2011 Record: 12-2 overall; 8-1 Pac 12
2011 Bowl: 45-38 W vs Wisconsin @ Rose Bowl
Head Coach: Chip Kelly
Odds to win BCS: 10/1
Odds to win Pac 12: 9/4
Odds to win North Division: 4/11
Betting Futures taken from Bovada
The Ducks still have a QB controversy between redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota and Bryan Bennett. Mariota may be emerging as the starter according to Adam Sparks of Yahoo! Sports, as he got the starting nod at QB in the spring game. His strong arm and ability to get around the pocket makes him a favorite for the job, but it was Bennett who led the Ducks to two wins in 2011 while last year’s starter Darron Thomas was out. It’s worth keeping an eye on this battle for Oregon, as they are expected to contend this year. How this plays out could prove crucial.
LaMichael James entered the NFL early, but his backup is more than capable of filing his shoes. Kenjon Barner will be the primary ball carrier and it will give the Ducks more flexibility with SB De’Anthony Thomas, who was the leading receiver for the Ducks last year and had two TDs on kick returns. Some are saying he may be a dark horse candidate for the Heisman trophy.
The line should be good, too, with sophomore Hroniss Grasu snapping the ball and sophomore Jake Fisher who played 13 games on the line his freshman year despite never having played the position before.
Receiver will be a bit more unsettled, however. TE Colt Lyerla managed to catch only seven passes last year, though five of those catches resulted in TDs. Still, the bar is set high for him. Josh Huff must become more reliable, but is one of the better options for whomever emerges between the two QBs. Daryle Hawkins had a great spring and the Ducks are relying on a few freshman receivers to emerge, in the likes of Devon Blackmon, B.J. Kelley, and Tacoi Sumler.
Despite the fact it is the Ducks offense that gets them noticed, their defense is pretty solid too. Last year, they ranked 5th in the Pac 12 in defense, allowing only 24.6 points per contest, which was good for 52nd in the nation. Their speed has enable them to become good in a 3-4 formation and this year could be a record year for the Ducks’ D.
Dion Jordan is a returning end/linebacker who was an all-conference pass rusher last year and Arik Armstead looked good in spring, along with DLs Taylor Hart and Wade Keliikipi. The LBs lost two starters from last year but could still be better yet, with seniors Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay playing on the inside, and Boseko Lokombo on the outside. Senior John Boyett is one of the best free safeties in the nation and CBs Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre Olumu will be ready to start this year after holding their own last season.
Oregon returns all kickers.
Jackson Rice may be the best punter in the Pac 12 and Rob Beard should be a good placekicker now that he is recovered from his quadricep injury he suffered last season. His injury did enable Alejandro Maldonado to get better last year though, so there could be a battle for his position now.
Head coach Chip Kelly turned down an NFL coaching job to return to Oregon, so he’ll be back for his fourth straight season with the Ducks, saying he “concluded that (he had) some unfinished business to complete.”
That business will be addressed first and foremost with his talented defense and the offense has always been good for Oregon. The QB battle must be settled and they still have to let the debacle at WR settle itself, but there are few that doubt the strength of the Ducks’ offense. When it all comes down to it, they have the makings of a team that can contend for a BCS championship, and Athlon magazine predicts an 11-2 finish for the Ducks with an 8-1 record in the Pac 12. That is to say, USC will take the Pac-12 crown.