Dan Lanning has put together two good seasons in his first two years as a head coach, and as fans we have seen him grow. For the 2024 recruiting cycle, he brought in the best prep recruiting class in Oregon history while also landing a major quarterback transfer in Dillon Gabriel. The offense is efficient and the defense will continue to develop into the 2024 season as Lanning puts together potentially one of the best defenses in the country.
Everything is set up for Lanning and the Oregon Ducks to make a big splash next year in the B1G and beyond. Next year the expectation will be for Lanning and the Ducks to break into a 12-team playoff field, a playoff field which is three times larger than it is today and will include many one-loss teams. Even in the B1G, Lanning should have this Oregon team ready to go to compete at the highest level.
Oregon has three guaranteed tough games on the schedule for next year with home games against Ohio State and Washington and then an away game at Michigan. It is conceivable that Oregon gets through those games with a 2-1 record, but it is equally possible that the Ducks go 1-2 — and Lanning cannot let that happen.
With a 12-team playoff, it is possible that a two-loss team is able to sneak into the playoff, but being the two-loss team that gets in is going to come down to luck. Outside of the three aforementioned games, the B1G conference slate doesn’t look too bad for Oregon in 2024, but adjusting to the travel and a conference of new opponents will be a challenge of its own.
This Oregon roster and coaching staff should be more than up to the challenge. Oregon is built more in the mold of an SEC or B1G team than a Pac-12 team. Lanning has been good against teams that look more akin to a B1G team, such as Utah, than the wily air raid teams of Washington State, USC, and Washington. In truth Lanning will probably prefer the B1G slate to the Pac-12 slate.
The B1G hasn’t looked all that good this season outside of Michigan and Ohio State. This is not to say that the rest of the B1G is bad, but it does put Oregon in the upper echelon of the conference on Day 1. However, the Ducks are going to have to prove they belong at the top of the conference and that is the expectation of the Oregon fanbase.
In order to do this, Lanning is gong to have to get past his biggest hurdle so far at this time at Oregon, Kalen DeBoer. In Oregon’s three meetings with Washington over the last two years, the Ducks have come up short. That cannot happen again next year; Washington needs to leave Autzen Stadium with a loss.
Of the three teams that could threaten Oregon’s playoff chances next season, Washington is in all likelihood the easiest on paper, but DeBoer is a good coach and has so far managed to sneak past the Ducks with three wins.
However, DeBoer has a major weakness in his recruiting, which will eventually show its head. He has brought in some incredible transfers, the biggest being Michael Penix, but he has otherwise relied heavily on talent from the Chris Petersen and Jimmy Lake eras. Most of that talent is aging out and based on Washington’s last two recruiting classes, it isn’t being replaced.
The 2023 season ended on a high note with a dominant Fiesta Bowl win. It wasn’t a playoff game but any New Year’s Six bowl game is a good opportunity to come away with a win, and the Ducks did just that. Next year comes with a new conference, an expanded playoff and new opportunities. Lanning will need to show in Year 3 he is ready to capitalize on two years of growth and recruiting, come up with some big wins, and get Oregon into the expanded playoff.
He’ll potentially even have a shot at the National Championship itself.
Top Photo By Tom Corno
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in technology in SLC, Utah.
David Marsh is a high school social studies teacher in Portland, Oregon. As a teacher he is known for telling puns to his students who sometimes laugh out of sympathy, and being both eccentric about history and the Ducks.
David graduated from the University of Oregon in 2012 with Majors in: Medieval Studies, Religious Studies, and Geography. David began following Ducks Football after being in a car accident in 2012; finding football something new and exciting to learn about during this difficult time in his life. Now, he cannot see life without Oregon football.
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