College Football Picks Top Ten Countdown- #3 Oregon
The Oregon Ducks football program has really come a very long way. Oregon finished 11-2 last year, and many fans considered last year’s season a disappointment for the Ducks. The Ducks were unbeaten and sitting in prime position for a BCS title berth until their loss to Stanford (once again). That’s two years in a row that Stanford has ruined Oregon’s unbeaten season. The Ducks followed that up with an ugly and unexplainable loss at Arizona. The Ducks were favored by 18 points in that one and ended up losing 42-16.
Still, we shouldn’t forget how dominating Oregon was in most of its games last season. Only one of Oregon’s 11 wins came by less than 21 points. They were absolutely roasting opponents, but they slipped up in a couple key games. It’s Mark Helfrich’s second year in Eugene, and the expectations are just as high this year. If Oregon doesn’t reach the four-team playoff at the end of the year, this season will be considered another disappointment.
2014 Oregon Ducks Offense
There was nothing wrong with the 2013 Oregon Ducks offense. Oregon averaged 565 yards and 45.5 points per game in 2013. This is an offense that simply doesn’t skip a beat. When quarterback Marcus Mariota decided to return for his junior season, the Ducks prospects for 2014 got much brighter. You could make an argument for Mariota being the best quarterback in all of college football, and he is certainly in the top three. Mariota threw for 3,665 yards last year. He racked up 31 touchdown passes compared to just four interceptions. Mariota isn’t running nearly as much anymore, but that’s just fine because he is an amazingly efficient passer.
Byron Marshall led the team in rushing last year with 1,038 yards on 168 carries. Marshall will be the starter in the backfield again this year. Oregon is going to miss D’Anthony Thomas, who is now in the NFL, but Thomas Tyner is a solid backup at the running back spot. Also keep an eye on freshman Royce Freeman who is a future star in this offense. The offensive line is the best in the Pac 12. Oregon returns 108 career starts on the line, and there are three senior starters here. This line will be among the best in the nation. The lone weak spot for this offense is the wide receivers. They lost two of their top three receivers from last year, and they will be looking to find a big play maker.
Oregon is going to keep doing what they do. They’ll be running a fast-paced offense, and they’ll be piling up the points.
2014 Oregon Ducks Defense
Nick Aliotti was an amazing defensive coordinator, so losing him definitely hurts. While the offense returns eight starters, Oregon returns just five starters on defense. Oregon’s defense ranked 37th in the nation in total defense last year. They struggled against the run, but were great against the pass. The defensive line was the weak spot for the defense last year, and I expect that to be the case again this year. Oregon allowed 166 rushing yards per game last year, which was their highest allowed since 1997. Arik Armstead is a very good defensive tackle, but the rest of this line is a bit of a question mark. They’ll need to step it up against the best in the Pac 12.
Oregon’s secondary is certainly less experienced this year, but the Ducks have recruited well in the secondary in the past few years and I expect this unit to continue to be strong. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu could have been a high draft pick, but he came back for his senior season at Oregon, and he’ll be a great leader for the secondary. Derrick Malone has turned into a star at the linebacker spot. He led the team in tackles last year, and he’ll be in opponents backfields with regularity again this year.
I’m a bit concerned about this defense when they play against strong running games, but overall this should be a high quality defense.
College Football Betting Odds from BetOnline
2014 Oregon Odds to win National Title: +1,000
Odds to win Pac 12: +120
Odds to win Pac 12 North: -225
Oregon to make 4 team playoff (Yes): +125
Oregon Season Win Total: 10.5
There are a few tough spots in Oregon’s schedule this year. The game at UCLA is one where I believe the Bruins have a great chance of upsetting the Ducks. Also don’t sleep on tough games for Oregon at Utah in November and at Oregon State to finish the season. Obviously their home game against Stanford on November 1 will be a big one as well. I’m high on this team in general, but I’m not high enough to bet them on any of the futures odds above. Oregon has a tougher trip to the four team playoff than many of the others in my top ten.
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