2012 Recap: If De’Anthony Thomas turns around to block, Oregon may have beaten Stanford in regulation, gone undefeated and met Notre Dame to play for the BCS Championship. Twists of fate can be cruel. The 2012 team was Chip Kelly’s Brothers Karamazov. How good were they statistically? We don’t really know. The starters seldom played second halves. Most often, it felt like the other team was not playing the same sport.
He’s Gone: Chip Kelly left for the NFL. That could be very significant longterm. But, for 2013, the Ducks are running the same system, with the same assistants and almost all of the same players. Someone else will call plays. The jury remains out on Mark Helfrich. It’s worth remembering, though, Miami nearly won back to back national championships in 2001 and 2002 wit Larry Coker.
Wrist Slap: Oregon, essentially, was caught paying a five-star running back’s street agent $25,000 for his signature. Chip Kelly, now departed, received a show cause penalty. Beyond that, there was a faint whiff of punishment. No bowl ban. The team loses two scholarships over the next two years and a handful of official visits. College football has grown beyond the NCAA’s purview. There has never been a better time to cheat.
Offense: Scary. If Manziel was the No. 1 quarterback last year, Mariota was 1A. His numbers compare, despite not playing fourth quarters. Oregon returns the top five pass catchers from last year. They feature one of the scariest offensive weapons in the game with De’Anthony Thomas. There are two marginal concerns. The Ducks replace both starting guards from last year. They need someone, perhaps touted freshman Thomas Tyner, to pick up Kenjon Barner’s load from 2012. Barner ran for more than 1,700 yards on 279 carries.
Defense: Loaded. The Ducks return most of last year’s 4th ranked defense (via Football Outsiders.) They are well stocked on the line even with Dion Jordan leaving. They return almost their entire two deep in the secondary, including star corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. The one apparent issue is at linebacker. Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso leave. The pair amounted for 24 tackles for loss between them. There isn’t a clear replacement for either.
Schedule: Easy. Oregon has the five conference home games this year. They miss USC and Arizona State in conference play. Their toughest non-conference opponent is Tennessee, at home. On paper, they are a win at Stanford away from a Pac 12 title and a shot at the national one.
Ceiling: 12-0. Oregon’s offense is dominant. Their defense is underrated but still excellent. They go undefeated, likely win the Pac 12 and play for a BCS title.
Floor: 10-2. The team loses a bit without Kelly, has to enter second gear to beat teams. They lose to Stanford and come out flat against one other opponent.
Prediction: 12-0. Oregon does what it should have done last year.
[Photos via USA Today Sports]
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