Don’t sleep on the Ducks! With a healthy Justin Herbert, a dynamic trio of backs, experienced receivers, and a defense that is much improved from years’ past, the Ducks may find themselves in the PAC-12 Championship game or even something more.
Oregon has an incredibly favorable schedule this season and I wholeheartedly expect them to contend for the PAC-12 title. We’ll take a look at their schedule and break it down. I’ll explain my thoughts (very briefly) on match-ups and how I think the results will pan out. Here we go!
Bowling Green (9/1)
Portland State (9/8)
San Jose State (9/15)
I have this trio of games together because they’re basically three straight bye weeks. No disrespect to these teams, but the Ducks will win each by at least 35+ points. The starters will call it a day by the start of the second half or fourth quarter. Oregon jumps out to a 3-0 record.
Stanford will be taking a trip to Eugene for Oregon’s first real test of the year. Last season, Bryce Love ran all over the Oregon defense en route to a 49-7 Stanford win. While I do expect Love to put up numbers, I don’t think he’ll be rushing for over 200 again. With a change in the coaching staff halfway through the 2017 season, Oregon’s defense looked better on a weekly basis. The front seven should be better prepared for the early Heisman favorite, and the secondary now has experience. Stanford’s defense will more than likely be one of the best in the PAC, but I think it’ll take some time for them to get into form, as they’re having to replace half of their starters. I’m expecting a shootout and a very close win for the Ducks. This time it’ll be with Herbert behind center.
This could be a potential trap game. I think after a big win over a potential top 10 team in Stanford and looking forward to their bye week and a date with Washington, they could slip against one of the most experienced teams in the nation. The Golden Bears return 18 starters and should be much better. With that being said, I think Oregon’s talent trumps Cal’s experience. I’ll take the Ducks in this one. The Ducks fly into their bye week with a 5-0 record.
The bye week could not be in a more perfect place. The team will get an extra week to prepare for the PAC-12 favorites who made them look silly a year ago. They were without Herbert for that game, too. Washington has a pretty rough schedule to open the first half of the season. After opening with a neutral site game against Auburn, a trip to Utah just two weeks later, and now having come off of a game at UCLA, if they don’t get caught sleeping before this matchup, they may suffer the same fate as Stanford. However, with the Huskies returning 17 starters and (probably) featuring better talent, I’m going to say the Ducks taste their first defeat of the 2018 season.
Closing out the last half of the season on a high note would have Oregon sitting pretty with the playoff committee. Washington State is the least experienced team in the PAC 12 and will be looking for Luke Faulk’s replacement. They should put up a fair share of points, due to Mike Leach’s offensive system, but the Ducks will win this one.
Now, here’s where my next trap game comes in. Oregon’s just moved to 6-1, would probably be a top 15 team, and would be welcoming back the best coach in school history, Chip Kelly, next week against UCLA. Kevin Sumlin, and Heisman contender, Khalil Tate, could turn the potential Oregon hype train upside down. If one of the most dynamic players in the country gets going, he could very well give the Ducks their second loss. But I’m going with the Ducks. I think Troy Dye and the front seven will keep Tate in check, as they did last season.
The Ducks now sit at 7-1 with “The Visor” coming back to Autzen Stadium. Coach Kelly is given a difficult task his first year at UCLA. The Bruins have one of the toughest schedules in the nation and he has to replace former quarterback Josh Rosen, who was a top 10 pick in this year’s NFL draft. Like with Washington State, I expect UCLA to put up points. Especially with Chip Kelly as the mind behind the play calls. I just don’t expect them to put up enough to win. I like the Ducks by a few scores on their way to 8-1.
The Ducks hit the road for their last real test against Utah. Over the past five years, the Ducks are 4-1 against the Utes. The Ducks have won by an average score of 42-24. The Ducks bested the Utes, 41-20, last year, without Justin Herbert. With Justin Herbert, I’m expecting something similar this season. With Oregon at 9-1, Herbert’s name could be getting mentioned in some Heisman discussions.
Herm Edwards and Arizona State are coming off back-to-back home games. The Sun Devils have dealt with a brutal schedule entering this game. Luckily for them, the season will almost be over. The Sun Devils will finish as one of the bottom teams of the PAC-12 South. I don’t think this game will be too close. The Ducks will have win number 10 after the final whistle blows.
The final game of the season, the Civil War. I’ll keep this short and sweet. The Ducks are going to win this game, by a lot. Oregon State will be lucky to win more than two games this year. They simply aren’t a great football team. The Ducks will close out the regular season on a six-game win streak, and finishing 11-1, with an 8-1 record in conference play.
You’re probably thinking I’m crazy for having Oregon win 11 games, while the rest of the media has Washington and Stanford ranked above them. I don’t think this is too farfetched. The four teams that one would probably question them winning against are Stanford, Washington, Arizona, and Utah. To be honest, I’d probably be picking both Stanford and Washington to win, if the Ducks had to travel. Playing at Autzen Stadium while coming off one of the easiest three game stretches to start a season works well for the guys in flashy uniforms. Stanford has to play USC two weeks prior, and Notre Dame the following week. Going unscathed against these three for the first five weeks doesn’t seem likely. They also get a bye before facing Washington. I already mentioned who they would’ve already had to go through. Don’t be too surprised if Oregon pulls off the upset. I could say Arizona and Utah pull off a stunner, but the results of last year’s games (41-20 and 48-28) wouldn’t leave me feeling confident about it.
I had to go with them potentially winning the PAC-12 North. The schedule stacks up too well against their toughest opponents. If Justin Herbert can stay healthy, they have a chance against anyone on their schedule. We’ll just have to wait and find out what happens.