they will be able to keep up with tradition. After losing three elite linemen to the draft last year, protection may become an issue.

On defense, the front eight is solid, led by senior linebacker CJ Mosely, but the picture seems a little hazy in the secondary.  The Tide has an experienced corner in Deion Belue, who played opposite of star cornerback Dee Milliner last season and was more than effective for one of the nation’s toughest defenses, recording 40 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass deflections.  After Belue, the gig is a toss up.  Sophomore Geno Smith is expected to fill the void, but following a poor choice of off-field activities, he is suspended for Game 1 of the season.

These imperfections on both sides of the ball leave Bama more vulnerable this season than in recent years.  They are still the front-runners for the national title, but if certain roles cannot be filled, the Tide may find trouble rolling to another championship.

Braxton Miller and Urban Meyer have created a solid foundation for Buckeye Nation but can they duplicate the perfect season of last year?

bleacherreport.com

Braxton Miller and Urban Meyer have created a solid foundation for Buckeye Nation, but can they duplicate the perfect season of last year?

Ohio State is another team on everybody’s radar this season after going undefeated in 2012-2013.  Led by Heisman Trophy-candidate Braxton Miller, Urban Meyer’s team returns a heap of players to try to duplicate their results from last year – which is definitely possible with the limited competition on their schedule.  Back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Northwestern will be two of their toughest games, with the season finale at No. 17 Michigan being the most crucial.

The Dawgs from Georgia are the final team I think will be a fierce competitor for the crystal football this season.  Georgia was just was a mere five yards away from beating Alabama in last year’s SEC championship game, they return one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Aaron Murray and a two-headed animal in the backfield with young running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

The only thing hindering the Bulldogs is whether or not their defense can regain the ferocity of last year, given the loss of a significant amount of talent on that side of the ball.

The SEC and Pac-12 are leading the way, with Ohio State being the only exception in the Top 5. Oregon’s match-up against Stanford Nov. 7 could ultimately determine which team will win the Pac-12 championship and head to Pasadena with hopes of dethroning the SEC from their perch as kings of college football.

 

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Bryan Holt

Bryan Holt

Bryan Holt is a 20 year old junior at the University in Oregon looking to major in Journalism and Communications with hopes in pursuing a career as a sports writer or analyst.

  • eturner32

    Every year the analysis is solid, but the facts remain the same. Until we have elite offensive linemen who do their job, this same article will be written again and again. Greatwood is a fine technician, but the kids he relies on have underperformed in games like this.

    • FishDuck

      I’m not sure if you are caught in a Time Warp, but WHEN has Oregon ever had three offensive linemen up for All-Conference, and even AA honors?

      Never. Until this year as Fisher, Johnstone, and Grasu are the new breed of Offensive linemen who have come here as great athletes.

      Euscher’s blocks in open field on Beaver LBs last fall demonstrated his speed and athleticism as well. Don’t get caught thinking these are 2009 or even 2010 type O-Linemen. They will not dominate everyone they face, but they do the majority.

      • hoboduck

        OMG he speaks. Long time no hear from Charles. Wondering what stirred the juices for this (lately) rare post.
        I happen to agree with your assessment. It’s nice to hear you opinions and I always look forward to your posts.

    • hokieduck

      I agree with Charles, you must not have been watching the same O line that I was watching last year (or that NFL scouts were watching). We lost to Stanford last year because of two things. First, and foremost, we had a flat game (Mariota’s was not the only flat performance that day). Second, and more importantly I think, injuries. Our defense was playing as well as it could with severe injuries, and the three true freshmen starting on the line and Tony Washington covering receivers for the first time in his life and Patterson having gone down… on and on. Chip never ever talked injuries. But it is an amazing feat that the defense played as well as it did given the severity of the attrition it suffered.

      Finally, and despite the above, we win that game without OT had DAT simply slowed up and gotten in the way of a guy instead of beating MM into the end zone. We win that game without OT had Maldonado made his FG. Given the problems we had that day, the fact we were in it, and should have won it, is amazing.

      It is a new year. I see the Ducks taking down Stanford and I do not see it being close. This is the year. Alabama v Oregon. Pasadena jan 6. Go Ducks!!!!!! WTD!!!!!!

      • Dianna Mai

        1st is nobody can blame that whole Game on Mariota, even though the QB is the one you count on to get it done, but hey when have we ever had such a great player of his caliber come in as a Freshman and do what He did, NEVER! The D Line was Banged up BAD more than any other in the History of the program, and to have 3 Freshman handle that Nations most Hyped offensive Line the way they did gives me extreme hope that the other shoe will be filled this year where we will be doing the dominating on both side’s of the ball, and of coarse it’s always nice when most everyone picks the other Team to be the winners because that then makes you the under dog’s and all the weight is off your shoulders, and puts the CHIP back on them. 3rd Remember Auburn and our D Line then 270 pds, and how each year we’ve gotten bigger, better, more athletically, well its happened, and I feel sorry for all those offensive Lineman this year, not really because this D Lineman and Linebacking corp’s are going to DOMINATE their opponents like never before, because this unit will be in the TOP 10 IN almost every category. CHAMPIONSHIP!

    • Stephen Wallner

      Quit posting this uninformed garbage to every article. This is at least the third time I have seen this post today and every time the article isn’t even about the offensive line.

  • Dianna Mai

    As alway’s excellent Fish, but this is my prediction we make it to Pasadena and so does Ohio St, who we finally Beat to finally Win that elusive Trophy!

  • Dianna Mai

    Hey Luc, STOP already the QB doesn’t need negative writing about injury’s please. Everybody that steps on that field including the Kicker has a chance of getting injured. If DD wouldn’t of gotten injured against Arizona Oregon would of certainly wen’t on to win the Natty, and He didn’t have half the Talent this Team has, so enough with the