The Oregon hype train is picking up steam. The Ducks are the popular pick to win the Pac-12, and many pundits have them pegged as a playoff dark horse. ESPN is the latest to jump on the train, placing Oregon at No. 10 on its 2019 Football Power Index, far ahead of several Pac-12 rivals and one spot behind their Week 1 opponent, Auburn.
On the surface, a top-10 ranking might seem premature. Oregon certainly looks to be a program on the rise, but the Ducks have a difficult schedule and questions about scheme and coaching to put to rest. Their lasting impression is an underwhelming bowl victory over an average Michigan State team, after all.
But there are too many things to like about Oregon in 2019 to go against the preseason analytics.
With superstar quarterback and Heisman hopeful Justin Herbert at the helm, the Ducks possess one of the most threatening offenses in college football. Returning any starting quarterback is a big deal, but when that quarterback has received one of the highest senior evaluations in a decade — and is a potential top NFL draft pick — it’s an even bigger deal.
Herbert won’t be alone. With all five offensive linemen returning to form arguably the top group in the entire country, he should have plenty of time to read defenses and pick them apart. Furthermore, running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye teamed up to form quite the one-two punch in their freshmen campaigns. With another year of experience, and another year of running behind an elite offensive line, their numbers should be even better in year two of their collegiate careers.
There is less certainty at receiver, but the addition of big-bodied transfer Juwan Johnson should help the unit figure itself out. Herbert and Dillon Mitchell had one of the best connections in the Pac-12 in 2018. If Herbert and Johnson can develop a similar chemistry, with an improved run game and even minimal improvement at the other receiver positions, the Ducks’ offense will be humming in 2019.
While the Oregon offense possesses talent worthy of a top-10 selection, the Ducks defense also has the potential to deliver in 2019. With the arrival of new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos from Boise State, expect to see an aggressive, and more importantly, improved Oregon defense.
Avalos has proven himself successful in the past, thriving at Boise despite sub-par recruiting classes. Now, he has All-Pac-12 candidates Troy Dye, Jordon Scott, Jevon Holland and Thomas Graham Jr., along with blue-chip incoming freshmen Kayvon Thibodeaux and Mykael Wright.
It’s fair to say that he has a bit more to work with in Eugene.
Anyone who takes preseason rankings of any variety as anything more than fodder for fun offseason conversation is doing themselves a disservice. Although the FPI has been pretty accurate at times, it’s still an imperfect projection that often looks entirely different when all is said and done.
With that said, the fact that the FPI favors Oregon so much suggests that the Ducks could be in for a big season. With the talent they have on the roster, and the momentum they’ve built, it’s time to prove the pollsters (and computers) right and play like a title contender in 2019.
The hype train makes its first stop in Arlington, Texas on August 31. Will you be on board?
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Chris Brouilette, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.
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