2012 Schedule: Arkansas State, Fresno State, Tennessee Tech, Arizona, at Washington State, Washington, bye, at Arizona State, Colorado, at USC, at California, Stanford, at Oregon State
Four-Year Trend: 2008 (10-3), 2009 (10-3), 2010 (12-1), 2011 (12-2)
Notable Player: RB De’Anthony Thomas. He’ll be moved all around in Oregon’s spread offense, so I’m not sure we can define him by a traditional position. What he will do over and over again in the offense is get the ball in space, whether through handoffs out of the read option, screen passes, quick throws, or downfield against single coverage. Ty already listed him as a guy flying under the radar at 20-1 for Heisman consideration, and I agree. His chances are better than 5% with LaMichael James gone, and those touches expanding.
Top Newcomers: Arik Armstead (OT), Bralon Addison (WR), Jake Rodrigues (QB)
Circle This Game: Oregon at USC (Nov. 3). Last year, Oregon lost at home to USC in a game that eliminated any chance of playing for a national title. They will have to win at USC, whether in the regular season or the title game, to get back to the national championship this year.
What’s New: The identity of offensive stars. Darron Thomas and LaMichael James are gone, so the Ducks will need new players to step into the high-powered offense. Marcus Mariota beat out Bryan Bennett to become the starting quarterback, and provides more of a running threat than Darron Thomas recently. Mariota had an 82 yard touchdown run in the spring game while completing over two-thirds of his passes. Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas already combined for over 2,300 yards from scrimmage last year, and should see those numbers increase dramatically in 2012 with James gone.
Why We Like Them: Chip Kelly has this program established as a legitimate power. They continue to recruit well and new offensive stars emerge. The offense has speed to burn at the skill positions. The defense is also has improved its athleticism and could become more of a strength this year, so despite only having 11 of 22 starters returning, Oregon should be in the title game mix.
Best-Case Scenario: The quarterback situation is just as good as last year, maybe even better, and De’Anthony Thomas is the best all-purpose weapon in the country as the team rolls to a win at USC, setting them up for a title run. We had debates about Oregon and USC–I’m picking Oregon even though we collectively ranked them just behind USC–but the winner of that game should be a title contender. It’s on the road so I understand why people have USC, but this best-case scenario would not surprise me at all.
Worst-Case Scenario: The offense drops off a bit, one of their explosive players gets hurt, and they cannot overcome USC in the Pac-12 standings. They lose another game or two and risk falling out of BCS bowl contention.
Spread to Run: Chip Kelly’s spread offense puts wide receivers on the field to force matchups, but it usually is to dictate matchups in the running game. Oregon rushed for more yards than they passed in 2011, something that usually only happens if the quarterback is heavily involved in the rushing yardage totals. Darron Thomas actually ran less last year, and accounted for only 206 yards of the 4189 rushing yards. Kelly’s offense continually adapts within core principles, so it will be interesting to see how much more QB Mariota is utilized on speed option keepers compared to 2011, with LaMichael James out of the offense, a dynamic runner at QB, and the talents of Barner and Thomas.
Projected Bowl: Rose Bowl
[photo via US Presswire]
25. Kansas State 24. Virginia Tech 23. Clemson 22. Boise State 21. Stanford 20. Michigan State 19. Notre Dame 18. Nebraska 17. Oklahoma State 16. Wisconsin15. TCU14. Florida 13. West Virginia 12. Georgia 11. Texas 10. Arkansas 9. Michigan8. Ohio State 7. Florida State 6. South Carolina 5. Oklahoma