Chip Kelly arrived in Eugene as a virtual unknown from the University of New Hampshire. From 2007 to 2012, Kelly changed the landscape of college football with his blur offense, transforming Oregon into a national title contender in the process. Following a lull under Mark Helfrich and Willie Taggart, Mario Cristobal started restoring dreams of a “Natty” in 2018, inciting FishDuck’s own Jon Joseph to ponder a 2021 national title run. But do we really have to wait another year?
Who says Oregon can’t win the title this year?
Are You Crazy Mike West?
Make no mistake, the firepower of the blue blood powerhouses is daunting. The NFL-caliber offensive talent at Ohio State, Clemson, and Alabama is formidable. Florida is another threat with their returning quarterback Kyle Trask, not to mention Oklahoma and their perenially lethal offense. Georgia’s suffocating defense is rivaled by none other than guess who? Ohio State, Clemson, and Alabama. Yikes!
But the Ducks are no slouches.
Oddsmaker Pro Football Focus predicts the Ducks will fall short of the playoffs and land in Tempe for the Fiesta Bowl. CBS gives both North Dakota State and Cal legitimate shots at upsetting the Ducks. Oregon replaces an offensive coordinator and seven offensive players, most notably Justin Herbert and four offensive lineman, and it’s these unknowns that give pause to the oddsmakers. But in this writer’s opinion, it is precisely these unknowns that give the Ducks a legitimate shot at a college football playoff berth this year.
Let’s start with the offense. In case no one noticed, there’s a new offensive genius in Eugene by the name of Joe Moorhead. Moorhead inherits a quarterback who is unknown nationally but who has impressed us die-hards with his accuracy and play-making ability. Moorhead also inherits a stable of unheralded running backs and a slew of inexperienced and unknown wide receivers. Sound familiar? Echoes of 2007 loom large.
But Mike, Star Ratings Matter
Exactly. Oregon’s roster is stacked with unknown four-stars who will be running an unknown offense. Because of these unknowns, Oregon is underrated. But being underrated is a gift. For all the potential hiccups associated with installing a new offense, an advantage emerges as well.
Nobody has a clue what Oregon’s offense will look like.
Will it be Joe Moorhead’s RPO version of the pistol or Moorhead’s version of the Chip Kelly blur offense? Moorhead’s reinvented version of Moorhead, or some blend of anything and everything lethal? How do you scout Oregon’s offense with so many unknown players running an unknown scheme? The returning fire power at Oregon will be difficult to assess because Moorhead is as wily as our current defensive coordinator Andy Avalos.
Which brings us to defense. Two of the most talented freshmen in the entire country in Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe join the Oregon defense at middle linebacker. They team up with one of the best returning edge rushers in Keyvon Thibadeaux and a defensive line that shut down one the most formidable rushing powerhouses in the country in Wisconsin. And Oregon’s secondary is indisputably the most experienced and arguably the most talented in the country, the best secondary in program history other than..? You guessed it, Chip Kelly’s 2007 secondary of Patrick Chung, Jairus Byrd, and Alex Molden.
Remember…Fewer Than Twenty Per Game
I say it all the time: a defense must yield fewer than 20 points per game in order to be elite. In 2019, Oklahoma gave up 27.1 points per game. LSU shredded them. Meanwhile LSU yielded 21.9 points per game, becoming the first team to claim a national title averaging that many points per game in nearly ten years.
They say defense wins championships. Want to guess how many points per game Oregon gave up last year? 16.7. And that was with sloppy performances against Washington State, the Fuskies, Arizona State, and two of the lamest touchdowns yielded in the history of college football against Auburn. Anyone want to question what Andy Avalos has in store for college football this year?
Now WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIITTT a Minute!
Where others see unknowns, I see a 2007 flashback: a defensive juggernaut paired with undiscovered offensive talent sparked by a new scheme.
In 2007, the Ducks rose to number two in the BCS rankings, only to be undone by an untimely injury to quarterback Dennis Dixon. The 2020 Ducks will take advantage of the unknown, assert their dominance through the entire season, and–barring major injury–contend for a CFP berth.
There’s a storm brewing in Eugene, and it’s moving eastward.
“Oh how we love to ponder Darkhorse 2020 National Title Contender…Our Beloved Ducks”.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Top Photo by Tom Corno
Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.
Mike West was born in Southern California and moved to Eugene in 1976. He attended his first Oregon Football game and watched USC maul the Ducks 63-0. Despite the disappointment he became an avid fan after watching the Rich Brooks show every Sunday in the Fall. After graduating from the University of Oregon, he returned to Los Angeles and enjoyed a career in Customer Service for two decades. Thrilled at the ascent of Oregon Football, he attended both Rose Bowls, living just five miles from the stadium. He now lives in Las Vegas.
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