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2018

Oregon

College Football

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It’s been a weird few seasons for Oregon now on its third head coach in three years, but good things are ahead. The Ducks returned to a bowl game in 2017 and managed a 7-6 record, which could’ve been better if their quarterback didn’t get hurt. Mario Cristobal takes over after serving as Willie Taggart’s offensive line and co-coordinator. He previously spent time as an associate head coach at Alabama and head coach at FIU. In a wide-open Pac-12, the Ducks have the tools to compete and that’s seen in +10000 spring odds to win the National Championship (at 5Dimes Sportsbook), which places them behind only three other teams in the conference with an over/under at 8.5 wins.

The reason for hope is quarterback Justin Herbert (+2800 Heisman odds), who completed 66.5% of his passes for 13 TDs and 3 INTs in only seven full starts last year. If he can stay healthy, this group will be just fine even if Cristobal is incorporating a few different looks into the system. The Ducks will score plenty and should be around 2017’s 36.7 points per game. The line returns four starters and should be what keeps the offense flowing even with new faces at running back. Tony Brooks-James (485 yards) is expected to step into the starting role with help from freshman CJ Verdell, who broke out in the spring. Wake Forest transfer Tabari Hines will help the receiving game with Dillon Mitchell (4 TDs) and tight end Jacob Breeland (5 TDs) the other top options. If Herbert gets hurt again, all bets are off, but if not, this offense can be elite.

Maybe the better news is that Oregon’s defense is expected to improve in Jim Leavitt’s second season as coordinator after getting the group to allow just 28.3 points per game a year ago. A couple guys are gone at each level, but nothing Leavitt can’t fix with seven starters returning. The line has a good rotation with Jordon Scott in the middle and Jalen Jelks at end, while top linebacker Troy Dye is back with La’Mar Winston on the outside. It’s a similar situation in the secondary where safety Ugochukwu Amadi roams all over the field and Thomas Graham is only a sophomore at cornerback. This group took massive steps from 2016 to 2017 and another leap is expected.

Even with the coaching turnover, the Ducks are in good position to contend at the top of the Pac-12 and that’s credit to Cristobal and Leavitt. It helps that the schedule opens nicely for Oregon with three freebies before hosting Stanford in the Pac-12 opener. Home games against Washington and UCLA also help the Ducks in their quest to make the title game. In truth, there isn’t one overly difficult game that stands out on the schedule with the most difficult competition coming to Eugene. As long as Herbert plays the entire way, reaching eight regular season wins is definitely on the table for the Ducks, if not more. Combine Herbert, an experienced offensive line and an improved defense and you get a Pac-12 title contender.

 

2018 Oregon Ducks Football Schedule

Sept. 1 vs. Bowling Green

Sept. 8 vs. Portland State

Sept. 15 vs. San Jose State

Sept. 22 vs. Stanford

Sept. 29 at California

Oct. 13 vs. Washington

Oct. 20 at Washington State

Oct. 27 at Arizona

Nov. 3 vs. UCLA

Nov. 10 at Utah

Nov. 17 vs. Arizona State

Nov. 23 at Oregon State

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