Chip Kelly departed Eugene for greener pastures in the NFL (Philadelphia Eagles) after 46 wins and 4 consecutive BCS Bowl appearances. While the move surprised many, new head coach Mark Helfrich, who served as Oregon’s offensive coordinator for each of the last four years, is primed for an outstanding season that could end with the Ducks in the National Title game.
- Quarterback Marcus Mariota is coming off an impressive freshman campaign wherein he threw for 2,677 yards with a 68.5% completion rate and a 32-6 ratio. Mariota was also the team’s second leading rusher last season with 752 yards (7.1 yards per carry), and I am calling for Mariota to become a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in 2013.
- Mariota’s job is enhanced by having one of the nation’s best backfields led by De’Anthony Thomas, who rushed for 701 yards last season (7.6 yards per carry). Thomas also led the team in receptions (45) and finished second in receiving yards with 445; 9.9 yards per reception).
- Oregon also enters the 2013-2014 campaign with one of the best offensive lines in college football. The Ducks welcome back 55 career starts, including left tackle Tyler Johnstone and right tackle Jake Fisher.
The Ducks round out an explosive offense with a much more experienced receiving unit that should produce better numbers than last year.
- Oregon possesses the best secondary in all of college football for the second consecutive season (26 interceptions in 2012; #1 in CFB). The secondary is led by two future NFL stars, including Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who had four interceptions last season.
- The Ducks also boast an outstanding defensive line that returns six of its top 8 performers from 2012. While this unit only garnered 28 sacks last season, I expect much better production this season behind Taylor Hart, who had 8 sacks last year.
- I don’t expect as much production from Oregon’s linebackers in 2013 as the unit is less experienced and lost its top two tacklers (1 to the NFL). With that said, Oregon still enters this season with one of the best defenses in college football, which is why I am calling for them to make a serious run at the BCS Title game in January.
With fifteen returning starters, including eight on offense, new head coach Mark Helfrich was left with the cupboards full by Chip Kelly. My only concern surrounding Oregon is the fact that the Ducks were the beneficiaries of extraordinarily good luck last season (+21 turnover margin; best in college football). However, Oregon avoids both USC and Arizona State and were an incredible +144.8 yards per game in Pac-12 play last season. Oregon is a legitimate National Title contender behind one of the best offenses in the history of football.