Head Coach: Mark Helfrich
2014 record: 13-2 overall, 8-1 Pac 12 North
2014 Postseason results: Beat Florida State 59-20 in the Rose Bowl, Lost to Ohio State 42-20 in CFP Championship Game
2015 returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 51/2
Odds to win 2015 Pac 12 Championship Game: 11/4
Odds to Win 2015 Pac 12 North Division: -135
Regular season wins: over 9 -125 / under 9 -105
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Last year the Oregon Ducks made it all the way to the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship game. The Ducks had destroyed defending national champion and undefeated Florida State 59-20. Oregon entered the championship game as a significant favorite against #4 seed Ohio State, who was playing with their third string quarterback. Despite four turnovers, Ohio State dominated the Ducks 42-20. The Buckeyes racked up 538 yards including 296 rushing yards.
Only 11 starters are back for Oregon in 2015, but the Ducks should still contend for the Pac 12 title and perhaps one of the four playoff spots under coach Mark Helfrich.
Oregon averaged 547 yards and 45 points per game on offense last year. The Ducks were in the top four nationally in both categories under coordinator Scott Frost. They should still be explosive on offense even with only six starters back.
The Ducks must replace starting quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was the #2 over pick in the NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. All Mariota did was throw for just under 4,500 yards with 42 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Oh yeah, he also ran for 770 yards with 15 touchdowns.
Former Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams, Jr. is in the process of completing some classwork from EW so he can graduate and play immediately. Adams is cutting it close to be on campus at Oregon for fall camp but he should be the starter assuming nothing drastic happens. Last year, at Eastern Washington, Adams threw for 3,483 yards with 35 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, and rushed for 285 yards with six touchdowns. However, in 2013, he threw for almost 5,000 yards with 55 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, and rushed for over 600 yards. If Adams can’t graduate in time, then last year’s back-up Jeff Lockie will likely be the starter. Lockie threw only 28 passes last year mostly in mop-up duty of blowouts.
Regardless of who the quarterback is they will have tons of talent at the skill positions. Running back Royce Freeman is drawing some early Heisman buzz after he had 252 carries for 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns, and also making 16 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown. Thomas Tyner is also back after rushing for 573 yards on 113 carries with 5 touchdowns, and making 11 catches and a touchdown.
Byron Marshall is listed as a running back but lines up at both running back or wide receiver depending on the play. He had 74 catches for 1,003 yards and 6 touchdowns, and also rushed for 392 yards on 52 carries with 1 touchdown. Dwayne Stanford is also back after making 43 catches for 639 yards and 6 touchdowns. Darren Carrington was also supposed to be back but he tested positive for marijuana before the championship game last season and is suspended indefinitely. He had 37 catches for 704 yards and 4 touchdowns. Both receiver Devon Allen (41 catches, 684 yards, 7 touchdowns) and tight end Pharaoh Brown (25 catches, 420 yards, 6 touchdowns) are coming off knee surgeries and are in doubt for the start of the season. Charles Nelson is back after making 23 catches for 327 yards and 5 touchdowns, and he also rushed for 101 yards. He moves to cornerback but could still see tome time at receiver. Bralon Addison returns after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. He had a monster 2013 before the injury.
Three starters are back on the offensive line but they must replace four year starting center Hroniss Grasu. Now with the Chicago Bears. Look for Matt Pierson to move into that role. The right side should be set with returners Cameron Hunt at guard and Tyrell Crosby at tackle.
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The defense gave up 430 yards per game and 24 points per game. It was a prototypical bend but don’t break defense under coordinator Don Pellum, now in his 16th season as a Ducks’ assistant coach. Five starters are back and the Ducks need to show some improvement if they want to contend for anational title again.
Defensive end DeForest Buckner decided to return to school instead of going to the NFL. He had 8 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. Alex Balducci is also back at tackle. T.J. Daniel will replace Arik Armstead at the other end.
The linebackers are loaded with talented seniors. Tyson Coleman, Rodney Hardrick, Joe Walker and Christian French should start and all four are seniors. Oregon needs to be more agressive int eh pass rush though as they only rushed three players most of the season last year.
The secondary is young with only one returning starter, junior safety Reggie Daniels. The other three probable starters are sophomores, including corners Nelson and Chris Seisay, and safety Tyree Robinson.
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Kicker Aiden Schneider is back after making 11 of 12 field goals last year. Punter Ian Wheeler was too inconsistent last year and needs to improve. The return game should be bolstered by the return of Addison but either way Nelson had two punt returns for touchdowns last year and also averaged 19 yards per kick return. Either Nelson or Addison will be dangerous return men.
If Adams can get his graduate work done, his first game will be against his old team as Oregon hosts Eastern Washington to open the season. The Ducks then travel to Michigan State before closing out September with home games against Georgia State and Utah. October brings road games at Colorado, Washington and Arizona State, and a home game against Washington State. In November, Oregon hosts California, travels to Stanford, before closing the season with home games against USC and Civil War rival Oregon State.
Although this is considered a “rebuilding” year for the Ducks they should still win at least 9 or 10 games. The schedule is challenging with road games at Michigan State, Arizona State and Stanford. Still, I think the Ducks get back to the Pac 12 championship game and I see a major bowl for Oregon. I think they come up just short of the playoffs though.
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